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Real Friends
Mom with a View

Real Friends

Facebook to the contrary, most of us have very few friends. It's supposed to be that way.

by

There is a famous story about friendship in the Talmud. It is the story of Rav Yochanan and Resh Lakish, unlikely study partners whose daily interaction and give and take was so deep and meaningful that when Resh Lakish died, Rav Yochanan was thrown into bitter mourning and passed away soon afterwards. The friendship and relationship was life-sustaining.

This ancient sentiment has been confirmed recently by numerous studies. (see: What are Friends For? A Longer Life in NY Times, April 21,2009) Strong friendships lead to greater success in battling illness and to greater vibrancy in general. Friendships promote brain health and psychological well-being. And without friends...the converse is true.

Friends are a crucial support system, not just in sorrow but also in joy. What's good news without someone to share it with?

Yet there is a price. The mishnah in Ethics of our Fathers says "Buy for yourself a friend." This is not referring literally to a financial transaction; it's referring to time and effort.

A friendship requires give and take. If it is all one or the other it is not a friendship. It may be a relationship you want to maintain for other reasons, but it is a delusion to call it friendship.

Like a marriage, friendship demands commitment.

Like a marriage, friendship demands commitment. It requires saying "I'm there for you" and meaning it.

Which is why, Facebook to the contrary, most of us have very few friends. It is simply not possible to invest the time and effort and emotion necessary to create true friendship in large numbers of people.

Nor is it wise. Although CNN thought it was breaking news that Ashton Kutcher was the first to reach 1,000,000 Twitters, I was surprised it was considered newsworthy at all. It may say something about star power; it says nothing about real relationships.

And successful friendships share another common trait with successful marriage. They require common goals and a shared sense of purpose.

It may not be that hard to find someone to see a movie with but it is significantly more difficult to find someone who will help you out when you're in trouble and stand by your side through thick and thin.

Many years ago a friend of ours who was a prominent local philanthropist was sentenced to some time in jail for a relatively minor white collar crime (I'm not justifying the crime, merely explaining the circumstances). All of the sudden no one in any of the organizations that had been feting him would return his calls. Only my husband and a very few others bothered to visit him in prison.

Because they require so much time and effort, real friendships are rare. Because they require so much energy and attention, real friendships are precious. And, as the Talmud and recent studies demonstrate, life-sustaining and affirming.

Well worth the price.

Published: April 25, 2009


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Visitor Comments: 16

(16) SusanE, May 1, 2012 9:25 PM

What Hasn't been written About Friends?

Friends are such an important part of my life that I would wither and die without them. I know I would. I haven't found that being a good friend is hard work. My friends are so easy to be with. I think good friends just click or have a similar set of values. We ask each other for advice because we find we all have good ideas. We don't all think alike, but have similar ethics. I respect everything about them that is different from each other and their views on, politics, religion, child raising, house keeping, husbands, because I love them dearly. I respect their values..... do you know what I mean? 40 years and counting, we've weathered storms and walked through meadows together.

(15) Ben ?, January 7, 2010 5:58 PM

No real friends...

I agree with the article yet I find that being an observant Jew in my 20s, I don't really have friends. I have learning guys, wedding people, Shabbos hellos, but there really is not a person who is not a parent that is there when I need it most. I can arrange a shiur where I meet my ''friends'' or a night out to a sports game (assur), movie (really assur), music (not tznius). I am at the point which is clearly expressed in this article - Facebook does not give real friends and real friends are scarce and may not always be attainable. Pretty sad...

(14) ata, May 12, 2009 4:38 AM

wow, it gave me a lot of answers i didn't even realize i was looking for!!!

(13) Anonymous, May 1, 2009 8:08 AM

True friendship ...

Thank you so much, Emuna, for making such a strong statement. You cannot know how ... relieved ... I feel to consider that it's okay that I don't have many friends. Well, not okay, as in, I'm okay about it ... but ... okay ... I do not want gratuitous friends but a true connection with another or others. After all, no one is truer than Hashem! I live in a suburban area and am wrapping up my second year with an empty nest and ... sometimes ... a loneliness. My car expired four years ago. I decided to use public transportation and, because I wasn't as active as before ... cooking meals, participating in every event at shul, etc. ... it was like I fell off the planet. For a while I felt angry. "I thought they were my friends!" But I realize they were not. I am not financially wealthy, have not experienced growing up in an observant home, need to learn ... from scratch ... how to relate to others, especially potential marriage partners ... and sometimes it's overwhelming, this alone-ness. Other times, like this moment ... reading your article ... I am grateful that I really am NOT alone ... at least not in how I think. How lovely it would be to make a real friend!

(12) Tzippy, May 1, 2009 12:31 AM

friend

First you have to be your own best friend before you can be someone else's

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