Is Friendship the Highest Form of Relationship?

Is Friendship the Highest Form of Relationship?

Because of common phrases like “more than friends”, “in the friend box”, “it’s just business”, friendship can occur as a form of human relationship equal to any other, as though we have a menu to choose from for any particular person in our life.

Implied is the idea that some forms of relationship, like romantic attachment, are deeper than friendship, and others, like business associate, exclude it. Friendship is regarded casually. This is unfortunate.

Consider that friendship may be the highest form of human relationship. That friendship, in its proper place, is transcendent to, and inclusive of, other forms of relationship, for instance parent-child, wife-husband, guru-devotee, business associate, servant-master, neighbor, etc.

It seems to me that every form of relationship other than friendship adds distance, transaction, dependency or some kind of economic, social or psychological “contract”.

What if we live our lives so that friendship can include those values defined in the contract, rather than those values excluding friendship?

Here’s a working definition of friendship: “acting only out of love and understanding for both myself and the other, in the truth of our relationship”.

We then bypass the shallow definition of “friend” behavior as “buddy-buddy”, as in “to be a parent you can’t be your child’s friend, you have to be firm sometimes”. Then firmness is rooted in being a true friend to the child, and the expression of friendship evolves as the child grows out of dependency, until that glorious day for the parent when the truth of the relationship emerges with the child as an equal friend, rather than a dependent friend.

What about romantic relationship and marriage? The usual pattern for these relationships is for the accumulated weight of obligation, emotional injury, familiarity, psychology, agreements, contracts, needs and so on to occupy so much room in the relationship that friendship is forced out of the sphere of relations. We begin acting from fear, manipulation, capitulation, and so on.

We tragically lose the value of friendship to these lesser, separative, transactional values. What we tend to call “depth” of that kind of relationship occurs to me as a fake depth of stringy, contractual, binding obligation.

Isn’t the obligation of friendship depth enough? True depth? The obligation imposed by love itself is the deepest form of relationship. Friendship.

From the truth of the obligation of friendship can emerge all the beauties of marriage, without losing truth and freedom. And if the form of a relationship must change, then let the friends change the form from friendship, and from the truth of the relationship, never leaving the sphere of friendship.

Operating from friendship can overcome all the contractual difficulties that arise when feelings and circumstances change around agreements, whether romantic, business, or other. It’s not easy, but it’s got to be easier than the alternative!

What if your friend is not behaving as a friend? Then you behave as a friend, as much as you can, and keep inviting them to do the same. Don’t take the lawyer route.

The three values that mean the most to me are truth, love and freedom. I noticed today that the highest expression of those values combined is friendship.

Friendship, then, becomes a spiritual practice and act. What pleasure is more intense and healthy than the pleasure of friendship? And what company damages your health and happiness more than the company of non-friends? And what loneliness is more intense than the absence of friendship?

Will you try this with me? I’m committed to noticing where I lose the value of friendship inside of all of my relationships, and to restoring that value. And to the intense enjoyment of true friendship. What do you think?

About the Author: Nathan Otto

Nathan Otto collaborates for a better world by engaging leaders for better, more effective leadership. He is the co-founder of Holometrics, a strategic consulting ecosystem and technology company which scientifically measures organizational alignment with key objectives and values. He is the founder of the Safe Conflict Project, a global strategic effort to create a world free from war. He is the co-author of Give Peace a Deadline: What Ordinary People Can Do to Create Peace In Five Years.

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