Everyone has friends in some guise or another. Friends we work with, friends we play with, friends we fight with! We all have them but what is friendship?
To answer that we first have to look at what we are. On a primal level, what drives us? What is one thing we all share whether we are black, white, American, Indian, Jewish or Muslim?
We all have this inherent need to survive, to feel secure in our lives and in our circumstance. Long gone are the days when we need worry about predators or the elements threatening our survival. Our drive for security now manifests itself in a social and a financial motivation.
In ages gone, we grouped together, creating bonds and alliances to stay alive, to ward off predators and to hunt together, increasing our chances of catching food. If you apply these same three reasons to a modern backdrop, they are still just as valid.
Instead of staying alive, we now create our bonds and alliances – or politic – to get ahead and stay there. Think about it. How many times one of your friends has came to your aid, helped you get ahead in your career or helped you out financially? We all have received such aid at least once. There is nothing wrong with it; in fact, it’s one of the primary motivations for having friendships in this modern age.
There are no predators these days but we are still, to some, seen as prey. Everyone has been bullied at some point in their lives. . It starts at school and for some unfortunate people, it continues through to adult life and their work. Friends help. Just as in the days of our species’ youth, we grouped together to scare predators, to provide an adequate defence against hostilities and to survive, we apply the exact same principles now. A bully, an angry colleague, a thug on the street; all are less likely to attack a group than a single person. The survival is in different context but the means are the same.
Now that we know what friendship is and what it does, the question arises: how do we create, and nurture, these alliances?
Look at every friendship, non-familial bond and relationship you have with another human being. There is a great sense of unity when you are together, you feel safer and happier. We are after all, social animals. For the reasons above, we know intrinsically that we have a greater chance of getting ahead if we are in a group but if that’s the case, why are we not all together in one great group of happy and safe humans?
The answer is: these bonds and alliances are built upon what we bring to relationship and how we share it.
It may be cynical but it’s true. Every one of your friends or allies gets something from you in return for what they give and the very alliance they bring. In the early days of man, this is what we physically brought; our skills, our intelligence or even just our own body. It’s not much different today. In modernity, we bring different things but to the same means. It may be our money, our power or our prestige, it may even just be our sense of humour. We still bring something, just as the other half of the alliance also brings their goods.
It’s this sharing, this exchanging of goods, services and companionship, which creates our friendships, and keeps them. Therefore sharing is of the utmost importance to creating a sense of unity. Imagine a friendship where you fulfil your role, your side of the bargain, to its fullness while the other half does nothing. How long will you remain friends with this person? The opposite also applies.
If we see friendship as a building, see the skills and companionship we bring as the bricks and the sharing of these as the mortar. On their own, they do little but together they create a shelter that even the most hostile environments would fail to overcome.