The importance of friendships

What is friendship?

A friendship can be defined in many ways. Indeed, some friendships are unique and defy any form of definition. That said, most people agree that a friendship is a relationship which means mutual respect and affection is enjoyed between individuals. As such, friends can come together in very different ways. Sometimes, people are friends with colleagues while others like to keep their friendship groups away from work and professional situations. Some people like to keep loose associations with their friends while others will want to interact with their buddies on a daily basis. The commonality between all of these forms of relationship is mutual amity and respect even if friends might disagree with one another here and there.

 Why does friendship matter?

Unlike other forms of relationship – such as romantic relationships and familial ties – friendships do not come with so much 'baggage'. They tend to be more relaxed relationships where people feel they can truly express themselves, including some of their frustrations, without fear of judgement. In very close friendships, some people will be able to be more honest about themselves than in virtually any other format. As such, a friendship is important to human psychology to be able to express ourselves more fully. In some cases, pets can fulfil the role of a friend in a significant way, too.

Can a friendship develop into a deeper relationship?

Yes, when friendships are overlaid with a feeling of attraction, they can often blossom into something more. Many people have found love in a relationship that previously only consisted of a friendship. Of course, the reverse may be so, too. Sometimes sexual partners only develop a more romantic relationship after they have got to know one another more fully and become friends. For some people, however, keeping friendships and romantic relationship distinct is very important.

Are friendships important for children?

Yes, they are – as most developmental psychologists would agree. Young children will often only be capable of playing on their own, but as they get into their toddlerhood, more and more interactions with other children will help them to develop their first attempts at friendship. Although these may be short-lived, it will encourage them to learn how to cooperate and empathise with others. A typical way this will come about is by learning the concept of sharing - both with children inside a friendship circle and outside of it. Children who don't form friendships easily can sometimes suffer in later life as it is considered a key part of development, nowadays.

What is spiritual friendship?

Kalyana-mittata is a Buddhist idea which roughly translates as spiritual friendship. This concept conveys a sense of community through spiritual life. For instance, a community that comes together through shared values might be said to have a spiritual friendship. In Buddhist terms, it also tends to include the special type of rapport that is formed in a student-teacher relationship.

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