When I think about my three closest friends – the people who, individually and collectively, have my back for literally every scenario – I try to recall when (and how) we first became friends. More to the current point, I try to understand why we’re still unconditional best friends despite knowing each other – and each other’s faults – so bloody well.
These are people who know me better than I know myself. They don’t merely know where the proverbial bodies are buried – they probably scouted the site and brought the shovel.
We’ve known each other forever. In one case, I mean that literally. Even with my memory, I can barely recall a time when at least one of these people was not in my life.
I do not believe that “time in service” is the defining factor of a good friend.
So what is?
Let’s start with the obvious. Friends are, well, friendly to one another.
Starting there, my personal list of “friends” is nearly as large as my Facebook list of friends. I’m friendly with practically everyone I meet, from the moment we meet, as a general rule. Even folks who wind up disliking me will admit that the dislike almost always came later. So that’s not it.
Friends help each other out.
We might be onto something here. A significant number of folks in that first pool start to fall off when you apply this test. But not enough to declare this the definitive test. It doesn’t matter how close you are, some people just aren’t going to help you move. (It wouldn’t be a standard sit-com plot point if it weren’t so cliche. But there ya go.)
Friends have trust.
This is an obvious one. My problem here lies in proof. The only way to know if there is trust between friends is to trust someone.
Thinking about those three closest friends, it is frustratingly difficult to pinpoint that moment when trust was established. It’s unclear to me which of us “went first” or under what circumstances. I just never thought about it. I mean, we’re friends. Best friends. We’ve always been best friends.
Who cares how that happened?
Turns out, I do.
I suspect – and this is only a suspicion – that trust didn’t just happen. I think each of my close friendships accelerated (elevated?) after someone did someone else a solid. Oddly, I don’t remember any specifics. But it makes sense. A last minute, probably big, probably sacrificial favor, was asked. And answered. And Party A knew at that moment that Party B had their back.
If that’s how it happened, it suggests that real friendship has a lot to do with… grace.