The true meaning of friendship

By Caitlin  Kelly

Two chairs, two friends…

The word “friend”  only became a verb thanks to social media.

One once befriended someone or made a friend; note the verb to make.


It takes time, and effort and consistent interest.


It also requires a shared sense of values and expectations if it’s to last more than a few days or weeks.

Today it’s become a word with multiple meanings, some of which...don’t mean a thing.

Having just weathered intense cyber-bullying by an online group fellow women writers, (none of whom have ever met or spoken with me), I spent some time culling my “friend” list on Facebook.

More than 200 people are now gone from my list of “friends”, as I realized I’d allowed myself to accept requests from people I didn’t know well, assuming — innocently, hopefully and very stupidly — that everyone who wanted to be my friend also knew, and shared, my values, ethics and/or professional expertise.


Several of these women proved to be Trojan horses. Lesson, painfully, learned.

So, back to true friendship.

This week also reminded me what it looks and feels like:

Face to face conversation.


Mutual trust.

Sharing stories.

One of the best weeks of my life, working in rural Nicaragua in March 2014 — now still friends with these three

On Monday I went for lunch with a woman who lives across the street from us, and who I hadn’t spent time with for at least six months. We’d had a disagreement last fall, and stopped our weekly walks.

I wasn’t sure we would continue our friendship. We seemed, suddenly, just too different.

Then she was felled, (luckily, getting better now), with a challenging acute illness.

I took her flowers, shocked at the trials she was facing and sorry for her difficulties.

This week, I returned to the relationship with a deeper gratitude for her good humor, her sense of perspective and delight in her recovering health.

Like a handful of people, she knows me very well.

There is something so comforting talking to someone who just knows you, loves you and accepts your quirks.

On Wednesday, I met another friend, a newer one, and we went to the Met Museum after having lunch at Cafe Sabarsky at the Neue Galerie, both on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

We’re still getting to know one another, and she is a working artist and art teacher — we geek out over things like Vikings and monstrances.

On Thursday, I caught up with a woman who was originally a story source, a brilliant (Harvard MBA, ho hum) finance expert.

I feel so lucky when I meet and get to know a woman who’s both wicked smart — and deeply kind. What a pleasure to see her, even once a year when she visits New York.

On Saturday — (this is not a typical week!) — I had breakfast with a fellow writer, a specialist in medical topics, visiting from Toronto, then we both spoke on panels at a writers’ conference.

A woman I’d never met before stayed behind after my panel to talk to me….and we kept talking until midnight when we had to run for our respective trains to get home.

She’s an author from Alabama; here’s her book about a terrifying day when dozens of tornadoes traumatized the U.S.

Whew! What an energizing, delicious gift this week has been.

The gift of friendship.

And how helpful, for all of us, to see the world through others’ eyes and their perspectives. It’s so easy to get caught in your own little worldview, trapped by your own firmly-held opinions.

A key difference I’ve seen here in the U.S. is a discomfort with, (understatement, more like terror of), major differences of opinion, certainly on issues like politics, religion, feminism, the usual flashpoints. If you don’t agree 100 percent on everything, discussion (certainly online) flares into nasty, name-calling argument and boom!

There goes your “friendship.”


I’m slow to make new friends.

Having been betrayed by a few, I’m now much warier about letting a new person in close.


True friendship takes time to grow, to deepen, to broaden.


You may have to forgive them, (and they you!)

Intimacy can be challenging.

Some flee at the first sign of friction.



Coming from a family of origin whose typical stance is estrangement or anger, my friends are my family.

Few things are as precious to me as the intimacy of friendship, old and new.

How about you?

Do you make friends quickly and easily?

Have you weathered the sting of deception and betrayal?


10 thoughts on “The true meaning of friendship

  1. i understand this very well, and the older i’ve gotten, two things have happened. one, was that i found that after a betrayal of sorts, it made me wary. the second, is that i overcame that to a point, and now think that not everyone will like me and that’s okay, and that has made things much easier, having taken the pressure off of myself to be liked by everyone i meet. i have a few good friends and i am comfortable and happy with them, as well as the new friendships that i strike up unexpectedly.

    1. I would never expect everyone to like me! I’m definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. 🙂

      But what really upset me (call me childish) was being betrayed and attacked publicly and online by at least a dozen women — none of whom have ever even met me.

      If I’ve hurt someone, I get it. But this kind of attack-from-a-distance is seriously sick shit.

      1. SO ugly! I was bullied every day in high school by a small group of boys (never by women). I survived it.

        There is a new way of behaving, on-line, that brings out seriously vicious speech — with impunity. WOMEN. What on earth is wrong with them?

  2. This piece was very well written, and so true on all levels. The comparison that you made of Facebook friends versus actual friends, speaks volumes. I do my best to stay connected with my actual friends, because those are the friends I see, I can hug, and they know me, as well as I know them. Thank you for writing this piece and sharing this story with us.

    1. Thank you — for making time to read and to comment!

      I really fell into the trap of thinking some of these people were friends when, in fact, they were out to cause me serious harm. It was a useful/painful reminder that true friends may not come so easily or quickly and there’s a reason for that.

  3. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Monday links | A Bit More Detail

  4. I have a few dear friends (both people I see and some cyber pals). I take the time to nurture these relationships because they connect me to what is essential in myself and in life. Interestingly, each friend offers (and I offer them) something different, so each is precious in their own way. Yes, friendships take commitment and time. They are well worth it. “Stuff” is meaningless without people you love to share it with.

    And yes, I have been betrayed and stung by people I gave my heart to. I haven’t stopped giving my heart away, though. I would be a very destitute person indeed if I closed myself up to the gift of kindness because I was once hurt.

  5. Pingback: Friendships: some true, some toxic | Broadside

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