By Lorene Belotti, Guest Blogger
Several months ago, I was speaking with one of my dearest friends who lives abroad. He shared a funny experience he had with one of his pals and I asked him, “Is he your best friend?”
“I entirely refute the concept of ‘best friend,’” he replied.
We debated about this topic for a long time. Who is a friend and, even more, what is the requirement to be considered the “best” friend? Isn’t it awful to compare your friends to choose the best one? Is it moral to evaluate your friends’ value? Is it acceptable to classify them as if they were objects, from most favorable to the least according to your scale of values?
I don’t think so. I also refuse this idea of comparing my friends, but let’s be honest: I do have best friends (plurals). Of course, there’s a group of people I really feel close to; I do have more affinity with a few people over others; I’ve also lived and shared more experiences and memories with some of them. I have extraordinary people in my life with whom I feel more understood and who I share deep world vision with. All these elements create a special bond between us, and I do trust them more than the others. I actually trust them enough to communicate some deep personal thoughts and to be totally myself.
I share different things and different common points with each one of these close friends. I feel like they complement each other. I love them all, for very different reasons; that’s why I couldn’t scream to the world that one of them is the “best”: “HE’S the one! You guys are good but not as good as he is!” It would be tactless, mean, hurtful, and show a big lack of consideration for my other close friends. I would never want them to think that no matter what they do, they would never be good enough to be considered as my “best” friend. This works in both ways. Maybe our competitive societies encourage us to evaluate everything, including people, but I’m not sure this is a fair game. In France, we don’t often introduce someone as the “best” friend; at least, we don’t say it out loud so much; maybe it’s also a cultural question.
An American sociologist called Jan Yager who has researched friendship for more than 30 years defines friendship according to the degree of intimacy and trust between people. Three major friend types emerge during her research: ordinary friends, close friends, and best friends. For her, close friends and best friends share the same five values: commitment, confidence, trust, honesty, and community. The only difference is the exclusivity. A best friend is just like the soul mate we talk about in love.
But shouldn’t we be afraid of exclusivity in friendship? Isn’t it a characteristic of love stories (even if friendship is a kind of love)? Doesn’t it push away everyone else and create jealousy? Friendship is usually a “free union” and a fragile balance we have to preserve in order not to fall into a toxic relationship. Exclusivity often creates big break-ups.
The Swiss psychiatrist Ludwig Binswanger (Freud’s close friend) actually distinguished friendship from love by the non- fusional and non-exclusive type of relationship. On the contrary, friendship implies difference and partition at the physical and psychological levels.
A study recently showed we generally have around five close friends. We love these people because they are like mirrors of ourselves. A strong bond can link us, we feel better, less worried (we’re stronger when we’re two), and the world seems less scary. Nevertheless, exclusivity can rapidly become stifling. It’s not good at all when you feel “forced” to call your friend to tell him/her something instead of enjoying the call. It’s proven that less “passionate” friendships are stronger on the long term.
Personally, I think it’s important to find a good balance. We all have different close friends and at some points of our lives, depending on what we’re going through, we’ll feel closer to one person or another. Obviously, there are different friendship levels, but I imagine we just have to take care as much as we can of all the very important friends we’re lucky to have. It is not only one of your best friends who needs to feel special, they’re all starving for love. Increasing tenfold your love instead of sharing it between them will not only generate more peaceful relationships without jealousy but, above all, it will probably place you on the top rank of their best friends’ list.
Lorene is a French observer and learner of life. She’s been working as a salesperson and a marketing assistant for four years to learn the ropes of the business world. She used to be a sports journalist while doing her Master’s degree and she loves writing and telling stories about great people too much not to go back to her first love soon. She lives in the French Alps, and loves to try to solve the world’s problems while having a great meal with her loved ones. She is passionate about foreign languages, self-development books, American TV shows, and people. Oh, and she’s a total nerd of Academic studies (when she’ll win the lottery, she’ll go to Harvard).
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