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Be careful with the word ‘friend’

By   /   October 5, 2012  /   Comments

Normally, I talk about local politics. Sometimes, I bring up events or groups that I think can bring about a positive impact here in Albany. Today, I’m going to depart from that a bit. Today, I’m going to talk about how we all should be careful with those we label as a friend.

Recently, I learned about a betrayal. Someone I counted as friend, who I stood ready to take a bullet for, had crossed a line that male friends just don’t cross. The metaphorical knife wound in my back was nearly imperceptible to begin with, but soon began to fester as the enormity of the betrayal took hold.

We all have people we call “friends”. My question is whether to many of us using that term for people we merely hang out with? Are we using the term for all people we socialize with, when maybe “buddy” or “acquaintance” might be better? Why is it that people we meet up with socially must automatically be catapulted to the exalted status of friend?

The term friend conveys a level of trust that not everyone is worthy of. Some people have no real friends because they are untrustworthy. Oh, there are people who like them and enjoy spending time with them, but they also know that they just shouldn’t trust these people. Why should we, as people, call them friend when they are unworthy of the title?

Instead, I suggest that we all be careful with the term. It should be like knighthood, bestowed on those we know will be with us through thick or thin. I’m not saying we should hold a ceremony or any such thing, but I do think calling another person a friend should be the ultimate measure of respect one individual could give to another.

We live in a world where the word is cheapened. Facebook lets us quantify our friends into numbers. However, while my profile has over 700 “friends”, only a handful are people I even know personally. A few are folks I’ve interacted with via the internet. One or two of those are people I actually do consider friends. Most of my Facebook friends are people I don’t really know. Are they really friends?

Friendship is an old fashioned concept that has been cheapened through our continued use of the term for people who really aren’t. That’s not to say that changing the criteria for who is a friend would eliminate betrayal. After all, the individual who has betrayed me is someone I honestly would have called a friend regardless of the criteria.

However, the scars on my back from all the knives would be significantly fewer in number if I, like many of you, were a bit more careful with who I called a friend.

Tom Knighton is the Editor and Publisher of the Albany Journal.

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