COMMENTARY: The Treasure of Old Friends 757.2

In my lifetime, I’ve had the good fortune of having a handful of good friends.

Each of my four teenage daughters have many hundreds. At least that what they call every Facebook connection they collect like trophies. The list of those kinds of friends includes people they barely know, some they don’t know at all and even some people they don’t like.

They also have lots of real friends – people they actually know and spend time with. They profess to “love” and “miss” quite a few and, though it defies the meaning of the word “best” they each have a rotating group of best friends often referred to a BFFs (best friends forever) or BFFLs (best friends for life).

It’s pretty obvious to an old codger like me (using the word codger proves how old I am), that their use of the labels “friend” and “best friend” represents a diluted and naïve concept of the intensity and longevity of friendship.

In relationships, “forever” is, outside of rare exceptions, a romantic illusion borne out of real but transitory emotions. From the perch provided by decades of experience, it’s pretty obvious that none or only a few of today’s BFFs will be in their lives for very long.

This is not to say that these relationships aren’t important or that they don’t provide all kinds of needed comforts such as companionship, validation, support, fun, and caring counsel. But just as lasting and meaningful love is hard to find and sustain, true friendships are rare and, therefore, precious.

Generally, the intensity and longevity of almost all friendships are tied to context, place and time.

Except for friendships with relatives (if you’re fortunate to have any who really are your friends), friendships rarely make the transition from one major stage of our lives to another.

And though we may feel affection for old friends who once played a central role in our lives, unless we have been in regular contact, many of the qualities that made the relationship so special (shared joys and grief in real time, common experiences, intimate knowledge of our thoughts and feelings) just aren’t there anymore.

The insight of age is that even our best friendships usually morph into memories.

Fortunately, the emotions that define these memories are easily re-awakened and enjoyed with even infrequent contact.

Communicating with “old friends” can enrich our lives by  bringing our pasts into the present, reminding us of who we were and how we became what we are.

The irony is that Facebook, which seems to promote a watered down version of friendship for my kids, also makes it possible for me to re-connect with a small army of far-flung folks who once played a major role in my life — and I’m glad for that.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Check out and share Poster: Friendship A-Z and True Friends

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Comments 8

  1. I only have a couple of friends that fall into the category that you mention. I’ve found over the years you speak of, but like you said my FB “friends” help keep me connected without leaving the security of my home. I have many flaws in me that I didn’t have when I was younger and much more social. I can’t really say when it all went wrong but I miss my friends and my wonderful husband I lost almost a year ago. So I say here here to the FB friends I have, that help to make me feel real, even though at times

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      Very nice, thanks for your thoughts. I hope you will also find some comfort and inspiration from these pages. – Michael

  2. Dear Michael:
    I have followed your career and valuable messages for many years with so much pride and admiration, remembering you as an admired friend from my same High School (just a year older than I am, I believe). I was very interested in and touched by this commentary (brilliant, as usual), as I often ponder the morphing of our social communication tools and interactions, ever since the invention of social media and especially My Space and FB. I have been on a (losing) quest to save the English language for decades, but the FB generation neither cares (beyond just conveying the gist of a message) nor would they probably ever even know the difference. Communications now are truncated, abbreviated and without structure or social cordiality or “niceties.” I am truly grateful to have learned to write snail-mail thank-you notes, to use correct grammar by having prepared weekly hundreds of “sentence diagrams.” (Thank you, Mrs. Demar!) I am grateful to have been raised with the values of the 1950s and deliberate, meaningful communications. And I am so blessed to have friends with whom I have stayed in touch from even Kindergarten. Our 50th WHS class reunion is well underway in its planning stages. It is now, particularly, that I observe and ponder the changes in friendships and an obvious “throw-away” mentality in all things, including relationships. I am so grateful to have friendships that are rooted in the values with which we were raised in the late 40s and 50s, even 60s. I am truly, profoundly grateful.

    Thank you, once again, for finding the words that were dormant in my heart and bringing them to the arena for review and discussion!


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      Ricki – thank you for your wonderfully sensitive comment. There is much that is lost by technology for sure but this glass too is half full. I hope you will experiment with new ways to enrich your relationships with tools like Facebook. I have. Best to you. – Michael

      1. Thank you for your acknowledgment, Michael. I do actually use Facebook, although not to the extent of the much younger generations. I am grateful to have reconnected (via the miracle network of FB communications) with many whom I thought I had “lost” ! I use FB, Twitter and LinkedIn to enhance my connection to others who have touched my life! I am truly glad that I did not get left behind in the era of the Olivetti typewriter (with 8 carbon copies) and somehow have been guided to an avenue of the “new” communications, while not losing the importance and medium of the “old way” of communicating, as well. I am blessed to be part of both worlds!
        I wish you continued success and pivotal influence on the ethics and character development of the young, especially!

  3. On my way from LA to see my 91 year mom in Florida, I decided to stop in Michigan (where I grew up) to see two of my oldest neighborhood friends (from 50+ years ago). We spent the weekend sharing, laughing, connecting. It was well worth every dollar I spent for the 2 day lay over. We decided that we need to make this an annual event while we are all still healthy. What a blessing these women are in my life and always will be.

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  4. I’ve had a group of guys that I’ve hung out with for the better part of 20 years (since high school). Alas, out of all the guys, I am the only non-married ones so hanging out with them is not as frequent anymore. Yet, the memories of our old times is good and brings a lot of laughs.

    I’m fortunate to have another solid group of friends around me these days, especially a couple of female friends. Recently, I found an old photo of the DAY I met one of my female friends. I scanned it and sent it to her (she was surprised). It got a good laugh for the both of us. In terms of context, yes I did meet her for the first time. But there was so much going on at that time as well.

    Good message and a note to all young people that they may have a lot of “friends” now, but only a few will stick through with you through time.

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