Humans are relational beings—we have the ability to create friendships.
Think about that for a second.
I confess this baffles me at times. I love friendship. I have been blessed with some incredible friendships. But every time I approach a situation where I will be meeting new people, I’m suddenly convinced that creating a new friendship is impossible.
How can we offer enough of themselves to create, grow, and maintain a new relationship (trust and vulnerability included)?
Good friendship is indeed art, and I am convinced that it might be the most dangerous, satisfying form of artwork.
I think the key here is that friendship takes creators—plural. It’s never a solitary creative act. When I envision the process of making new friends, I usually isolate my own efforts and think about how much I might have to try. But I forget that you can’t make a friendship by yourself. The other person must be invested, too.
Of all the arts, relationship is the most dependent on multiple creators. In Poetic Diction, Owen Barfield argues that the beauty and power of poetry is ultimately lost on the creator; he’s already seen the metaphor, so the “felt change” (which good poetry ought to convey) is limited to the observer. I think you can make this claim for many art forms. An artist may need to create to survive, but the creation is not only for him and his gratification—it’s for the observer. That is where the true power of most art rests.
Friendship is different. It doesn’t allow for such distance between the artists. It is a beautiful form of co-creation between at least two people. To create a beautiful friendship both parties must work on the relationship. They’re not just molding a piece of art; they are molding themselves and each other. And because they are being changed, and not simply conveying this change to others, they are full participants in the art.
The process of friendship makes both artists vulnerable. Each must trust the other to care as much about the creation as she does. When a painter puts his heart into a painting, he knows that he gave it his all, and if he didn’t, he knows it’s his own fault. Friendship, however, you create actively with another person, so if you put your heart into it and the other does not, the artwork will be deformed and broken. It’s a daunting risk. But when you do open yourself to creating a relationship, you are potentially opening yourself to creating the most beautiful and satisfying work of art.
Despite my own frequent doubts about new friendships, I see them forming everywhere. It’s beautiful to see two people finding a connection and building up a relationship together. Even as an outside observer, I can be changed by witnessing the art of good friendship.
And I think I have been changed by the art of friendship more than any other art in which I’ve participated.
Image by SnapwireSnaps via Pixabay.