One of the foremost outward signs of friendship has returned to our culture even today, the friendship bracelet. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, a trend began with male and female alike, offering friendship bracelets to each other. Often both friends wore the same style of bracelet, made of silver, gold or other materials.
The modern re-introduction of friendship bracelets from ancient Indian traditions began entering the United States through religious groups from Guatemala, protesting the disappearance of Mayan Indians and peasants. Some of the knots used for hand-made modern friendship bracelets are traced back to 481 B.C. through 221 B.C. Chinese history.
The tradition of handmade friendship bracelets is for one friend to wish for something while the other friend ties the friendship bracelet to their wrist. Even now, young children in grammar schools, middle schools and summer camps make friendship bracelets from embroidery floss or threads of brilliant colors with various patterns made from simple half-hitch knots.
Childhood Friends: In our childhood years, before hormones, before homo-erotic and homophobic unconscious thoughts and intimacy feelings of taboo, our earliest friendships are often coed. We often have a sense that friends of the opposite sex are the other half of our being in a non-sexual way. Then as boys increasingly begin to desire to rough-house, and girls begin to imitate human nesting behaviors, same-sex friendships develop. These next step relationships are intense and feelings of deep love can evolve. One very basic premise to true friendship at this stage is devoted loyalty.
Young Adulthood Friends: We enter young adulthood inflamed with inner passions and ideals. We know hardly anything about how anything works but we still form rigid boundaries in our friendships. Always, our friends are exceptions to the rules, automatically forgiven for their shortcomings and ill thought-out mistakes. Loyalty to a group of friends develops as the need to belong becomes a common priority in this age group.
Not having friends at this age means our person or identity is not accepted by our peers. This is a distressing time of development and often outcasts develop serious problems. Having one friend can make the difference in a young person surviving the loneliness of teen years or not making it at all. Friendship is as important to survival at this stage as is food, water and healthcare.
Adult Friendships: As we age in life, new friends are chosen by proximity, or opportunity. We see them everyday at work, where we relax or at a gym. They are likely to be neighbors we encounter often, or we see them at our children’s schools or dance class or sporting events. Where our college friendships may have lacked any dignity of any kind, our grown up friendships are often more superficial, or even singular. We have a set of friends that we like to dine out with, some to party with, a few we allow into the core of our home life. Not all close friends even know our other friends, some do not even know our spouses.
Perhaps some these long-standing quotes about friendship are easily recognizable. Some have been re-written for decades, some for centuries. They still speak to the heart about true friendships, and that is why they still circulate among groups freely. These remarkable people have been quoted in newspapers, novels, television programs, posters, social media and bumper stickers.
The common thread in these famous quotations is the description of a deep ethic of loyalty in friendship. Through all situations and trials, friendship can withstand nearly all things. Another element that is present in all these profound thoughts is that in friendship dwells self-less love.
Friendship Movies: An easy to access window of information that helps us see into the cultural definition of friendship is popular movies. When a movie is adopted by society, it is usually a good indicator that the content is identifiable and people easily relate to what the movie is illustrating. Here are a few movies that represent the American definition of friendship:
Through the decades of filming friendship movies, situations changed but the themes of loyalty and defense continued to develop. Friendship can cross any boundary from sex and sexual orientation, to race, age, financial status and even species. The friendship between man and dog illustrated in “Hooch” with Tom Hanks, or Han Solo and Chubaka in “Star Wars” with Harrison Ford. Some of these movies make that statement, “You don’t need the whole world to love you, having a select friend who loves and understands you, or a small group of loyal friends makes you and the world a better place.”
Many of these films allow the audience to experience the development of a friendship from when they meet, how their first impressions may not always be positive, but how situations work to bring them together, how the friends find out they like each other and feel loyalty, and how the friendship develops into a relationship that strengthens each other. A common thread is that friends are not people who get each other into trouble, but the opposite. They encourage each other to make right decisions and if trouble happens they help each other deal with it.
Friendship Poems: A Favorite Poem by Emily Robinson demonstrates powerful verses about friendship –
“when tears fell from my eyes
you were there to brush them away
when I was lost in confusion
you were there to say that everything would be okay
when I stood before you falling apart
you were there to lend your heart
when I felt like no one could understand
you were there to take my hand
when no one else was left to care
you were there”
Much poetry has been written about friendship, most often as a reflection of thankfulness for the precious gift friendship is and how bonding with other human beings, an even pets, bring a warmth and richness into their worlds. Friendship is never one-sided, good friends respond to each other and jump in to help when a friend is in need
Friendship Songs: For generations, learning, singing and listening to songs has been used to teach. Children enjoy singing and sharing songs they know with others. This method is such and enjoyable tool that many times people do not realize they are learning valuable concepts like what is friendship, the value of a friend or even loyalty through patriotism. Music has always been a direct pathway to the heart. It sometimes is the deepest seed of identity. People who enjoy the same types of music and the same music performers often bond through the music and become friends.
Children’s Songs often focus on the unity of friends and good friendship feelings. Most children love to laugh, sing and dance about. Using music is an excellent way to teach about the right kinds of friendships:
Collecting songs about friendship is a great idea for a “friendship themed party”. Hosts can add movies about friendship, decorate with posters about friendship and play games that illustrate trust, loyalty and defending a friend.
Symbols of Friendship: Modern day symbols of friendship are displayed in ways once reserved for service men and native tribesmen. Some youth of this generation seek to display their loyalty to friends by getting tattoos together. Often buddies and BFF’s choose significant tattoos or even matching ones. Hearts, entangled ivy, infinity symbols and many more friendship tattoos signify unity, loyalty and deep devotion in friendship. Some tattoo enthusiasts have a favorite quote about friendship in fancy script tattooed as a statement of loyalty or deep conviction.
Best Friends Courtesy of David Stribbling
Artists often portray the love and loyalty of first friendships as those between a child and pet. Animals are forgiving, loyal and consistent, they bring out the best in people.
Best Friends Forever Courtesy of Margaret Donat
Rare and beautiful friendships often last a lifetime. Men and women enjoy friendships that began in childhood as neighbors, schoolmates or college friends, that continue into old age. These friendships are solid and based on a lifetime of history together.
Boys – Best Friends Courtesy of Pronto.com
Art of any form can seal memories of friendship, especially when given as gifts. Treasured keepsakes may have little dollar value, or be worth thousands of dollars, but the measure of giving in friendship is a priceless act. People have one of five love languages, the love language of gift giving is a lasting way of bonding and creating memories for one another.
According to author, Dr. Gary Chapman, everyone has their own primary love language which they intrinsically use to give and receive acknowledgment of love and appreciation. Understanding your friend’s, spouse’s or teenager’s dominant love language will, like a vehicle’s fuel tank, keep the love & friendship tank filled.
Learning to be flexible with the way you express your caring for different people by using their love languages, over your own, will bring you into deeper friendships with a variety of people. It’s also nice to have people who understand your love language and respond to you with caring methods that speak most to you.
There are books available that address every aspect of love languages and how to build caring, trusting relationships while using these bonding methods. Teenagers often respond very well to parents “keying in” to their preferences also. Read Dr. Gary Chapman’s book on “The Five Love Languages of Teenagers” for deeper understanding on this topic.
Books are gifts appreciated by many, this book may be a great topic for a book club, family study project or a friend’s special occasion also.
Friendship Cookies: Heart-shaped cookies work best because they can be divided equally in half very easily. Bring enough cookies for each child to receive two. During the discussion about sharing with friends, have the children break one cookie in half. Start some music with friendship lyrics. Then have each child give a half of their cookie to their friend.
Everyone must pick a different friend to be sure each child get’s a second half cookie. As the adult you may start the process offering your half cookie to a child not likely to receive a friend’s cookie. The second cookie should go into a sandwich baggie so they can take them home and split the cookie with their family. Let them know when they come back, they will discuss as a group, how their family reacted when they shared their cookies.
Pre-school or Daycare Friendship Fruit Salad: Everyone brings one piece of fruit. The adult cuts each fruit into bite size pieces and puts each fruit, apples, oranges, grapes, peaches, into a small sandwich baggie. The kids each take a turn to pour their fruit from the baggie into a large bowl. During story time, using a book about friends, the children enjoy the friendship fruit salad made from ingredients everyone shared.
Older Children’s Friendship Sleep-overs: Have a friendship themed party or sleepover with a “Friendship Movie Marathon”, friendship pizza and friendship music to dance to. Include friendship sayings and photos from the party or sleepover in their take home party bags. Make sure all guests get friendship photos taken.
Teenagers are more selective in friend making, one way to help them broaden their perspective on the possibilities of friendships is to have each teenager bring a guest from outside their circle or group. Before the party, a discussion may be needed to describe appropriate attitudes and wise friendship practices for including “outsiders”, for and welcoming them in. This may be a process of several different activities before all teen members accept the challenge wholeheartedly.
It’s very natural to be shy in high school, especially freshmen in a new school. Kids naturally pair off with friends they’ve known a long time. Activities that encourage new students to get involved are an exceptional way to teach teens how to go about making new friends. Have some of the cooperative leadership students make suggestions on how to get other kids to invite new students in. Hopefully the skills teenagers learn with this kind of guidance will be useful wherever and when ever they want to make friends for the rest of their lives.
As young people develop better socialization skills, they will rely on what they know and feel comfortable with each time they want to make a new friend. That is why repetition and continued activities, requiring new social skills, are important. Socialization lessons are as beneficial as knowing math, science, and how to write, type and use a computer.