As I flipped to chapter 7 of Bill Hybels’ stunning book, Simplify, those words hit me in the face.
I laid the open leaves on my chest, wondering what the world would think of me when I’m no longer here. Then, like a rollercoaster, my mind wound back to the question, “how many friends will attend your funeral?”
Friends, not family members.
I’m sure you’re thinking “a lot of friends of course!”
Your passage through life may have won you more friends than you can count. But you see, while that question is best answered by those who will outlive you, it all depends on the
quantity quality of relationships you are making today.
If you are like most people, you tend to overestimate the number of genuine friends you have. But nothing can be farther from the truth. When the chips are down, we don’t have as many friends as we think we do.
This is not to make you feel sad but to help you understand that you cannot be friends to everyone and everyone cannot be your friend.
In this article, I will show you three levels of friendship. This list will give you a mental map to stratify everyone in your life and give them the time, care and attention fitting to their level of investment in you and your purpose.
If you want to live a purposeful life, you cannot relate with everyone the same way. You must stratify your relationships in order of priority.
But before we dive in, I need to be sure we are on the same page.
It will be difficult to understand my point if we do not see friendship from the same lenses.
What is Friendship?
Whenever I attempt to define friendship, I cannot help but rehash Bill Hybels’ simple yet powerful definition. Hybels defines friendship in six words; to know and to be known.
Every genuine friendship is a platform to be seen and known for who you are, not what society believes you are. There is no pretending or plastic makeover here. True friends are those who have said to each other, “look, this is who I am. No mask. No shades. I know you may not like the totality of what you see, but I am a work in progress and I’m improving daily.”
True friends accept each other for who they are. They are aware of each other’s quirks and when occasion demands, they stand up to cover each other’s back.
A friendship short of the elements of passion, commitment, pleasure and sacrifice is not a friendship…yet. Friendship is a two-way street. We cannot call it friendship if only one party does all the giving and sacrifice. We have a name for that already, parasitism. True friends, love, serve, celebrate and understand one another.
That said, here are three levels of friendship you must never forget.
1. Circumstantial Friends
This is your desk mate at work. A member of your class. Your barber friend or the lady who makes your hair. They are friendly to you and you are friendly to them. But realise it or not, these kinds cannot leave everything and travel to attend your funeral. They have their lives to live and that’s okay.
Mind you, they are not fake friends. There is a just a limit to which you both can relate. If the salon lady leaves the country, you can’t go about tracking down her new mobile number just to keep in touch.
That won’t be necessary. What brought you together was hairdressing. And as long as it’s not hairdressing, your rapport doesn’t hold tight. Circumstantial friends may care for you, but they can always do without you. No hard feelings!
2. Seasonal Friends
Back in the early days of The Winning Mindset, I used to have a couple of close friends. I could call them the backbone of the Winning Mindset then. These were the people who made things happen.
They risked their lives, sweated it out and gave me their best. And I did the same.
I was so drawn to some of them that I never imagined there would be a time when we will only communicate via call or WhatsApp message. But it happened.
I wish someone coached me about the seasonal nature of life. I wish someone had told me that not everyone you start with will be by your side 20 years from now. Today, it might seem like you cannot do without them, but when seasons change, you will find them on the other part of the south pole doing well without you.
All your years together will be reduced to flashes of memory.
Don’t be naïve. Seasonal friends don’t hate you. It’s just life shuffling the cards. As old friends go, new ones will take their place.
In the meantime, treat everyone with utmost respect and dignity.
3. Lifelong Friends
These are the friendships that last a lifetime. These people are probably the ones you will spend your best retirement memories with.
Growing up, I watched my father make friendships that have endured through the decades. From my primary school days until my adulthood, these friends have stood by my father. I continue to wonder how folks can keep a bond for this long.
For reasons I cannot explain, we do not have 100% control of who becomes our lifelong friends. Life has a way of weaving them into the very fabrics of our years.
If you had a glimpse of who your old-age friends would be, you probably won’t recognise their faces now. That’s because some of them are not even in your life yet.
But they will come.
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Your decisions and choices today ultimately gravitate you towards the quality of circles you will end up in at old age.
Until then, never forget that the highest psychological need of every human being alive today is the need to be loved, valued and appreciated.
When you make people feel loved, valued and appreciated, you won’t have to worry about how many friends attend your funeral.