By Tom Welch

In the Buddhist tradition, we talk a lot about compassion, generosity, kindness and forgiveness.

But it seems to me we also should give a hearty “shout out” to that old reliable, often misunderstood and very human quality, friendship. “Well, everybody has friends,” you may be thinking, “What’s so great about friendship?”

My granddaughter was visiting this weekend and when I asked her how many friends she has, she answered, “About 40.” I discussed this with my wife, Gitta, this morning and she said that 40 friends is not so unusual for a teenager, and that many of what my granddaughter counts as friends we might call “acquaintances with lots in common.”

So, I thought about what we, as adults, might find important about friendship and how it might be different from a young person’s concept. The essentials I came up with were: Constancy, Commitment, Caring, Involvement and Equivalency in Relationship, not necessarily in any particular order other than as they occurred to me.

It seems to me that an adult friendship should have most if not all of these to be meaningful.

By “constancy” I mean a steadfast relationship that can withstand much turmoil, many misunderstandings and sometimes very hurt feelings; a relationship where talking it out and working through any difficulty is paramount.

By “commitment” I mean that the friendship stands regardless of what others in our lives think of it and no matter how important these others are to us. We will not be deterred!

By “caring” I mean that each has a deep regard for the other, no matter how old or new the relationship may be. The granting of friendship is, therefore, a milestone, a gate, a specific thing consciously decided upon, not something drifted into.

By “involvement” I mean that the friendship is not left untended, regardless how busy we are or what mood we are in. It is continued with as much “oomph” as we can put into it, which obviously will vary from time to time but which is never wholly abandoned. Just a few words, a few sentences are enough even though we may be overwhelmed with other cares in life.

By “equivalency” I mean that the relationship is balanced, that each gets about the same value from it, that neither lords it over the other. This means that when compassion is needed, perhaps the start of a friendship must be deferred for a little while or in an ongoing friendship, equivalency is temporarily put on hold.

I do not mean to denigrate the traditional Buddhist values of compassion and kindness; these are absolutely needed in our world. But for a truly personal relationship, I propose friendship. In fact, in the spirit of Buddhist rebellion, I offer friendship as the ultimate relationship for all people. Can you imagine what a friendly world would look like with a sharing of Inward Light, a common flame touching us all?

If you are having trouble picturing this, please listen to John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” This is a future to strive for.


Tom WelchTom Welch has worked as a clerk, a high school math teacher, a radio intercept operator in the army, in finance at a large company, and as a leader/teacher for groups of adjudicated teens as well as for parents and children in a community education program that explores the effects of addiction on the family.  His blog  contains the items published on The Tattooed Buddha as well as a number of other writings. The family husky, Spirit, is 14 years old and loves cold weather, the colder the better. It is Tom’s assignment to walk the dog every morning without complaint. Spirit is getting very old. We are enjoying her while we can.


Photo: Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon/Flickr

Editor: Marcee Murray King