A circle of friends. This is the foundation of everything. The only human relationship is that of friendship. The only one that matters, at least. One can have acquaintances, servants, masters, contemporaries, employees, etc. But the ones that matter are your friends. Unless she is your servant or roommate, your wife is your friend. Unless they are your masters (or your servants), your parents and your teachers are your friends. Even your enemies especially your enemies are your friends. If they matter.
What is a friend? A friend is someone who helps you overcome yourself. Someone who is an ally in your endeavor to become more than you are. There are many many different kinds of friendship, different roles that friends can play, but this is the common thread. Self-overcoming is, of course, the central task of any human being. This is why friendship is the only important human relationship. (You can see how parenting is a particular variant of friendship.)
Of the different roles of friendship, there are two important poles. One role of the friend is to serve as anchor, understanding, safety, home territory. This role is what gives you the power and ability to extend. The ability to take risks without risking everything. The other role of the friend is to serve as challenge, creativity, ecstasy, going-beyond. This is the role that helps you break-through and extend. The ability to take risks well and effectively. Almost all friends will, over the course of their friendship, play both roles. A parent must both push and protect. In delicate balance. The particular mixture is a matter of need, capacity, proclivity, sensitivity, wisdom and luck.
All friendship is rooted in love. Friendship requires the elements of love: trust, confidence, pride, empathy, care. A good friend, of course, possesses wisdom, insight and skill. But any friendship must be built on a foundation of love. Without love there is no safety. Without love, there is no alliance in risk.
Friendship must be completely absent of distrust, contempt and fear (and all of the weaknesses and wounding that stem from these). Fear is particularly challenging because it is the unfortunate turning of care. Fear turns care into attachment preventing growth and development. Turning health in to weakness and sterility. An enemy who fears you is no friend. An enemy who you despise is no friend. An enemy who you can love is a friend one of the most powerful forms of friend. Woe that there are so few enemies in the world who can be friends.
As long as it contains the necessary elements, any relationship can be friendship. The briefest of encounters can be friendship. A mountain-climber slips. He is hanging by a thread. Another climber recognizes his peril and, in spite of tremendous risk to himself, comes to his aid. They never see each-other again. These two people are friends of the first rank. If it lacks the necessary elements, no relationship can be friendship. A parent can raise a child for a lifetime but if there is fear and attachment or a lack of love, then there is no friendship.
Becoming a good friend is the highest endeavor. Becoming subtle and insightful. Coming to know people and to know your friend. Struggling to overcome yourself and, therefore, being able to help your friend struggle. Taking risks and paying the price developing wisdom and being able to share this wisdom. Looking into the abyss and bringing back monsters. A teacher can be a friend but any friend is and must be a teacher.
Friendship requires variety and balance. A friend who plays the role of anchor too much can generate dependency or indifference or sadness. It is draining to be an anchor. You can destroy yourself and your friend by turning a friend into a crutch. A friend who plays the role of challenger too much can generate recklessness, malaise, jealousy. You can destroy yourself and your friend by turning a friend into a phantasy or an addiction.
Friendship is risky. It is risk par excellence. If you are not taking risks with your friends, if you are not putting yourself at risk with your friends, then you are not being a friend and risk the only things that really matter. Friendship is rare. And as such it is precious and must be treated as a rare and precious thing. An opportunity for friendship must be taken if successful, it will enrich not only this relationship, but all of your friendships. While venturing a new friendship poses a risk to yourself and, by extension, to all of your friends this is the point. You have friends in order to take these kinds of risks. If your endeavor fails, it is to your friends that you will turn to regain your balance, strength, confidence and power. Thus, as a friend, you must counsel where your wisdom sees foolishness, but you can never allow even foolishness or caprice to wound you to weakness. Spite, anger, and, above-all, fear must be avoided. Grant your wisdom. Extend your strength and then, if your friend continues to take risks that you believe are foolish, prepare to provide an anchor.
Of course, sometimes a friend becomes a black-hole. Sometimes the friend becomes too dangerous. Friendship should be broken only in the most dire of circumstances. But, if the cost of friendship is a loss of love, then, it cannot last. It is better to preserve love (and the possibility of friendship) than to lose love. Even better to lose the friend. Death is unfortunate. Hate or indifference is worse. Death can lead us to new wisdom. Death can give us strength. Hate can only wound us. Indifference can only make us cold.