I have been thinking lot about friendships lately. Like everything else during midlife one begins to look how things are working or not working. This is especially true with regards to friendships.
I came across a quote from one of my favorite inspiring people, Maya Angelou. Here is what she had to say.
“Only equals make friends. Any other relationship is out-of-order”.
I subscribe to Ms. Angelou’s Facebook page and she posts wonderful quotes all the time. Most of her quotes are well received and have flowing compliments. However, the quote I mentioned above was responded to with a great deal of negative feedback. Some people agreed with her on the notion that friendships must be equal, but most did not. Several people felt hurt and insulted that someone they admired would say something that sounded so judgemental.
What does the word equal mean? According to the Webster Dictionary the definition of equal means, “A person or thing considered to be the same as another in status or quality”. I think what upset many of Ms. Angelou’s readers was the concept that two people must be of same status to be friends. This part of the definition I disagree with Ms. Angelou on.
Not all of my friends are from the same social-economic status. Most of them are middle-income folks like me, but not all. The financial status of a person is not how I choose my friends. But since Ms. Angelou did not specify financial status as a criteria for being equal I don’t think that was what she was referring to in her quote. I think her statement refers to the second part of the statement which refers to ‘a person considered to be of the same as another in quality’.
It is the quality of a person that matters most in my opinion. That is why the quote has special meaning to me. When I was younger I could be friends, close friends at times, with people with values I didn’t always admire. As I have gotten older I am no longer comfortable in those types of friendships. Friendships in which I spend my most energy and time with are the ones where I feel the person and I have similar values and interests…and yes, feel more equal.
Equal in this quote doesn’t refer to age, skin color, gender, marital status or education level. It refers to life on a more spiritual level. Equal in what they value, how they view the world, and the relationship they want from a friendship.
I wrote on Ms. Angelou’s FB wall to say thank you. Her quote helped me deal with something I have struggled with. I haven’t been able to connect with a friend lately and I think the idea of equality may be the reason. The relationship has felt unbalanced. I realize now this is normal. It doesn’t mean I love my friend less. It just means they may not be the person I will develop my closest connection with.
Another life lesson better understood.
Thank you Ms. Angelou.