Formula For Friendship


Is there a formula for friendship?  I think so.

On the one hand, it seems silly to capture the essence of relational chemistry in rational terms.  It might just reveal that my natural emotional intelligence is a bit on the low side.  But on the other hand, my formula isn’t very formulaic at all: I don’t suggest inserting numerical values into any part of it.  It’s just my way of trying to understand how and why friendships form, endure, or expire.  So here it is:

Friendship = Time Frequency x Time Duration x Common Interest

Let’s push some examples through this formula to explain.  Have you noticed the way close friendships form at camp or college?  When we spend time with someone every day (frequency) for several hours (duration) and share a unique common experience (common interest), a special bond of friendship forms.  That kind of friendship seems to endure even after departure or graduation (no more frequency or duration) because the common interest is so high.  When reunion happens, stories of common interest abound.

What about the classic conversation at a alumni reunion that awkwardly runs out of steam?  That’s probably because there is less common interest now than there was back when you attended school together.  Or what about those special friends that you see far less often (frequency) than you desire, but the friendship just seems to naturally pick up where it left off?  You probably have had a high level of common interest for a long time (duration).

Have you noticed the way friendships form at work?  You spend all day (duration) together every day (frequency) with shared goals (common interest).  But when the conversation ventures outside of work-related topics, the relationship begins to diminish until some other area such as family or a hobby (common interest) is discovered.  And that co-worker you just can’t stand?  The common interest is so low, it functions as a negative value that overpowers everything else.

Do you want to grow closer to someone?  Spend time with them more often (frequency).  Or set aside longer amounts of time (duration).  Or find something that you enjoy doing together (common interest).  I’m sure the friendship will grow.

Jesus was concerned with friendship too.  But his friendship was based on something entirely different:  Himself.  He said that those who obey His commands are his friends and this friendship can’t be based on our own effort because we have failed and will fail.  We betray Him in our sin.  But the obedient love Jesus has for us, having laid aside His life for our sake, enables our obedience to His command; loving others by laying aside our lives for them.  We can’t work that with some formula.  Jesus has chosen us as friends, and our joyful response to His friendship is to live and love after His example.  The commitment and sacrifice needed to love like Jesus is more powerful than any area of common interest.  We love others not because of what we have in common, but because Jesus loves us.

What do you think?  Can friendship be expressed in a formula?  Have you found it difficult to love someone that didn’t share your common interest?


About Larry Lakey

Jesus follower, husband, father, pastor, preacher, leader, bass player, recovering legalist.

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