What Is Your Definition of Friendship?


I've been thinking a lot about friendship and how much those closest to me, including my family members, help add joy and happiness to my life as well as help shape who I am. The quote: "You are the company you keep" encourages us to be deliberate in how we define and choose our friends. And on the flip side, it reminds us that being good company is just as important as seeking it.

My mom, my sisters, and I at the Evo Conference.

Characteristics of a Friend

So much of friendship for me comes down to values. I love Wikipedia's definition of friendship:

The value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating the following on a consistent basis:

Me and Rachael from TodaysMama.com at Evo Conference.

What characteristics and values are most important to you in a friend?

For me, I'd add integrity to this list as well, because while people may have these values, the most important thing is their desire and effort to live in accordance with them.

Tips to Being a Good Friend

While keeping great company helps define us, it is only one half of the friendship equation. We also need to be great company for others in return. Here's a few ways to be a good friend:

  • Uplift Your Friends
  • Love Others for Who They Are
  • Serve Your Friends How They Want to Be Served
  • Apologize and Change

Uplift Your Friends

Relationships need to be mutually beneficial and one of the best ways for people to benefit is when they are uplifted by another individual. Actions that are often uplifting include: validating, affirming, looking out and sticking up for, taking care of, being loyal to, trusting and being honest with, and being there for others.

When I think of uplifting friends, they are those that I have on speed dial. I can call them any time—for a good laugh, to share some news, when I'm having a tough day, or when I need a pick-me-up. They are my peeps—those that get me and in essence, make me a better me!

Kami from NoBiggie.net, Allison from PetitElefant.com, Marie from MakeandTakes.com, Casey from MooshInIndy.com, and me at BlogHer'10.

Love Others for Who They Are

The lens through which we see the world and the belief systems we cling to shape most of our perspectives. As I look at the company I keep, I am increasingly amazed and in awe at the diverse personality types, skills, attributes, and talents those closest to me bring to the table. As they help me see things through their lens, it changes my outlook, adding color, beauty, and clarity to the world around me.

Trying to force others to be more like you or only choosing friends who are your same type is limiting. Adversely, choosing friendships based on values instead of personality types and learning to love people for who they are enhances your experiences.

Serve Your Friends How They Want to Be Served

Service is a great way to show love in any relationship.

Me and Amy Belgardt from MomSpark.net at Evo Conference.

I wrote a post once about how to raise giving children. In it, I promoted the concept of doing unto others as they need you to do unto them and not "as you'd like done unto you."

I've had many opportunities to be the recipient of service in my life. After one surgery, I was flat on my back in bed for 6 weeks. I discovered the way in which I needed to be served when a friend came to visit. She brought Yahtzee, magazines, treats, and spent 2 hours with me chatting, playing games, and just hanging out. I was in so much pain and so happy all at the same time. I learned that when I am out for the count, the biggest gift someone can give me is time. Just be with me.

Books like the 5 Love Languages are great at helping you figure out ways in which you want to be loved and served as well as helping you notice what your friends' needs may be. The catch is that sometimes it is tough to figure out how others want to be served. And sometimes, they don't even know. But, paying attention or trying a variety of things to see what works best and doing those things helps you meet their needs best.

Apologize and Change

Friendships grow and change and need to be strengthened like any other relationship. The goal is to create positive experiences, be there for each other, and have the relationship be mutually beneficial. If you veer off the path of being a great friend, apologize and change. It takes a second to offer a sincere apology. It may take months to change your behavior. But it is nearly impossible to replace a fabulous friendship. The time required to apologize and change is a drop in the bucket compared to the time it took to create all the amazing memories.

Evaluate your friendships and ask yourself:

  • If you are the company you keep, who are you? And, is that the person you want to be?
  • If your friends are the company they keep, who are they? And, are they a better person because you are in their lives?
  • What is one thing you can do this week to be a better friend?
Photos courtesy of Shelle Block, Casey Mullins, and Christine Koh.
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An active part of the Mom It Forward team, Jyl primarily writes about parenting, social good, and all things travel related. In a past life, Jyl was an award-winning copywriter and designer of corporate training programs for Fortune 100 companies. Offline, Jyl is married to @TroyPattee; a mom to two teen boys and a beagle named #Hashtag; loves large amounts of cheese, dancing, and traveling; and lives in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Topping her bucket list is the goal to visit 50 countries by the time she's 50.


21 responses to “What Is Your Definition of Friendship?”

  1. Lisa says:

    What a thorough article on friendship! I feel that I have friends for different situations. All of my close friends have wonderful qualities. The number one that they all have in common is the feeling of knowing each other for lifetimes. That quick bonding is a common denominator in all my friends. Great conversation, deep understanding, trust, and loyalty. However, I do have friends that are great for shopping, great for deep thoughts about the unknown, great for shoulder to lean on, and the list goes on.

    Thanks for writing this, it is a great reminder to value those in your life.

  2. Jyl – so love this blog and you! I feel honored to call you friend. Thanks for inspiring so many women – you rock!

    BIG hugs – Debba

  3. You guys are so adorable in all of the pictures but I LOVE the Bush’s picture!! Too funny!

  4. Oh, man. Loads of love!

    I love friends who take me where I am and help me get me where I’m going.


  5. Marie says:

    I’m so happy to call you my friend. This social media world has been so amazing to bring us together!!! I love you to pieces!

    And I love that photo of us at Blogher!

  6. Kami says:

    I too feel so lucky to have you as a friend, Jyl. You have a such a positive person, always so fun to be with.

    I too love that picture of us. What a fun weekend!

  7. I love, love, love this post, Jyl.
    Yes. yes. yes.

  8. Love this! Friends who you can vent anything to that won’t judge you are the best! Like my blog partner Ash. Yes Petit Elefant, I love friends who take me where I am and help me get me where I’m going. You always need to have friends that inspire you to be your best you! 🙂

  9. Alison Lewis says:

    This is a truly amazing post. I had the chills reading it! Thanks so much! You are awesome, and I am so glad our paths have crossed!

  10. Tamara says:

    What a thoughtful post, Jyl! I think as I get older, friendship means more to me. I am more careful in who I choose to call a close friend and need it to be a 2-way street.

    Beautiful post!

  11. Thanks Alison, and to all of you, for your sweet comments.

    Here’s the thing… I feel completely blessed to have such amazing friends. And… the tips I shared weren’t things I am necessary good at, but things that my friends have taught me and I aspire to be better at. In short, they are the ways in which my friends have been good friends to me.

    I hope I can someday be half as awesome as the company I keep! You’re all amazing :D.

  12. Krista Parry says:

    Wow Jyl, the timing of this post could not be more perfect. Sometimes our lives can get really crazy and it’s easy to focus on what we need. When we can truly focus on those around us and how we can help them our lives are more blessed.

    I am so grateful for our friendship.

  13. Nisha says:

    What a sweet post. I’d rather be known as a good friend than anything else in this world.

  14. Liliana says:

    i like it!!!

  15. Dave says:


    How many count them,

    Do you really call a friend?

    Really, count them…

    And tell me where your fingers end

    I’m not talking about acquaintances

    Or people you stop and wave-to-Hi

    I’m talking about those people that you know,

    Where you never want to say good-bye

    How many?

    Really how many can you say?

    Where you can tell your darkest secrets

    And with your friend they see the light of day

    Tell me with who you let your guard-go-down

    Where you can feel-at-ease and dance around

    In your living room to a romantic tune

    Lay down at night look-up-at-the-moon

    Laugh together like kids in a cool tree house

    Then both stay quiet as a small church mouse

    Hoping you can stay there Forever…

    And no one will ever come-and-look

    As you both anxiously discover

    more about each other,

    Like the next chapter in a book…

    How many?

    And which friend when you hug them

    You know it will not bug them

    Not any time of day

    Not ever when you say

    You Like them

    Or Love them

    That you never want to be-above-them

    But just be-with-them

    Side by side

    along for the ride,

    of a Lifetime…

    Being-goofy, being-silly, crying-being-mad

    And the next moment laughing so damn hard

    That when you look at them you’re really glad,

    They’re your friend…

    How many?

    Listen, you know this

    Deep down inside your heart

    We can name these

    Maybe one or two

    Possibly several or a few,

    But for sure we all need more,

    More friends just like this…

    Friends who love you for who you are

    Like kids who share

    And wish upon a star

    We hope and dream that we don’t miss

    to share our lives and have happiness…

    These friends are really those bright stars

    Illuminated across the evening sky

    Just be honest and say we tried

    To be a friend just like this,

    To love another whether hit-or-miss

    And realize each one of us

    That this road only truly ends

    When we don’t need any hands or fingers

    To count all of those

    That we call


    ©8DaveWonder 2010

  16. […] love this post from Jyl on What is Your Definition of Friendship. Not food related, but definitely worth a read this […]

  17. Amy says:

    What a beautiful post, Jyl! I absolutely love this one!

  18. Thanks for your sweet comment, Amy!

  19. Amen. *fist bump* too. Love, love love this!

  20. […] My lesson this week was inspired by my friend Jyl, from Mom it Forward, whom I met at the fabulous EVO ’10 conference in Park City this summer (Jyl actually put this conference on), and who also wrote a very inspiring post on friendships. […]

  21. […] My lesson this week was inspired by my friend Jyl, from Mom it Forward, whom I met at the fabulous EVO ’10 conference in Park City this summer (Jyl actually put this conference on), and who also wrote a very inspiring post on friendships. […]

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