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Friendship Matters

The importance of friendship

by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2010)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explore the nature of friendship (SEAL theme: Learning to Be Together).

Preparation and materials

  • Optional: you may wish to display the different categories of friendship in the Assembly, Step 6, in which case you will also need the means to do so.


  1. ‘Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend.’

    These words were written by Maimonides, a twelfth-century Jewish philosopher. What Maimonides had to say about friendship back then is very similar to what we would consider friendship to be now. A friend is someone who walks alongside, someone who can be your companion, who can share life’s journey with you for the whole way or part of the way.

  2. Think about Facebook and other social media pages. How many friends do you have: 100, 200, more than 300? I wonder how many of those people you would count as true friends. Are most merely acquaintances whom you see occasionally, or you know vaguely through others? Maybe some are friends whom you have lost touch with.

    Do you judge your popularity by the number of friends you have on Facebook? Does it matter to you that someone else has more friends than you? The way we perceive friendship seems to be changing. But perhaps we should be thinking about what it actually means to be a friend rather than how many friends we have. If you didn’t have any access to social media, who would you deem to be your friends?

  3. Let’s look at what it means to be a friend. The Roman philosopher, Cicero, believed that to have a true friendship with someone, one must have complete honesty, truth and trust. He also thought that friends would do things for each other without expectation of repayment. This is a very basic idea of friendship. How would you describe a good friend?

    Pause to allow time for thought.

  4. What value is found in friendships? The value of a friendship often comes as a result of a friend doing things for us on a regular basis. Think of someone whom you would deem to be a good friend. I am going to give a description of a good friend. Is your relationship with your friend like this at all?

    – Friends want what is best for their friends and do all they can to help them achieve it. They try not to be jealous when their friends succeed.
    – Friends have sympathy and empathy. Friends are sympathetic if their friends are hurt or feel wronged. They can put themselves in their friends’ shoes. They can see a situation from their point of view and are willing to compromise.
    – A friendship contains a good amount of honesty. It is important for friends to feel that they can be truthful with one another. A friend may be the only one who can be truly honest with you when it is difficult for others to speak the truth (if you are in the wrong, for example, or wearing unflattering clothes).
    – Friends have mutual understanding, a link that enables them to know each other and have compassion for each other.
    – One of the key elements of friendship, and probably the building block, is trust. Friends can express their true feelings, including their feelings about their friends’ actions, without fear of being judged. They know that if they tell a friend something, they can rely on that friend not to talk about it to someone else.
    – Friends can go to each other for emotional support. They are there for each other.
    – A relationship between friends is built upon equality. There is equal give and take. This doesn’t mean presents and gifts, but equality in all of the things above. Does the friendship leave you drained or give you as much back as you put into it?

  5. You may be thinking that you don’t seem to have many friends or friendships that fit this description. Perhaps there are some elements of this description in some of your friendships and different elements in other friendships. Maybe you have a best friend who has all of those qualities and elements. Or maybe you feel that you don’t have anybody who is like this. It seems that being a true friend is really difficult, yet many of us do it without even thinking.

  6. Another way of thinking about friendship is to picture a set of concentric circles with you in the middle. (You could use students to demonstrate this.)

    Ask the students how they would describe the relationships in each of the following categories:

    – best friends
    – friendship
    – friendly relationship
    – neutral relationship
    – unknown person

    As the circles go out, the friendship, or the possibility of friendship, gets more and more remote. You may be able to think of people who were once near the centre, and who have now moved farther out. This is not uncommon. In the film, Stand By Me, one of the characters says, ‘Friends come in and out of our lives.’ And it is true.

    So, if you find that someone has deleted you from their friends’ list, ask yourself, Was that person really my friend in the first place?

Time for reflection

Take time to think about your real friends.
Is there anything you could do to help them at the moment?

Think about those friends whom you have lost contact with, or drifted away from.
Are there any apologies to be said? Or was this just part of growing up?

Now think about the people whom you really don’t want to be friends with.
Why don’t you like them: do you know?

Take time to think of friends to be made in the future.
And give thanks.


‘Lord of all hopefulness’ (Come and Praise, 52)

Publication date: September 2020   (Vol.22 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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