I’m a fan of John Scalzi and of his blog, http://whatever.scalzi.com/  He’s an intelligent writer with a sense of humor I appreciate.  What’s better is that he writes with a great deal of common sense and, most of the time, having thought about the topic beforehand.  *gasp*  Not everything he writes professionally or on his blog is profound, but in this case, I think it bears sharing:

“Friend” is an imprecise term, mind you. Classifying someone as a “friend” is a little like classifying them as a “mammal” — it’s probably correct but it doesn’t actually tell you much. There are all sorts of different types of friends, from the sort of friend barely above the level of casual acquaintance to the sort of friend who, when they call and say “I have a problem, bring a shovel,” you bring a shovel and deal with the problem without so much as a second thought. The taxonomy of friendship is exhaustive and even then doesn’t take into consideration that nearly all friendships are in motion. Your best friend in sixth grade may be someone to whom you barely speak anymore, for no other reason than life happens. The person with whom you shared mostly only a friendly passing relationship for years may unexpectedly become one of your most important friends. Friends you may see in real life only once a year — if that — may share a bond with you of surprising warmth. Time and circumstance and the fact we are ourselves always changing means our friendships are always changing too. New ones are added. Old ones trail away. Sometimes they return. Sometimes they don’t.

It’s not easy to define what a “friend” is in any event. There’s a joking definition which gets somewhere in the neighborhood: “a friend is someone who knows the real you and likes you anyway.” I think it might be more accurate to say that that a friend is someone that helps you to be the person you are, and likes you anyway. But even that doesn’t get to it completely. I mean, hell, I have some friends that sometimes I don’t even like very much. That doesn’t stop them from being my friend, and sometimes even some of the best of my friends. It’s tempting to throw up one’s hands and classify friendship in the same way Potter Stewart defined pornography: Hard to define but you know it when you see it.

Nevertheless, I’ll strive for a simple definition. I think at the end of the day, a friend is someone you emotionally want in your life, who wants you emotionally in theirs. Why do you want them in your life, and they in yours, and how much in it for both? That’s something for the two of you to work out, and when you can’t figure it out, or sometimes you end up wanting different things, that’s when the friendship changes or ends. It’s also possible that your friendship is not mutually graded: You may feel an intense attachment to a friend who feels less intensely about you, and vice-versa. This can sometimes lead to problems. And finally friendship is two people dealing with each other, and you know how people are. Sometimes no matter how much you want to be friends with someone, or how much other people think you should be friends (or on occasion how much you would like to be friends for the sake of a mutual friend), it just doesn’t work. Friendship isn’t actually easy. People aren’t easy.

But the reward is that you get to have friends. You have the people to whom you may vent, with whom you can laugh, who will support you when you need it and for whom you may be a shelter. People who are, as is often said, the “family of choice” — those with whom you may stand and face what the world sends your way. People who are a part of you, have helped you become you, and who might be a part of who you are moving forward.

From John Scalzi’s: The Mallet of Loving Correction