Like Mark, I feel MM’s definition of friendship is too narrowly focused. If you consider your own friends for a moment, or how you act as a friend to others, you will quickly see my point – they offer companionship, warmth, support, an occasional home, understanding, loyalty, and sometimes love. In other situations they offer criticism, warning and downright disagreement without holding back the punches.
Additionally, I agree that not every friend is able to be all of these all of the time. Nor is assuming the role of ‘critical friend’ a simple matter. Many lack the skills to balance genuine criticism against unquestioning support. For this, one has only to watch ‘friends’ allowing others to act irresponsibly and even dangerouly.
What I would add is that the role of ‘critical friend’ tends to happen when one is invited to be such, when one’s opinions are highly regarded by the other person or the population at large, or when one has earned such a role after proving oneself over time as a ‘regular friend.’
Is critical friendship necessary? That depends on the individual. Some of us are good at self-criticism, so having an additional external source might not be appreciated in this circumstance. However, the differing insights and perspectives such a friendship offers, provide the opportunity to take us out and beyond our own limiting views.
Is critical friendship desired? The answer to this will determine whether or not it will happen. Imposing such a friendship may not have the results desired, and could lead to a violent physical response. That is where a combination of diplomacy, a preparedness to receive criticism back in return, and a genuinely caring attitude will enoucrage the process.
So, Barbara, to answer your initial question, in my opinion not everyone can be a critical friend, but they could do worse than learn the skills for becoming one.
Posted at http://tdsig.org/2010/06/frequently-asked-questions-and-provoking-answers-2/comment-page-1/#comment-121