PC Mar (left) receiving FF Fraternity Poker Championship Award 2014

Everyone knows what friendship is, and everyone has a friend, but for this article, let me categorize the different types of “friendship”, and more importantly, talk about how friendships get broken.  With such a broad topic, of necessity one has to use generalities, and everyone will have anecdotal evidence why this or that generality is untrue or incorrect.  But this is my personal perspective, so please allow me some latitude, and I hope that each reader will get some insight from these observations.

In considering how to do this article, I looked up the definition of friendship, of which there are several, but most in general, say this:  the state of being a friend, who is further defined as a person whom one knows well and is fond of, an ally, supporter, or sympathizer, or is a member of The Society of Friends (from Webster’s New World Dictionary).

In thinking about different categories of friendship, I visualize something similar to the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as levels within a pyramid. … From the bottom of the pyramid upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

The reader can find descriptions of this pyramid of needs elsewhere, via a search of the keywords Maslow Hierarchy.

So I created my own hierarchy pyramid which I call the Friendship Hierarchy:

I hope that this visual categorization of different types of friendship that every person has is clearly presented and evident, from the most broad based casual/social type of acquaintances that one calls “friends” progressing up the pyramid to more specific, and possibly fewer, committed or contractual, to friends that one might say has “bonding” characteristics that makes that type of friend special.  Then, at the top, each person might have a “best friend”, someone who shares similar values, that one might sacrifice oneself for, and/or has frequent contacts with.

On the right side of the pyramid, I list the kinds of things that might cause a rupture in the friendship.  The most obvious example of such a breakdown of a friendship might be a friend asking for a loan, which when given as a token of friendship, doesn’t get repaid, or a sale and purchase of a used car.

Another evident example would be those who say “my wife/husband is my best friend”, but if a divorce or separation occurs, usually that friendship is severed.

For the rest of this article, I will talk only about the “bonding” category, with some comments about Rotary, and more about the FF Fraternity of Chinese American males.

From Wiikipedia, “Rotary International is an international service organization whose stated purpose is to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. It is a non-political and non-religious organization open to all.”

There may be a million Rotarians, both male and female, around the world, organized into districts with Rotary Clubs of various names with several to hundreds of Rotarians in the clubs.  Its stated purpose is to do good, by community service projects and charity donations.

I was a Rotarian in the Hong Kong Northeast Rotary Club for 5 years from 1997.  Rotary basically accepts anybody wishing to join, though there is a sponsor who does the introduction into his/her club.  What Rotary did for me at that time in my life was that it gave structure to my life – through weekly lunches, annual fund raising parties, and other scheduled projects and happy hours.

The main issue I had with that Rotary Club was that the members thought themselves somewhat elitist and that they served a noble purpose, which if truly noble was a worthy cause, but to do projects and make donations, just for the sake of showing that they were doing something, did not sit well with me, so I left that Rotary Club, and now, once in a long while, may meet up with other former Rotarians.

What is a fraternity?  From,a local or national organization of male students, primarily for social purposes, usually with secret initiation and rites and a name composed of two or three Greek letters;  a group of persons associated by or as if by ties of brotherhood;any group or class of persons having common purposes, interests, etc.:the medical fraternity;  an organization of laymen for religious or charitable purposes; sodality;  the quality of being brotherly; brotherhood:liberty, equality, and fraternity;  the relation of a brother or between brothers.”

FF Fraternity fits that definition; it was formed in 1910 in Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, as a social base for Chinese students studying in the US, and since then has expanded to about 1,000 “brothers” spread over six “lodges” in the US and Canada, and three lodges in Asia, with about half of those brothers affiliated with one of the lodges and the other half “at large” scattered around the globe and not affiliated with any one lodge.

Its stated motto is “fellowship and service”, with more on fellowship, though efforts are being made to do more service.  Though non-political, its brothers, being citizens of the countries where they reside and by their own interests, may partake in various political causes and issues; but that is a personal choice.

I was initiated into FF in 1963 while still a student at MIT, and the ebb and flow of life saw me go from the Boston Lodge to the New York Lodge to the Washington DC Lodge, to now the Hong Kong Lodge.  I had served as an officer of 3 of the lodges, as well as two officer positions at the National level.

Yes, FF did a lot for me, but it also caused me some distaste in the recent past.  Friends brought me into FF, and they would remain friends whether in FF or not.  No questions that our friendship strengthened as a result of us being “brothers”, being the result of more meeting up related to the “reunions” which are annual events.  Any FF brother would agree that we have met, and made, new friends strictly and solely due to FF’s existence, friends we would not have made otherwise, were it not for FF.

And special bonding does exist between brothers, where were it not for FF, one would not do something otherwise.  As an example, I have without any thought, agreed to share a hotel room with another brother also travelling solo to a reunion held in a remote location.  As a result of sharing a room with a brother from Singapore, he and I would assume that we would share a room an any other location.  I even shared a room with him when the reunion was held in Hong Kong, where I now live.

Another example is with the originator of this F&F website ( Billy ), whom I have known only as an FF brother, and would never have considered doing this article were it requested by any other person not a brother.

But to me, this special bonding extends beyond just being “friendly”; we take an oath when we are initiated, and there should exist honesty, integrity, and trust between brothers.  These 3 values, I contend, were broken when FF had to deal with a certain issue that involved the true ethnicity of a new member being asked to be inducted into FF.

Honesty:  I was personally lied to by one member brother.

Integrity:  the then Chairman repeatedly made claims that he would not substantiate.

Trust:  a brother needs to trust that the actions of another brother are done with sincerity and faithfulness, and should not ever have cause to judge the actions of another brother.

All these actions are well documented, to such an extent, that I and several other brothers had been brought to a stage of issuing applications to expel two brothers who committed the above acts.  But we came to the realization that such an expulsion application would in and of itself be an “unbrotherly” act that would cause irreparable damage to the fraternity. 

But would I ever make any extra effort to meet up or be brotherly to the brothers that I thought deserved expulsion?  No way.

And that’s how bonded friendships get broken.

PC Mar

July 2020.

I was born in 1941 in Hong Kong, educated in HK, Japan, and US.  College education at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Worked in computer science and marketing and management positions in the US, Japan, and Hong Kong.  Married in 1965, but divorced in 1993, raised one son and one daughter.  Have now lived solo in Hong Kong and Bangkok.  Hobbies:  tennis, ballroom dancing, and love of music.  Published author of “Business Communications: Be the Best”, Times Publishing Group, 2003.

Awards:  Management award from AMF Incorporated, and 2014 Poker Champion in FF Shanghai Reunion, several Champion/Finalist awards in local HK and club level tennis tournaments.

BFF:  a Japanese male friend from Tokyo, Japan whom I have known and travelled with for over 25 years.  We share similar values and outlook on life, exchange messages/calls 3 – 5 times a week, speaking in Japanese, and texting in English and Japanese.  No hesitation to share cabin on cruises with him, though not considering cruising for near future, due to virus pandemic.


BILLY’ S COMMENTS : In FRIENDSHIPOLOGY we study both the FORMATIONS and the BREAKDOWNS of FRIENDSHIP. It is my hope that after BREAKDOWNS we can find AVENUES FOR RECOVERY and discover causes for possible misunderstandings. I wonder what THIRD PARTY FRIENDS can do to help.