The Oddity of Friendship


Seneca, Roman philosopher

In the world of entertainment there are fans and super fans, all of which become “friends” in social media. In the world of business there are co-workers and managers, also listed as “friends” in social media. This is also true in religion, government and education.

But is it meaningful?

How friendship looks through the eyes of 21st century inhabitants seems to be dictated by mobile devices. The art of friendship has disintegrated through the politically correct posturing of social media and the lack of personal attention given to others.

My recent trip to Michigan in support of a long time friend caused me to wonder how many of my “friends” I would support through their grief. More perplexing to my psyche was the question about which ones might support me.

I came to realize that the depths of friendships we have are solely of our own making. Oh, it’s a two way street through the give and take of life events as they unfold, but we still choose our friends. We also determine how much vulnerability and intimacy we bring to each relationship.

I heard one person say that they only look for friends that will not judge them. Yet, everyone judges whether or not a person is worthy of his or her time and friendship, and rightfully so, as we only have time for a couple intimate friends.

The first-century Roman philosopher, Seneca, wrote letters on the two pillars of friendship: “a friend is a person with whom (one) may be sincere;” and, “one who seeks friendship for favorable occasions, strips it of all its nobility.”

I’m all too familiar with the person who wants to strike up a friendship to advance their career or social status. Fair-weathered friends are far more common than most think and happens within all levels of society. We can even lower our standards for the sake of what we too can draw from a relationship.

But let me be clear, I’m not condemning partnerships designed to move businesses forward or give life to charities, but rather I’m speaking to that intimate level of friendship that we all desire deep within our hearts. I’m speaking to the friendship where each involved will willfully give their life for their friend should circumstances require such a compassionate resolve.

True deep friendship is not about what we might gain from the other person. It’s about what we give of ourselves to maintain the relationship.

Seneca said, “He who regards himself only, and enters upon friendships for this reason, reckons wrongly.”

My recent travel out of state was a seed sown into my friendship that may or may not ever be reciprocated. I was okay with that idea, as I was giving to the friendship not drawing from it. The day I need to draw from it will come soon enough in the scope of life’s ups and downs, but for now I needed to make a compassionate deposit.

Seneca had additional thoughts on how to capture more true friends than false ones when he said, “If you consider any man a friend whom you do not trust as you trust yourself, you are mightily mistaken and you do not sufficiently understand what true friendship means… When friendship is settled, you must trust; before friendship is formed, you must pass judgment. Those persons indeed put last first and confound their duties, who … judge a man after they have made him their friend, instead of making him their friend after they have judged him. Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul. Speak as boldly with him as with yourself… Regard him as loyal and you will make him loyal.”

Judging a person by their character and ability to maintain information as a confidant is of great value when deciding to let them into your heart for a meaningful relationship. Guarding your heart from those who don’t qualify for intimacy is even more critical.

Over the past few years I’ve met many good listeners and people of good report. The character of many has caused me to step up my personal efforts. But, finding a person who will not share my inner most thoughts with another person has come up empty all too often.

Most people of good character, in the name of love and wanting what’s best for me, report back to someone who tries to watch over me. Oh, I don’t mind a mentor or two, but I long for that one person who will keep my comments to themselves—someone who is willing to be a true friend.

The oddity of friendship is perplexing. We all have lots of secondary friends that are of great value. We have even more fair-weathered friends who support us circumstantially, which can be helpful. But, so few of us have that one friend who will keep our deepest, darkest secrets.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Attended My Ex-Father-In-Law’s Funeral

© Argus - Fotolia.comNot once did I think that I’d be out of place attending the funeral of my ex-wife’s father. Nor did I receive anything but love, as I visited with the family after the funeral. In fact, it was a time filled with rich smiles and a lot of catching up on all of our lives.

I was 20-years-old when my dad died and I have few recollections prior to age six, which left me with about 14 years of memories. My ex-wife’s dad was like a surrogate father of sorts and our relationship lasted 25 years prior to the divorce with most of its memories intact.

My dad taught me about integrity, family, creativity, leadership, and how to serve and protect others. My father-in-law taught me integrity, family, business, and how to be second. I honored both men at their funerals and held dear to my heart the impact they each made in my life. Both men had richly blessed me.

While some might think it was odd for me to attend, I wasn’t the only ex who showed up at the funeral. No one denied the honor due my father-in-law regardless of how old the relationships were. He deserved every word of appreciation and the family was thankful for each comment and shared story.

The funeral opened with family participation. My youngest daughter shared a letter she wrote her grandfather, which was read to him before he passed. Her reading brought tears and smiles to many including me. I was very proud of the woman she’s become.

My ex-wife then shared a personal conversation with all in attendance. Her words were well chosen and painted a picture of hope that lifted the heaviness from the room. I was amazed and proud of how well she delivered her talk, which was filled with grace, diplomacy and compassion.

My son and oldest daughter both shared scriptures and a heart-warming song that stirred every soul in the room. They were clear, dynamic and articulate with each reading and their musical prowess obvious to all. I had hoped that they would continue for another hour or two, but their blessing came to an end as the service continued.

During the long ride home, I wondered how many divorces stopped others from saying goodbye to loved ones. As I crossed back into my state, my heart filled with gladness that the divorce hadn’t defined our family. Everyone had viewed the divorce as just one moment in time – one painful event.

It’s been more than ten years since the divorce was finalized and while it changed our circumstances, it didn’t make us bitter.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that after the funeral I shook the hand of my ex-wife’s husband as we exchanged genuine smiles and started to catch up on each other’s life. Nor should anyone be startled when I told my ex-wife that I was proud of her for giving such an excellent talk.

Divorce is not like death, although many say that it is. Sure, to some extent we can talk about the death of the marriage, but the person is still a part of your life afterwards. We share time with the kids, participate in special family events, and spend time with our grandkids. We also both believe in integrity, family, and all the other great things that our family stands for.

The core essence of who we are never changed, so showing up to my ex-father-in-law’s funeral was natural. And, together we all said goodbye to a man that deserved the honor. After all, he made a lasting impact in everyone of us and we were all more than happy to say thank you.