The Oddity of Friendship

Seneca.jpg

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
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Politically Correct Words Alter Friendships

© apops - Fotolia.comCommunication is critically important in our lives. Every year men attempt to control this powerful tool in order to persuade others to their perspective. For decades journalists told both sides of a story to stop any one person from gaining control over the masses. But with the new millennium came a barrage of politically correct (PC) rules in the name of what is “right” that was accepted blindly by the country.

Freedom of speech, the kind that existed when I was a kid, no longer exists.

If you make a statement today that contrasts the current PC culture, you are bound to receive a barrage of comments “punishing” you for stating something outside of what is “right.” You no longer can voice an opinion that isn’t in agreement with those who are currently in power.

This is most unfortunate, since those who saw life differently than those who were in power birthed our country’s liberation. The cool trends in media also came from those who saw life from a different perspective. In fact, someone who disagreed with our status quo introduced all of our country’s great accomplishments over the past millennium.

This new PC language has since infiltrated our friendships. For decades, a friend was someone you opened your heart to without the fear of rejection. They knew your deepest and darkest secrets, but cast no judgment. You were accepted for who you were and the positive elements of your life were celebrated.

In his book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words, David Whyte explains friendships in this way, “In the course of the years a close friendship will always reveal the shadow in the other as much as ourselves, to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.”

The Bible is another resource that recommends the sharing of heartfelt words over PC language. The author suggests that close friends confess their sins to one another and encourage the withholding of judgment since we have all fallen short. Even more verses are aimed at lifting up our friend’s best attributes for God’s glory.

When I was a young teen, my dad loved to promote the best in us kids. He saw my charismatic stage presence and ability to perform illusions as a skill worthy of promoting. During our massive three week driving vacation, to see everything west of the Mississippi, my dad had us visit old friends who had moved away. Every visit was around a great meal, where dad nonchalantly introduced my skills of illusion for the purpose of entertaining his friends.

During that trip I made saltshakers stand on edge, bread rolls float in the air, wedding rings disappear and reappear, and spoons magically bend without anyone touching it. The entertainment value was high for all and I had a lot of fun. Not once did dad point out my faults or shortcomings.

We had a lot of fun during the days when my family was far from being politically correct. I remember a camping trip when we hit a skunk with the car. We had just comeback from a laundry mat with clean clothes in the trunk. Sharing our misery and the skunk’s scent seemed like a fun and humorous idea, so we drove around all of our friend’s campers before retiring for the night. We woke up the next morning and found a sign posted above our camper that read: “Stinky Hollow.”

Our friends and family were always able to laugh off our failures and promote our best attributes before the days of PC language. Today, few friends and family members are willing to risk comments or activities that might be perceived as politically incorrect, creating an atmosphere of hesitation, less sharing, and little revealing of who we really are.

Facebook tends to encourage the same shallowness. Rarely will someone present anything negative about themselves for fear that their next employer might read about it and decide not to hire them. And the positive posts are so pristine that no one can really live on the pedestals of half-truths that they seem to balance on.

Our freedom to speak our mind and reveal our true self was greatly altered by the introduction of PC language. Few people have the guts to buck the system in order to maintain their own personal freedom, especially once its no longer vogue to believe things that are not accepted by those in power.

These choices force us into thinly veiled friendships that are temporary and judgmental. We couch our words instead of boldly stating what we really believe. And, our careful words blind others from seeing our soul, our true self. The real person that we are is sidelined. People only see a manipulated PC projected version of us.

It’s no wonder that there is a growing desire deep inside each of us that longs to be known. We desire to be accepted in spite of our shortcomings. We want to be loved for who we really are, not who we appear to be on the surface. We are significant, but can only shine in a friendship when we let go of what those in power think is “right” and we live based on who we are and what we know is right.

Let’s be real friends.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers