Friends Are Rarely
The word Friend, like the word Family, has been romanticized. It evokes idealized images of a perfect world and warm fuzzies for all.
The assumption is, a true friend can only be upright and a friendship can only be good for us. The reality is, again like family, a friendship can sometimes be very bad.
But we can’t allow that possibility to put us in a permanently guarded state. Sometimes the friends we make are the only ones available. They’re in our face, so to speak. We don’t have a choice so we make the best of what’s available.
Imperfect friends and friendships can still be very good. What we must avoid are the extremes.
Defining The Negative Friendship
All friendships have hurtful moments but an abrasion here or there doesn’t make it negative. A friendship becomes negative when it is more hurtful than beneficial over the long haul.
Personality is an issue but not absolutely. A person’s nature is built in and is neither intrinsically good nor bad. An idiosyncrasy that irritates some people will be endearing to others.
From the examples that follow it is clear that negative is a character issue and that is what spoils the mix.
One reason we gravitate to these not-so-good-for-us friendships is they are like crutches. They reinforce our disabled thinking, and that begs the question. How many people really want to change? How many of us intentionally choose friends because they are good for us and not easy. Having friends who endorse our faults relieves the pressure.
Like the song says . . .
Some of them want to abuse you and some of them want to be abused.
It’s easier to stay as we are, and people who allow that are good for the friendship even if the friendship isn’t good for us.
That’s not how friendships are supposed to work but it does happen.
The truth is Friendship implies Equality, and good ones involve give and take. I wouldn’t say friendships will ever be absolutely equal, or absolutely good for us, but there should be a balance.
The following emotionally unbalanced extremes are ones we should avoid.
Tell Me What To Do Friendship
Or what I like to call the cajoling friendship.
Some people grow up being cajoled into being, doing, thinking, saying and acting. Whatever they did, whatever they thought or however they felt was determined by dominant others in their life.
They never made decisions. They never had to.
The cajoling was a staple of their emotional life. When it wasn’t there it was missed.
That creates a kind of insecurity about personal identity and purpose. It makes it difficult to transition away from being told who you are, what you want and where you’re going to independence.
So when this person looks around for a friend, who do you think they will choose? It’s very possible they will choose what they’re used to, someone to define life for them, make it meaningful and give it direction..
Briefly put, the falteringly insecure are attracted to the blusteringly confident. The hopelessly down are attracted to the superficially up.
In other words, opposites attract but in this case the opposites are negatives, which unlike math do not result in a positive outcome. Add a liar to a thief and you have a lying thief.
Qualification: When I say insecure I’m not talking about shy, quiet or introverted.
Quiet describes a person’s nature. It’s a personality issue. A shy person can be just as focused and self-composed as an outgoing person.
Insecurity can be a problem for any person but when it rules your life it is a character flaw, not a quirk of personality. Attaching yourself to a cajoling person is not a solution. It won’t make you better or safer.
Make Me Feel Better About Myself Friendship
Every individual wants to feel good about him or herself and that is one of the benefits of friendship. Good friendships are mutually self esteeming.
But self esteem becomes one sided in certain friendships.
One way a person can achieve self esteem is by finding and pointing out the faults of others. In other words, they feel better when your faults seem worse than theirs. When all their friends are faulty it makes you look and feel better. It’s a comparison game, a competition to see who is best.
Insecure alpha type personalities draw inferior souls to themselves as a way of improving self esteem.
This happens with siblings also. One child manages to get the upper hand on parental approval and is motivated to stay ahead of their siblings because it makes them look better and feel better. In fact, it’s a branding process. One is always better and the other is always lesser. It can stay that way for life.
The Coddling Friendship
Coddling is the opposite of cajoling. Instead of telling us what to do, coddlers encourage us to do nothing. Instead of pointing out our faults, they redefine them and gold plate them.
Psychologists call them enablers.
The coddler must feel needed so they seek out friends who are needy and do everything they can to keep them that way.
Learn to recognize this and avoid it with your whole being. Of all the people who are potentially bad for you, coddlers are the nicest. Wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The difference between a good friend and coddler is this: A good friend accepts your faults but doesn’t enable them.
Good friends won’t harp every time you spend money stupidly but they won’t bankroll your bad habits either.
This friendship takes loyalty to the extreme. To be one person’s friend you must be the enemy of everyone else.
This socializing tool is usually associated with grade schoolers.
You can’t be my friend if you are her friend.
But it is also ingrained in the culture of illegal groups like the mafia and gangs. Loyalty to the gang requires abuse and hatred to outsiders.
It is also found in political philosophies. A good capitalist will despise all communists.
When families feud, you can’t be the friend of one family without drawing the ire of the other.
You find pockets of this attitude everywhere, and Jesus addressed all of these problems with one small phrase.
Love your enemies. Matthew 5:44
Which means, of course, that enemies can be some of the most useful change agents in the world. It’s hard to move someone from the enemy category without changing You.
It has another meaning too. Making friends is the goal and has nothing to do with identifying enemies. It’s not an easy thing to grasp or implement but enemies should be thought of as potential friends.
It is never a bad thing to serve others but in this case, one friend is the master and the other does all the serving. It’s worse than slavery.
A better way to see friendship is: helper-helper or supporter-supporter and the Bible agrees.
By love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
Again, that doesn’t mean friendships are exactly even. People require different amounts of help and support, but wherever the support line is drawn, both parties are serving.
Activity Related Friendships
This friendship develops around a common activity: Work, recreation, hobbies, etc. The bond that develops between police is a good example.
In one sense, workplace friendships are healthy, even essential but it can get out of hand.
The common activity puts people in proximity with those they might otherwise never know and these additional friends may fall outside a person’s usual social life. In other words, the friends at work are different to the ones away from work. Over time these activity friends develop a closeness that may or may not be healthy.
If precautions aren’t taken, there is the possibility for friends at work to replace significant others. We’ve all heard the stories.
Sometimes the activity is the problem. It becomes so consuming, significant others feel pushed out. Golf widows and book club bachelors understand this and could probably teach us all how to live with this tension.
Opinion Or Belief Based Friendships
This friendship develops around an uncompromising political, religious or philosophical idea. More than any other, this friendship puts barriers between people in and outside the group.
If you’re in the group you’re a friend. If you’re not, you’re held at arms length. It has an anti-friendship dynamic.
The friendship in this case is more with the belief than the people and is very conditional. It is based on each person’s commitment to the belief. An insider who changes their position slightly will likely be emotionally executed. Character assasination at its best.
The philosophy is more important than the friend.
These develop around celebrities and are always a triangle. There is friend one, friend two and the personality they both adore, even if neither has met the celebrity personally.
The people who adore high profile figures have what is known as Celebrity Worship Syndrome (CWS).
Mail Online says the person who suffers seriously from CWS may:
- Spend a lot of money on personal possessions, like a napkin or paper plate, once used by their favorite celebrity.
- Comply if their favorite celebrity asked them to do something illegal.
- Become very upset if their favorite celebrity gets married.
This friendship is always about someone not involved in the friendship.
Vocally One-Sided Friendship
This type of friend is not only more talkative, they are also self absorbed. “Me” is always the default topic.
One person being more talkative is not the problem. That happens in most friendships to some degree. When introverts and extroverts become friends, neither dominates the conversation, neither is inhibited by the other.
One friend may be more talkative than the other but friendship encourages mutual interest. Interested people want to hear what’s happening in your life. A talkative friend wants to know what their less verbal friend thinks.
A shy person will easily talk in the presence of a good friend and it’s a good friendship only when that is true.
Friendship and Conversation are to some degree synonymous.
You Have What I Want Friendship
Proverbs 14:20 says “A poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich have many friends.”
It goes without saying. Wealth, accomplishment, beauty and privilege are the proverbial bright lights that attract all kinds of social insects. In this case, however, the insects take on the appearance of something they are not. They love the sparkle, not you.
It isn’t noble but it happens often. It’s one of the reasons high profile individuals opt for prenuptial contracts. You just never know.
When it comes to friendships, watch yourself and be sure to THINK!AboutIt