We have a twisted view of friendship in our society.
Actually, thanks to TV, movies, social media, and training from a young age in government schools, we have a twisted view of a lot of things, and much of adulthood, when we finally decide that we don’t want to live in a fantasy world, consists of identifying those odd ways of thinking, and rejecting them for normal, healthy ones.
But back to friends.
The best way to have good friends is to be one ourselves, wisdom often attributed to Dear Abby, but mothers have been saying this since Eve. “Modern” mothers might add, in light of people’s obsession with social media,
“Friends aren’t things you count. They are people you count upon, as they count upon you.”
In other words, friendship is not a commodity, like 21st century money, that we bank away in a digital account. If the most pleasure we get from our relationships is that a certain number of people have Liked our post, or another number (big! please make it BIG!) wish us Happy Birthday with an emoticon, then we are cheating ourselves of the value of true human interaction. We also, when we focus on numbers as a means of justifying our existence — imagining that this means we’re popular and well liked — set ourselves up to be disappointed.
“Why did only 15 people Like my post about getting a new job? Does nobody care?”
Many of us who endured high school remember the pressure to have friends — the right amount, the right kind, and in the right position, preferably slightly below us if we set our sights on being a leader. Many also remember the totally unexpected event of arriving in class one day and finding ourselves a few steps down in the pecking order. Unwittingly, we said the wrong thing. About the wrong person. To the wrong person.
It doesn’t take much, in shallow relationships, to discover that people we thought were our friends abandon, ignore, or forget about us. Ask any person who has left a church congregation how deep and lasting the friendships there wound up being. Or a person who lost their job how many of their “networking” companions are willing to meet for lunch in a public place. And while this hurts, it’s so normal within our society that when it happens we blame ourselves — we’re not friend-worthy enough, apparently — as opposed to wondering what’s wrong with this scenario, and how did we come to accept it as normal?
Well, let’s go back to mom, and her advice, which in many ways looks like a familiar concept: Treat others as you wish you would be treated yourself.
And while this is no guarantee that we actually will be treated well, and that we’ll make friends if we are one to someone else, it goes a long way toward changing our own attitude about how things should be.
Don’t want to be used? Then think twice before you “network” with someone as a means of getting ahead.
Don’t like being talked to behind your back? Then don’t do it to someone else, even subtly — (“I was so sorry to hear about her financial troubles, but then again, she does buy a lot of things . . . “) — and especially if you think that doing so will advance you somehow.
Don’t want to be a number? Then stop counting your friends.
Instead, look to each day as an opportunity to make someone’s life slightly better — by taking a moment to listen, smiling instead of frowning, slowing down and not mentally multi-tasking when someone is trying to get your attention. Recognize, also, that the best friends come from odd places, and, unlike in movies and TV, the people we interact with don’t all have to be young, sexy, rich, thin, and influential. Actually, if that’s the most we can say about them, they’re probably not our close friends.
Friendship is a rare, rare treasure, and true friends are valuable indeed. When we truly treasure the people in our lives — our family, neighbors, acquaintances, internet contacts, the librarian who saves out a book for us — we find that life is richer and fuller than we thought it was, and we’re so busy contemplating this thought that we don’t have time to notice that someone just dropped us from their Facebook Friends list.
For more on this subject, please visit, Friendship.
The artwork in my articles is by my husband and lifetime partner, Steve Henderson. View his original paintings on his website, SteveHendersonFineArt.com, as well as commissioned paintings, if you have an image in your mind and heart that you want to see in a painting. Steve’s work is also available as prints at the following online and retail stores: