Some Friendly Advice

June 18, 2012

The Sex and the City girls make a whole

Friends make a person complete. Or so I used to believe. I have moved about a great deal throughout my life, as a result my friendships have been few. I used to lament the lack of friends. Lately I have been questioning the necessity of friends. Are long-standing friendships the only way to not feel lonely?

Allow me to illustrate what I mean. My most intense friendship was with Wade.  I met him as a fellow volunteer for a telephone helpline (do such things still exist?). We were the same age (mid-twenties) but we seemed to have little else in common. Then we discovered we were both vegetarian. This led to going out for a meal together. Here we discovered our similarities of character and values. And perhaps more significantly, our interdependent needs.  I was a big city boy savvy to its ways. He was a small town boy finding his feet in the big city. We were both lonely, and thus our great friendship began. Those first two years were wondrous, like some kind of honeymoon. We dressed alike, moved alike, thought alike. People often asked us if we were brothers, despite our different skin tones. Then my mother died. I fell into a six-month depression. No one called to see how I was doing. Not even Wade. Did I mention he was a social worker? Eventually we reconciled but it was never the same. Friendships should come with one of those fragile, handle with care labels. Once broken, they are hard to repair. Nevertheless, Wade taught me a great lesson about the nature of friendships: Friends are friendly only so long as you add value to their lives.  Put it another way, a comedian once joked,” A friend in need is a nuisance. Get rid of him.” Sadly, he was correct. That is the crux of the problem. But also its solution.

If a friendship is based on needs, as those needs evolve, either the friendship grows, or you drift apart. Isn’t this need-fulfilling why we imagine good friends enhance well-being and happiness? Can our friends be compensation for those traits lacking in our own personality?  Think of great friendships, fact or fiction. Think of The Beatles.  John Lenon was the intellect of the group, Paul the emotional heart, George the spiritual side, and Ringo the physical one. Together they made one complete whole human being. Same with the Sex And The City girls. Carrie is the philosophic side, Miranda the rational intellect, Charlotte the emotional romantic and Samantha the raw physicality. Together that is one complete and balanced human being. So then, is the feeling of loneliness a sign that one or more aspects ourselves is underdeveloped? I believe it is.

What if two individuals, both fully-formed, whole human beings, were to become friends not out of mutual needs. Would that be a pure, enduring friendship? I cannot say because I have no experience of this. But I believe I can try to fully-rounded and whole by developing my personality.

It is hard to decide who is a true friends sometimes. People use friendship as a weapon in the workplace. Office politics is an extension of high school in this respect. As soon as you embrace one set of friends, without wanting to you create another set of non-friends. Oscar Wilde said something like, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong affair.” You yourself can be your greatest friend or your greatest enemy. We can all think of people who abuse their bodies with drugs, put themselves in harm’s way, invite cheaters and users into their lives. We have to wonder, do they even like themselves? Surely it is better to befriend oneself. To be kind to oneself, to be honest with yourself, to want the best for yourself. Are those not the qualities of a true great friend?
After all these years I have decided to flip my experience with Wade on its head. To make friends,  add value to their lives. In other words, be the type of person you would want as a friend. Single people often have a wish list of the qualities they would like in a potential mate. I always ask them, “but do you have these same qualities yourself?” The same applies to friendships. I would like a friend who is loyal, trustworthy, insightful, honest, respectful, cultured. And so I work at those qualities in myself. Quality friends (not acquaintances) happen spontaneously. And like romances, friendships cannot be wished, cajoled, manipulated . They are organic entities, with a life of their own. And like love, they know neither logic or reason. So I make myself available and open to friendships. I volunteer, try to remain cheerful and polite at all times. Beyond that I work at bettering myself. And I wait.


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