Some Friendly Advice
June 18, 2012
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.