Adding to the Joy of Others Through Friendship
Each friend we have provides us with opportunities for growth and the exercise of virtue. Adult friendship is not for free. It has some challenges for each person that wants to maintain a healthy relationship. If we can act on those opportunities there is a richly rewarding experience of loving support when we need it most.
A friend is a someone who is usually near us but proximity is not enough to constitute a friendship. With the internet and the phone it is possible to connect with people anywhere in the world. Still, it’s most advantageous to connect with people nearby in case one or the other need help. It is not selfish to want help from time to time. Asking for assistance of a friend is a recognition of our vulnerability as human beings and a good exercise in assertiveness. Our emotion of annoyance or resentment are indicators when too much is asked.
Another important aspect of friendship is finding ways to communicate. Language is the only way we have to share what is important to us and to hear what our friend wants to say too. The beginning of the relationship is the time in which each person in the relationship is working to discover shared interests, and the preferences and needs of the other person and how to work with them. Through our choice of honest words with each other we can come to understand parts of their personality.
The friendship helps us to discover our own needs more deeply and the needs of others. When we can accept that each one of us has needs and that fact never goes away we are able to take a great step forward in our maturity. The maturity comes with the acceptance of the fact that sometimes our needs supersede others and vice versa. Even when it is inconvenient, we may still help out. That is how we have earned the friendship. Success in the relationship is determined by the other person’s satisfaction with what you have done.
The key is to balance give and take. If we give too much we feel resentment. Too little and the other person feels resentment. It doesn’t have to be 50% and 50% exactly. Sometimes our own abilities in life give us opportunities for great contributions that other people cannot possibly return. That is okay to do but our contributions must be something we are willing to give without resentment later on.
In a healthy friendship the activities that people partake in are not that of finding ways to dissociate. Many people use the word friend in meaning proximity plus activity for the purpose of one’s own entertainment. That is enough for children in the short term but after spending more time with someone there are more levels of negotiation and depth to traverse. The health of the relationship also means there is not so much dependence on the other that stress overburdens it. We can depend on the other person but we still need to ensure that their needs for survival are not compromised and their other relationships have the chance to flourish as well.
In our society it is generally accepted that people are taller or shorter, fatter or skinnier, well-dressed or poor. The obvious physical differences can make people uncomfortable but they will usually adjust to it in time. Often people will group together based on economic factors as well because the concerns, joys, and suffering of each will be similar enough to respond to. Two qualities that people can seldom adjust to are differences in race or intelligence.
If someone does not like to be around people of other races that is actually okay and easy enough to deal with peacefully. Simply, people who operate the media and the government benefit from race-baiting and promote it for their own selfish interest. Drinking deep of the swill divvied out by propagandists, who profit from conflict, will only hasten the sorrow within through encouragement of disconnection with the self. Their wares are negativity and prejudice you can inflict on yourself repetitively by drooling TV-induced delirium. Matters of race are easy to solve when you do not have forced association with others causing situations people are not prepared to handle.
Adult friendship is 100% voluntary. People cannot be friends when they are forced to be with one another or have unreasonable dependencies placed on one another through force.
The joy of friendship can be realized when we come to accept differences in others on our own terms and only by thoughtful choices.
Another challenge worth noting is that differences in intelligence can cause problems between people. Almost all of us have experienced childhood trauma which is like having a mental handicap. It’s further exacerbated if someone has much lower intelligence. When considering friendship with someone it can be helpful to think about where that person is at mentally and if they have been hurt a lot in the past. It can interfere with someone’s capacity for considering your needs as a friend when they have been hurt so bad that their maturity is stunted.
We each have our very own struggles in life. Sometimes we can navigate through them and other times face-plant harshly. A good friend can offer understanding in times when we are facing tough events and circumstances. Furthermore, if a friend can be curious about what these difficulties mean for us it can help us start thinking about ways to overcome difficulties.
For example, if your car breaks down and you’re short on money it can prevent you from fixing the car right away. The good friend can ask what that is like for you and what kind of hardship it might be to endure. Offering to drive instead is not necessary and could create unreasonable dependence. If it’s for a short time that is okay. Any longer and it would be wise to consider walking, the bus, cycling, or finding another way. The joy in a friendship can be maintained when we encourage friends to deal with their own issues under their own power and we can provide enough assistance to get them going again.
The value of curiosity in encouraging a friend cannot be overstated. In the midst of troubles in our lives we can be overwhelmed and find it difficult to consider all the angles. Our friends on the outside can spot things we cannot and that perception can be the key to overcoming challenges artfully.
What I’m describing here is vastly more close and connected than what will be encouraged in society. It takes time to build friendships and it cannot be done while wasting away in front of the TV, movies, or periodically drinking alcohol together. The reason why I would support you in your decision to foster deep friendships is because unless we are making a good effort to do things like those described in this document no real friendship will exist.
What people typically call friendship is periodically drifting into and out of people’s lives with a shallow, but steadfast, avoidance of intimacy. I want you to really be loved by people that you spend time around. That is only possible if we really make the effort together to get to know the preferences and needs of our friends.
Periodically, I will take some time apart from the pursuit of my own goals and think about the goals and aspirations of my friends. I’ll think about questions and things to discuss with them about their interests and solicit their feedback for my interests. It’s vitally important to feel energized by conversations with friends. We do not want a condition in which we dread their phone call or even avoid it. The friendship must serve the needs of the individuals involved or it’s not healthy.
The friendship you have is your opportunity to make a commitment to another person and receive their commitment in return. It’s not a competition, but rather a cooperation. When shit hits the fan in your life you want to be able to count on people who are invested in your success. What do you not want is to receive excuses why someone can’t help at this particular time. With the right investment in your relationships someone will be there by your side when you fail and they’ll help you back on your feet.
You don’t have to play by the rules of culture, living in a detached numbness, thinking you can only rely on yourself, and nobody really cares. They will care if you give them reason to and opportunities to show it. The human life is naturally dependent, beautifully vulnerable, and we can care deeply for each other.
People, your friends and allies, will help you but the cost will be your hard work in forging the relationship.
I wish you the best of success in establishing real and meaningful connections with people in your life. If you try this with existing friends they may look at you weird. Some may reject the idea outright. With your persistence, your good example, some people will come to see the value in having a great and joyous friendship along side you.