Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fair Weather, Foul Weather Friends

You know how someone says something, and you disagree, but you don't say anything because you don't want to be contentious?  Yea, I do that all the time.  But sometimes, not saying it really bugs me.  I know, you will probably say I should just say it and get it over with.  But sometimes people aren't ready to hear what you have to say, so it's not worth your breath.

A lot of these kinds of things happen on Facebook.  I try to steer away from most political conversations all together.  I have some really liberal friends on Facebook, and I would just rather not go there.  The main problem is that those kind of conversations usually end in arguing, or make the people angry.  I know they won't change, so why bother?  And I never watch their liberal videos, or read their liberal articles that I know they are posting to try to persuade me.

But I saw two comments recently that just stuck in my craw, so to speak.  One of them I answered with a comment, and the other I didn't.  And maybe the one comment I did make will come back to bite me, but I felt that both of these comments were indirectly pointed at me.

The first comment was one of these Pinterest sayings that said something like, "I've come to realize that the only  people I need in my life are the ones who need me in theirs, even when I have nothing else to offer them but myself."  This comment was made by a very good friend of mine.  And I know her very well.  I know that in her mind, a true friend is one who is always there, and who keeps in touch, and goes the extra mile to be involved in your life.  And in some ways, she feels that to be a good friend means to do things, and give things, and spend time.  And if she isn't able to do that for others, she feels like a bad friend.  What I hear in this statement she posted, is that conversely, she feels that if people aren't there for her, then they aren't true friends.  My comment to her was, "I think the danger in this statement is that everyone's needs are different. So if someone doesn't need to have as much contact as another person, that doesn't mean they aren't needed by them. And I don't think you can ever discount the influence you have on others, whether you see it or not, or whether you need them or not."

Just because a person doesn't meet all our needs for a friend doesn't mean they aren't our friend.  And true friends can go years without keeping in touch, and stay true friends.  Yes, in an ideal world we would talk often, and do things for each other, and give each other gifts.  But those things aren't the measure of a friend.  And our needs as people differ.  So for one person, the fact that you still talk to them once in a blue moon may be all they need.  So she may not be happy for my comment, but I felt that indirectly it was a chastening of friends like me who in her opinion don't do enough.

The other statement was by a "friend" who actually has never been a close friend of mine.  In fact, I have always felt that I was never quite good enough to be in her "in" crowd.  Her statement on Facebook was about how we should celebrate each other's differences, and how our differences are what make us unique.  She talked of how thankful she is for what she can learn from those who are different from her.  For her Thanksgiving daily "thankfulness" statement of the day, she posted how thankful she is for all of the different people in her life.  I know that this person is particularly fervent about gay rights.  I felt that hidden in her statement about our differences, was the underlying soap box about gay rights.  So I had to bite my typing fingers and not say what I really wanted to say.

What I really wanted to say is that yes, we are all different.  Some people are very different, and yes we should accept them.  We should never treat someone unkindly because of their sexual orientation, or their religious beliefs, or race.  And we can all learn from each other.  I agree with that sentiment, but what about treating people kindly who are less different?  What about celebrating the people who just aren't quite as well dressed, or whose house isn't quite as nicely decorated?  Sometimes I think people are so willing to accept people who are extremely different, but not those who are just a little different from them.

I have a friend who had a difficult childhood.  She shared much of that with me, but I guess maybe after awhile she was uncomfortable that she had shared so much, so disappeared.  I don't know where she is, and have no current contact information.  In some ways I think death is easier to accept than abandonment.  But thinking about these other two situations, maybe my own expectations are too high.  Maybe, like my good friend, my definition of "friend"isn't the same as hers.  Maybe she still views me as a friend, but isn't at a point in her life where she trusts me enough to be a close friend.  Maybe the memory is enough?

I think as I age I appreciate my friends even more.  I appreciate their patience, and I appreciate their acceptance of my differences.  I hope that I can learn how to be the kind of friend others need.  Thanks to all of you for being my friends!  :)


Anonymous said...

You've hit on something very interesting here I think.

First - declaration of myself to get that out of the way and avoid ambiguity. Me - a liberal. But that might not be the same thing for me as for an American. I don't mean a UK Lib Dem (though they have redeeming qualities) - I suppose some kind of lefty in American terms, trade union member, support the National Health Service, pay tax.

Also - re celebrate the differences - yes - but also I'm completely in the gay is great camp (and not being gay is great too). So anti-discrimination on grounds of sexuality, etc, etc. I think it's completely legitimate - not just love the sinner, hate the sin. No sin, as far as I'm concerned.

But getting back to your other point, about always being there for someone... Yes, but you're also right. Horses for courses. Some friends come good at the critical moments, even though they're not present the rest of the time. There are different kinds of friendship.

But - now - getting to your most interesting point (for me) - money and class. We may have (and should have, I think) all sorts of open-minded tolerant ideas about race, sexuality, gender, disability and religion - but where we often show our true defensive intolerant colours is on the issue of perceived class.

So... They're not "our sort" of people.
Don't play with "those" children.

The desire to immediately insulate oneself from the perceived level from which one has just risen.

Perhaps we all know someone who preens and parades their tolerance on the great issues of the day, but when it comes to less trendy divisions, is viciously territorial. (And that person we know may be staring back from the mirror.)

Right. End of rant. It's late in this part of the world. Thanks for thought provoking post.

Delirious said...

@BWT: I originally had one sentence in this post that I took out because I thought it made me sound like a whiny baby. I said, I reference to the friend who supposedly accepts anyone who is different, "Perhaps I'm not different enough." Maybe it's easier to love the "sinner" than the "geek"? Lol

Looney said...

I think the true friend is the one who doesn't give up on the other party, even when the other party decides to hate them. The leftist-conservative mutual loathing might actually facilitate this.

Rummuser said...

Delirious, I make it a point to have only friends. Either they are or they simply are not.