After writing last week’s post on “What is Friendship?” I’ve been thinking a little more about the subject. What occurred to me is that some things might present themselves as friendship, but are not.
These things are not true friendship: happening to be in the same place with someone for an extended length of time – like going to the same church for years. After this, you might think to yourself that “Yes, X and I are such good friends!”
FRIENDSHIP IS MUTUAL: It is where both of you share an interest in the friendship and in one another, and both parties are willing and eager to invest into the friendship and into one another. Have you ever had a one-sided friendship? – ha ha! Or how about this – some people can be so cheeky – they act like they are interested in the friendship, but they encourage you to make all the effort – and seem to lose interest at the suggestion that they too could put themselves out to contribute to the friendship. It would be so tempting for me to give some real-life examples…. The following actually happened: Someone I had not seen for a long time, contacted me, to invite me to make a big effort to rekindle the friendship. No, here is the way it works. If you want to be friends with someone, then you make the effort, if necessary you be the one to go out of your way. Ideally, it should be mutual of course, but if you are the one suggesting that this is the kind of friendship that you want with someone, then you have to be the one to model that behaviour, and that level of commitment. (Shaking my head!) To be fair to the person in question, the reason they could confidently expect me to go so much out of my way was because I always had been ready to make that kind of one-sided effort in the past. But no longer, my friends! As I write this, I’m thinking that what you could do is to build up to things. If you have a vision of a particular level of friendship that you would like to have/could have with someone, then you could build up to it in small stages. Make a small effort in a small way, wait for them to reciprocate at that same level (if they are not getting the hint straight away, then invite them to reciprocate), then make a further small effort, wait for them to reciprocate….etc. Sometimes you honestly do have to invite them to make the effort, and you might even have to spell out the effort that you have made, even if it seems obvious to you: “Since I have been to your church a couple of times, perhaps you might want to come to my church this time?” (And then you might find out any reasons for their reluctance: “Actually I have been to your church a few times in the past, and I really did not agree with their theology….”) Sometimes the person might not immediately share your vision about the potential of the friendship from the outset. However, they might be persuaded in little increments, as they discover how much fun they have hanging out with you at each step, or how much they learn from you… I guess a further advantage of this approach is that you can iron out issues at each step. As obvious as might seem the idea of little increments, I’ve never understood these things, and I have always gone straight for the full thing I’ve envisaged…
(POTENTIAL BLOG POST – doing away with 2 years. How could we go out to build friendships, without having to wait 2 years to suss people out first? I would love to know this/work it out, as it would mean that I could go out right this second to let myself get to know people…)
What is not true friendship: We’ve seen that “friendliness” is not true friendship, because being kind and gracious to someone does not actually mean that you share the same values with them. After all, as Christians we are called to be kind and gracious to everyone, even people of different faiths or none, even people who would seek to stamp out our own faith. This is an extension of that thought: while it might seem hugely surprising to say this (even to me as I’m writing this), the following is not an example of true friendship: when you have been in the same environment for someone for many years, for instance the same church, and when you have exchanged kindness and graciousness to one another over the course of those years. Based on those things, you might confidently think “Yeah, we’re friends!” However, this is not necessarily true. If you were to go ahead to get married based on those things, you might find yourself ultimately surprised at incompatibilities between the two of you. The advantage though of being in the same environment as someone for a matter of years is that you would have a more accurate understanding of who they truly are, and what they truly stand for, than if you were to throw yourself into a relationship with someone you’ve only just met.