Friday, March 4, 2016

Should we choose our friends carefully?

To cast the choice of one's friends as a calculated selection process is to counsel a dangerous admonition. Except for the most egregious examples, the advice (even if directed to the young and ostensibly foolish) has about as much authenticity as an arranged marriage. Even if love were by some febrile distortion of pragmatism represented as the comparatively serious business of family and economics, friendship is supposed to be the playground of relationships. To impose stricture on friendship is to contaminate it; it is the one association which can be free of sycophantic or parasitic utility.

When it comes to choosing our friends most of us are not living in such a highly charged political world that we feel either inclined or obliged to screen our alliances from the outset. Friendship normally blossoms before the shadow of cold analytical reason is cast upon it. How regularly arises the provocation for pure friendship uninfluenced by design or ulterior purpose! Consider for example the poetic alliance between Prince Hal and Falstaff! Matters of friendship are paramountly ingenuous matters of the heart.

Nonetheless once we have consummated those relationships we sometimes diminish ourselves by purporting to assess the confederacies in deliberate and clinical ways.  Such measurement sells short the reality surrounding the choice of one's friends. What initially draws people together as friends often defies what are retailed as the expected social connections. Most of us understand the tragic romance between the Montague and the Capulet families. Similarly friendship can degenerate into fictional differences which fly in the face of experience.

When once one has followed the instinctive path to friendship its formation is to be carefully guarded.  Friendship like any other emotional connection will occasionally and inevitably tumble upon rocky shores. When that happens one must be exceedingly careful not to submit to the impulse to reassess the friendship in the light of values and measurements which hadn't any original application. How preposterous it is to seek to impose credentials upon a relationship which was prompted by nothing but heartfelt affection! The adage "If she knows why she loves him she doesn't" applies equally well to friendship or romance. Friendship is not a product of calculation; and if it is, or if it becomes so, then it is finished.

The litmus test of friendship is always some point of disagreement. First, one must recognize that disagreement is inevitable.  No communication of any reasonable duration can navigate its journey to sea without encountering a deadhead along the way. When that happens one must resist the inclination to quantify and qualify the relationship.  No amount of post facto appraisal will justify any such conclusion. In simple terms, the horse long ago escaped the barn and closing the door on the friendship in the heat of an argument is an utter waste of time. As Platonic as friendship may be fashioned there sometimes arises the highly volatile element of reciprocity, a potentially contaminating feature which lays bare the basest of human foibles. It is however a misleading attribute and one which has no place in friendship. If the measure of what we give is what we get, then look elsewhere for conviviality! Such so-called standards have no place among friends!

What disappoints us in others is often what disappoints us in ourselves. Criticism has forever been the best autobiography.  Understanding this about ourselves is not however the key to understanding others, especially friends. Certainly it deflects the condemnation from others; but remember that it does not legitimize the denunciation of others, it merely distracts it from others. The real understanding of others requires much deeper analysis.

The first step is to put yourself in the shoes of your friend. This is imperative to avoid mere application of one's own standards and theses to others.  Believe it or not, even friends don't necessarily think the same way!  At the very least, friends likely do not experience the world in the same way.  The very fact that people of such radical differences can become friends is itself proof that they are wildly divergent in every respect. It is well to recall that the pain which a friend feels is probably very different from what you sense for the simple reason that the life experience of each is unique. It is no weakness that you are unable to identify with circumstances you've never had to endure; but remember that, knowing that fact, the repercussions will vary accordingly.

It is currently unfashionable to encourage anyone to remain within a strained situation.  This however is not the same as encouraging people to overcome their conflict.  Preserving the status quo is not the same as fostering an appreciation of what brought two people together in the first place. Differences frequently arise for reasons which have nothing whatever to do with their first impressions.  The true flavour of a conflict is often founded upon something quite different than we originally imagined. It is unfortunately common for each of us to make inductive leaps; and those conclusions are as regularly driven by misdirected premises.

It may perhaps help to begin by asking "What is the question?" rather than "What is the answer?"  Skilfully to frame your question is half-way towards insuring the true answer. This might sound to be a trite literary device but it is not.  If nothing else, it forces one to align the philosophic investigation in the correct order.  It is always seductive to reach a decision without the preliminary exploration. Taking the time to observe this etiquette further contributes to the longevity of the friendship. And that is the bottom line: friendship is to be nurtured and cherished.  Make no mistake it is far easier to abandon a friendship than to create or preserve it.  Friendship is a precious gem of life to be guarded with care and attention. The value of friendship is the passport to recognition of its continuing importance in spite of all obstacles. If you resist the urge to couch the answer in terms of personal abrasion, you might well be astounded to discover that the question had nothing to do with you. What perturbs a friend is often as insular as the qualities of goodness which you initially perceived in that person; and neither of them is a reflection upon you.

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