Friday, May 8, 2009

Friendship - Part 2 of 3

What is friendship? Here’s the simple answer from the dictionary:

“a relationship between two or more people who are friends.”

This definition tells me nothing. It asks more questions than it answers. Questions like, what kind of relationship? What is a friend?
In human relations there are only two categories into which all relationships fall. There are covenant relationships, and there are contractual relationships. It is one or the other. Both of these categories have sub-categories, if you will, but there are no other capitol divisions.

Covenant relationships can be either eternally ordained and metaphysically un-breakable, or sworn agreements intended to be un-breakable, or contractual agreements which undergo a metamorphosis and become un-breakable. The eternally ordained relationships are:

• God and His children
• Parents and children
• Blood relatives

These three relationships cannot be altered. God will never stop being God, and we cannot cease being his children. I can never not be my daughter’s father, they can never not be my daughters. Can you dig it? I knew that you could.

The sworn agreements intended to be un-breakable include:

• Marriage **
• Adoptive parents

**this relationship is the only contractual relationship intended by God to be metaphysically un-breakable. “..and the two shall become one flesh”, “…what God has joined together let no man put asunder.” It is no wonder why God says He hates divorce.

Any of the contractual agreements can evolve into a covenant agreement, but for this discussion I list only one:

• Friendship

All other inter-personal relationships are of the contractual type. These relationships are based on terms agreed upon by the parties involved, whether or not they are formalized at the beginning with promises, vows, oaths or actual written conditions. Over time these relationships run their course and slip out of our lives. But not all of them, and not always. An incomplete list of contractual relationships includes;

• Employer – employee
• Teacher – student
• Coach – player
• Doctor – patient

We all have many contractual relationships over time. Most of these change frequently. Some evolve over time, and when they do the evolution progresses from the initial conditions to what most people then call friendship. It is just another small glimpse of the eminence of friendship.

Friendships begin in most cases, when two people in a common situation discover one or more shared interests and enjoy the comingling of ideas and desires and are then drawn together, or when two people who share no common interests are thrown together for the purpose of accomplishing some task and discover qualities in each other, i.e. trustworthy, honesty, integrity, to name just a few and then begin to share ideas and desires between them. All of us have had friendships that began in both these ways. For myself, many more the latter way than the former. In both cases, for a time, the two people desire to spend greater periods of time together, learning from and about each other, seeking each other’s counsel and advice and sharing with each other the things one may have and the other may lack. This is the nascent state of friendship.

It is very easy to establish friendships with people with whom a person has things in common. This commonality allows each person to more easily trust and open one’s heart to the other person. But it comes as a much bigger shock to the system when the differences between these ‘friends’ begin to surface. It is the first test of these friendships. It is precisely at these junctures that both people must choose what has the greater value. Do they value the other person more than the difference, or is the difference of greater value? In order for the friendship to survive, both must have the same response: the other person is more valuable, than what they differ on. Anything less and the friendship is over. This does not mean they are now enemies, but it does mean that the trust and intimacy that never stops growing between two friends has in fact stopped. In a true friendship the highest value is always placed on the other person. There cannot be any exception to this.

The times when people who share no common interests are thrown together for the purpose of accomplishing some task is a slower sort of process. Along the way in working toward the completion of their given task, they each come to discover the differences between them. They may discover differences in ethnicity, religion, politics, the means and methods to complete their task, or all of the above, or some combination, or other differences. Yet, because they are compelled by authority (bosses, teachers, coaches, etc) to work together, they find a way to put aside their differences and get the job done. And coming through the process they discover other admirable qualities like perseverance and the other previously mentioned qualities, that create the sense of value in each other. And it is no shock at all when other differences pop up. The mechanism for dealing with these differences is already established, and the friendship continues to grow. In my experience, the friendships that have begun like this have developed more slowly than the others, but they have also grown deeper.

Over time our friendships grow and deepen through the experiences that life brings us. We cannot be present at every consequential event in every one of our friend’s lives. And vice-versa. But there are plenty of times when we are present. And when not, we share our joys and sorrows with our friends and they with us, so that we maintain sufficient knowledge to advise and comfort our friends in the times to come. Our trust in these folks becomes unshakable. Our love for them unbreakable.

I am not sure this is the right place to talk about this, but it’s on my mind so I’ll put it down while it’s fresh in my head. We will all meet many people during our lives who want to be our friends. There are people out there who do have very highly developed abilities to read the true nature of other folks, and these folks can be sincere in wanting to establish a real friendship. But there’s not very many of them. But there are many, many people out there who make their desire known fairly quickly after making acquaintance with you, and are insincere. They make declarative statements like, “you know, you and I should be friends”, or they preface introductions with “this is my good friend”. And they are full of flattery. And they are to be dealt with very carefully. Most times they have self-serving reasons for desiring a closer relationship. They value only what they can get from you. The concepts of friendship, and putting a friend first mean nothing to them. They may think in their minds that they have many friends, but in reality they have none. When the things that test a friendship pop up, their attitude is “let me get mine, before he gets his,” I worked for such a man two different times in my life. At different times he called me his ‘protégé’, his ‘friend’, his ‘partner’, and ‘my best guy’. Never meant a word of it. When he had no further interest that I could serve he tossed me out like yesterday’s newspaper. He was completely devoid of any sense of honor. Honor is the virtue that makes possible all other virtues. Virtue is something that individual people possess out of their own willingness to be virtuous.

The final mark of true friendship is the willingness to forgive, and restore the relationship. In every relationship we have with another person, there will be times when you hurt your friend, or your friend hurts you. This hurt can come from the smallest slight all the way up to naked betrayal. Jesus commanded us, not suggested or urged, commanded us that we forgive our neighbor, of any and all transgressions. This can be a very difficult thing to do sometimes. But we are better off when we do it, and a discussion of forgiveness is another topic entirely. Yet one aspect I have not found a whole lot of Scriptural writings about, is what happens after the forgiving? Are we compelled to restore the relationship to what it previously had been? I have to say no. Although God demands that we “love your enemies”, and “pray for those who spitefully use you”, we are not told to bring them into your life as friends. But again, if we place our highest value on the person, not the deed our desire is not just to forgive but to restore our friendship to its rightful place. This is what sets friendship above all other relationships.

Friendship is a relationship between two people, based on trust and honor, where the greatest value is placed, by each person, on the other person and his best interests, before the best interests of one’s own self.

Next: Why is friendship important?

1 comment:

LawhawkSF said...

Well, for what it's worth, it looks like I'm here, Auguste. Now that I know how to get here, I'll take some time to figure out a topic which will make some sense. I'll be back (that's a promise, not a threat).

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