Friends. I’ve always found this to be a quaint notion. Something that offers a sense of endearing companionship while providing a comforting distraction from our isolation in this world. I’m obviously cynical on the subject because I’ve experienced and witnessed true friendship quickly recede when reality became unpalatable. So I wonder if there is really something called true friendship?
I think it’s all about that beautiful old principle about what’s in it for me. More than this, it also relates to our inflated sense of self, and how well the friendship nurtures that self-image. There are memes in abundance regarding the nature of true friends that would point out your shortcomings and not only make you feel good. But there are unfortunately not nearly an abundance of friends who want their shortcomings pointed out.
One of my favourite sayings in this regard has been attributed to a number of different historical personalities, but its truth remains…well, true. It says that the friend of my enemy is my enemy, which in turn implies that the enemy of my friend is also my enemy. I guess that also means that the friend of my friend is my friend and the enemy of my enemy is also my friend. Anyway, point is, those that hate what we hate find a sense of association with what we value, and vice versa. Most would confine the understanding of this with just the relationship that they maintain with others, but I think it goes beyond that. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that it is more accurate to view this within the context of our characters, and which good or bad traits we recognise as friends or foe.
Within the above context, suddenly the person that hates my bad traits and looks to encourage me to abandon such traits becomes my friend. However, that assumes that I sincerely want to improve that aspect about myself. It assumes that the bad trait is not something I hold on to as a definition of my self relative to a defence I need to prevail in this world. It assumes that I live with conviction, and that I strive to improve with every day that is offered to me. That’s a grossly inaccurate assumption. I struggle to find people that actively and sincerely seek to better themselves. To recognise their shortcomings and to bravely embrace the changes that are needed to raise the standard of their contribution to this world.
Most are bent on embracing those struggles or shortcomings that resonate with others, and nothing more. When we show the world how brave we are to face off what everyone else is struggling with, it feeds our ego more than it develops our character. It proclaims that we are bold while others are meek, and in so doing gives us the courage to fight that good fight that defeats so many. And so we prop up our egos and assume that we’re sincere about improving who we are, while in the process convincing the shallow ones that we are indeed striving to improve. Yes, I speak with contempt of such endeavours because it only entrenches the insincerity that has eroded the wholesomeness of society and life in this self-indulgent world.
The one who reflects, recognises the ugly inside of them, and then simultaneously celebrates the beauty within, is more likely to demonstrate gratitude for their lot in life than the one who only sees the ugly and tries to disguise it as a noble struggle. Those that live their lives out in the social network limelight need the affirmation that is lacking when they look within. They need to see themselves through the lenses of others because their own lenses offer little or no comfort at all. Their enemies become their friends, and robs them of peace and energy as they go through life painstakingly maintaining the defenses that they need to make them feel whole.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The one who recognises the ugly in me and sincerely advises me about it is the one whom I should embrace. Not the one who convinces me that my darkness within is not a bad thing because everyone else has it. Not the one who tries to convince me that my darkness or my handicaps are not so bad because they want me to pull them closer for making me feel better about myself. They are self-serving at my expense, and I am left wanting because of it.
With friends like these, indeed, who needs enemies. Friends or enemies both offer the opportunity for growth, but only if we are honest in our reflections and introspections about who we really are, and what we stand for. If we’re comfortable glossing over our shortcomings because we’re more inclined to celebrate our few strengths or successes, it will be a short while before we lose our footing and feel the stench of complacency strangle the peace out of our lives because at some point, everyone gets that wake-up call. Everyone has an innate desire to shrug off the yoke that has held them back for so long and to move forward with or without the significant others that pacified them while they carried that yoke around. That’s when relationships are truly forged and defined, or discarded.
But it requires courage, and it requires conviction, and it requires brutal honesty, all of which are in short supply in a world of instant gratification where friends can be acquired and lifetime companions can be discarded in favour of a synthetic life. The more virtual our reality, the less real our lives will be. But death is not a virtual outcome. It’s not the end of a level or the expiration of a time limit on some game with in-app purchases. Perhaps that should read ‘inept purchases’. That is what we do. We sell our souls in favour of short term gains because we lack the courage to forge ahead into the unknown. We seek the comfort of certainty in the outcomes of our decisions, and therefore make decisions when we can rely on the predictable outcome, rather than making decisions because we uphold the principles that we profess to live by.
Still think you have friends? In fact, still think you’re capable of being your own best friend? Go on, be honest. I dare you!