The word friend has many meanings, and we have many types of friends. Friend has taken on new meaning the in the era of social media. So, what kind of friend are you? What kind of friends are your friends? What does your method of relating to friends say about your depth of friendship?
Part Two of this series inquires about what constitutes a true friend. What about your social networking friends? Are you a true friend to them? Are they acting like true friends toward you?
When we talk about our friends, we usually mean these people. These are friends we are close with, willing to share intimate details of our lives with, and willing to sacrifice for if the need arises.
These are the kind of friends most people really want, and the kind most set out to be when we seek new friends. So, what are a few of the parameters of an intimate friendship, and how do they differ from acquaintances? Let’s take a look at a few truisms about real friends.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk
This is a common and oft-repeated truism about friendship. We use it to remind people that drunk driving is dangerous, but it says something vital about friendship. What is this little slogan really saying?
Friends will not allow their friends to engage in deadly dangerous behavior, but instead will try to protect the friend from himself.
If your friend was high on LSD, and thought she could fly, you would pull her back from the ledge. If your friend was going skydiving without checking his parachute, you would insist that he check it. If your friend was getting behind the wheel drunk, you would take the keys away from him.
You might ask, “but wouldn’t you do these for acquaintances, too?”
The simple answer to that is: not as often as you might think. A certain type of person will immediately ask this question. That type of person is the type who will involve themselves in others’ lives in such situations. Unfortunately, the fact is that about 20% to 60% of people won’t involve themselves in such a situation, depending on the precise details.
If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to watch the ABC News program “What Would You Do?” It is a hidden camera show that puts people in ethical dilemmas to see what they’ll do. A lot of people will let a person get in the car drunk. It may be a minority, but it is a substantial minority. Acquaintances don’t always help each other out. If you thought they did, then you’re one of the people who helps in the situations raised on this news program.
True friends will usually protect each other from immediate danger.
Friends Don’t Give Up On Friends
When the going gets tough, true friends remain friends. They’re able to work through a problem together, and remain friends, even if they cannot agree.
If your friend deserts you because you think one of their beliefs is false, they were never a friend to begin with. If your friend cannot forgive you for a mistake or a past debt you cannot repay, they were never a friend to begin with. If your friend runs for the door when they find out you slept with one of their ex-lovers, they were never a friend to begin with.
A true friend hangs in there when things get bad. A true friend can forgive. A true friend can move on without casting you aside.
“A true friend is someone who is there for you when he’d rather be anywhere else.” ~ Len Wein
Friends Tell Each Other the Truth
When a friend asks for advice, feedback, or information, a true friend returns the truth to them.
A true friend would not lie to a friend, or conceal truth to make them feel better. A true friend will tell the truth to a friend even if it hurts.
“Am I getting fat?”
“Yes. Not only that, you’re getting complacent about everything. But you don’t have to be. How can I help?”
Friends are willing to say the truth to each other, even when the truth is ugly, or hurts, or points out a major fault of the friend in question.
Friends Don’t Let Friends Delude Themselves
This is a hard pill for me to swallow, personally, because I have failed two true friends in this area. Twice in my life, I have watched and witnessed as friends sank into the pit of insanity, and were hospitalized because they could no longer function in society. The first time this happened was during college. The second time was in 2010.
Both times (and many others that did not result in hospitalizations with other friends), I was aware of the delusional beliefs long in advance of the institutionalization. I knew they were headed down slippery slopes, as I sat there listening to them ramble about specters and ghosts or whatever other delusional things, nodding my head and saying nothing. I failed these friends. I wish I could take back my inaction, but I cannot. What has happened, however, is that I’ve just begun to really take this idea in earnest.
I’ve started confronting my friends about their delusions.
Let’s go back to that LSD example from earlier. If your friend was high on LSD, and thought she could fly, you might pull her back from the ledge, or you might simply inform her of the truth. “Listen, friend, you can’t fly. You better not jump, cause you could die.”
My friend might not be in an institution if I had said to him, “listen, friend, the birds and bees are not giving you secret hidden messages about your long lost love. Your continued insistence on seeing everything as some cosmic confirmation of your unending love is delusional. You need to see a therapist.”
My other friend may not have bought a house and then lost it in foreclosure if I had said to him, “listen, friend, the amount of money you are writing in on your self-declared income is not only totally fictional, but your belief that you can suddenly earn that much is delusional. You need to see a therapist before you sign this mortgage.”
These are things I thought, but was afraid to say. I feel regret for having not said them. I could have saved my friend a lot of grief. Sure, they probably would have remained delusional, but at least I would not have failed them as a friend.
A Friend Will Descend Into Hell to Get a Friend Out
Just as Orpheus went into the underworld to retrieve Eurydice, a friend is willing to go into hellish situations to retrieve their friends.
If a friend ends up in prison for murder, a true friend does not abandon him, but comes to visit him on regular occasions. If a friend loses all her savings and income and is living on the streets, a true friend invites her into his home, and helps her get back on her feet again. If a friend goes missing, a true friend searches, and involves as many as possible in the search.
If a friend won’t reach down his hand to pull you out of the pit of hell (even a self-made one), they were never a friend at all.
Friends Trust and Are Trustworthy
A friend can tell a real friend a deep and hidden secret, and know that it will not be repeated. A true friend would never betray such a confidence, except perhaps to save that friend from death.
And this relates very much to what has already been said. A true friend can trust that his friends won’t let him delude himself. A friend can trust that his true friends will tell him the truth. A friend can trust that true friends are looking out for his best interests.