On Friends and “Friends”

I don’t believe in sin, as you’ve probably figured out. But I very much believe in morality and in knowing right from wrong. And I believe that it’s very wrong to neglect the feelings and sensitivities of other people, especially if you purport to care about them. Of course I screw this up myself all the time, but I work very hard not to and when I fail it is because I’m not aware that I’ve said or done something that might hurt another. If I knew it would hurt someone, I would never do it.

In friendship I work to actively listen and to try to see things from my friend’s point of view as much as possible. And I try to be supportive in any way I can. But sometimes it feels as though I hold myself to a standard that others do not. Sometimes it feels like many of the people who call me a “friend” do not have any real interest in me or how my life is going.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m a resource for my certain of my “friends”, people I thought I was close to, who have been calling only when they need benefit of my knowledge or connections, but not to set up time to hang out. And I’m getting sort of tired of being a resource. Maybe I should start charging for my time.

When I discuss this with my “real” friends the conclusion is always that I should be more picky about which friendships I put my energy into. And that’s true. I’ve always had the attitude that I should try to make friends with everyone, unless they are completely uninteresting to me or crazy or unsavory in some significant way. I’ve never approached friendship from the point of view of being discriminating, it seems to me to go against the nature of being friendly.

For the most part my friendship oriented attitude has meant that I’ve always had a lot of people in my circle of friends (which may be why I am seen as a resource, because I do know, and am on good terms with, tons of people).

In fact, I never lost a friend, until last year. And I’m still sad about the loss of that friendship. But I also realize that that person was not ever a loyal friend to me, not really, that friendship was an illusion on several levels. My kid saw it from the beginning and told me not to be friends with her. And my best friend here saw it too and tried to protect me several times. And my husband recognized it in his “guy” way. But I didn’t see it myself until I got hurt.

I got hurt because I gave more than I got, because I was loyal and she was not. And because I wasn’t picky enough about which friendships I put my energy into.

So I’m realizing that maybe I need to not worry so much about other people’s feelings and start worrying about my own. And if someone hurts me, if someone calls me over and over and never asks how I’m doing, if someone treats me like a resource instead of as someone to hang out with, well then I may just have to send a bill for my time.

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6 Responses to “On Friends and “Friends””

  1. Fned
    March 21st, 2008 00:12

    haha…. as a compliment to your previous post (and my previous comment) I too came to that conclusion when I was living in Mexico.

    I used to know tons of people in college. Friends of friends of friends turned automatically into my friends. I’d never go somewhere witout bumping into someone I knew. I thought it was a good thing. That being friendly and available for your “friends” was part of being a good person.

    Over the years I learned who my real friends where. I’ve had “best” friends stab me in the back and over the years I’ve lost touch with most of what at one time I considered “my closest friends”… today it is safe to say I have exactly TWO good friends (both living in Mexico). People I can trust and would do anything for and I know them for me.

    My dad summed it up well when he once told me I had to figure out who were my real friends and who were simply “amigos light”….

    I know it’s hard to say no to an “amiga(o)” when she or he asks or needs something but somewhere along the way I dared to say no and after the initial guilt I realized things for what they are: people trying to use me.


  2. JoyceJ
    March 21st, 2008 07:08

    I have felt your pain a lot myself over the years, and the only thing I can add is that it’s hard to change who you are. As much as you try to steel yourself against certain people that you know are not true friends, your true nature of wanting to help and contribute keeps peeking out of the hard shell you are trying to build. It can be done, though. Just remember that people who don’t know how to be a good friend don’t know what they are losing when you become unavailable to them. And you can feel sorry for them because they will never know the real friendships that you know.

  3. Cdn Cat
    March 21st, 2008 09:41

    One of my best friendships began in Mexico 16 years ago. A girl I worked wih in a dive shop for a few months. We kept in touch where ever we were in the world and with the Internet it just got easier with time. We still plan some of our vacations together and meet up whenever we can. I feel we both contribute equally in our relationship and she says I’m like the sister she never had.
    On the other hand my friendship with one of my dear friends I have been close to since early childhood is very different. We can get all wrapped up in our busy lives and not talk for ages. Then one day one of us will call the other and it’s as if yesterday was the last time we spoke. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or what we are doing, we know the other person is always there in a moments notice.
    My personal experiences have shown me that when it comes to friends it takes two people to make it work. A big factor is trust…
    like a marriage, without trust and loyalty you have a fragile shell…ready to crack at the slightest bump.
    I just realised that 3 of my closest friends have all given me tiny books over the years on frienship.
    Here is a quote from one of them.

    “Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.”

  4. RiverGirl
    March 21st, 2008 10:10

    Oh thanks all of you for the comments. I was worried this post would be too pointed and personal and would bother my friends and readers.

    “Amigos light” is a perfect way to look at those people who aren’t real friends. And I must learn to protect myself better. And I also need to work more actively on the friendships that really mean something to me.

  5. cancuncanuck
    March 21st, 2008 14:36

    I’ve been contemplating how to respond to this, knowing a lot of the details of the problems you wrote about. It’s tough, I am friends with all of you and try not to get caught up in all that is going on between you!

    I think you do need to embrace the good in your life, there is lots of it and lots of good people too. I am the eternal optimist though, so perhaps you would like to tell me to shove my sunshine where the sun don’t shine, lol. Seriously, if you believe things are beyond repair, just let it go and don’t let it fester, it will be much healthier for you. If you think things can be fixed, go for it. I might even pull out a striped shirt and referee if you like. You know I am Miss Neutrality.

  6. RiverGirl
    March 21st, 2008 16:36

    Canuck, I appreciate your diplomacy and tact. I have many good friends and many good “amigos light” here. In fact I have more than I can keep up with. It’s sad to lose what I thought was a real friendship, but if it wasn’t real then I’m better off now.

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