I could literally count the number of true friends, lifetime friends, on one hand. These are the unique individuals or couples that have walked with me through all of life’s experiences. When times were good they were there to celebrate with me. When I walked through the valley of death with my wife, a time of confusion, sadness, pain, and sorrow – they were present.
Rewind…the truth is that I only have exactly one friend like the aforementioned, and she just happens to be married to me. Many people, those who we refer to as friends, often fall away when life presents chronic trouble.
Like rats scurrying away from the light, when the going gets tough, the less-than-tough run away as fast as they can.
Let’s face reality head-on here. We never really know how a friend(s) will respond to a personal crisis until it actually happens. When that crisis becomes chronic or prolonged, one can pretty well count on many friendships to dissipate quickly.
Granted, I hold to a very high standard concerning the meaning and purpose of friendship.
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17 NLT
Let’s read that again. A friend is ALWAYS loyal! Not some of the time – all the time. Through thick and thin, a true friend remains loyal and committed to a lifetime friendship.
Alex Lickerman M.D., in discussing the true meaning of friendship in Psychology Today commented that a true friend is committed to your happiness (and well-being):
A true friend is consistently willing to put your happiness before your friendship. It’s said that “good advice grates on the ear,” but a true friend won’t refrain from telling you something you don’t want to hear, something that may even risk fracturing the friendship, if hearing it lies in your best interest. A true friend will not lack the mercy to correct you when you’re wrong. A true friend will confront you with your drinking problem as quickly as inform you about a malignant-looking skin lesion on your back that you can’t see yourself.
As I have mentioned a few times before, as a society we have a strong tendency to measure friendship numerically. How many friends do you have on Facebook? How many followers do you have on Twitter or WordPress?
The obvious question is whether or not any of those friends will remain loyal to you through the darkest periods of your life? My lifetime experience, including listening to the stories of many individuals and couples in prolonged crisis would suggest that few, if any of the aforementioned online “friends” will stick with you when the rubber hits the tarmac.
This is a very sad testament to the times that we live in. The concept that friendship is based on what we get out of a relationship rather than what we put into it – loyalty being paramount to true friendship.
As a person who has worked in one of the “help” professions, and one who is fiercely loyal towards those whom I care for and love, I have often been taken for granted. I was there to meet someone else’s need for friendship with no expectation of reciprocal commitment. That can grate on our sense of self and personhood over time, leading to emotional and physical burn-out (Depression) for many help professionals. No one person can be all things to all people all the time.
Our work and the misguided expectations of others are constantly knocking at the door. The good news is that we have a choice(s) as to who we let in.
Recently, I went through what I would consider to be a betrayal of a friendship. From my perspective, our friendship began based on our mutual love for travel and writing. Although there was a considerable geographical distance between us (we never met in person), and various cultural and life experience dissimilarities, I thought we started off well and had basic trust and loyalty in place. I think I was wrong…very wrong.
In my experience, when we meet people online and begin to develop a friendship based on mutual interests there is always some danger involved as follows:
- People are not really who they say they are. Individuals have a multitude of reasons as to why they do not disclose their true personhood and identity, not to mention their motive(s) for online friendships. Writers are a peculiar bunch and have been known to function as literal SPYS. There is an unsurprising link between authorship and espionage. Some, who have studied character types and questioned the motives of writers, have concluded that all writers function like spies. Bizarre, I know, but I have alluded to that reality, albeit in jest, happening right here on WordPress. Most notably, travel bloggers who move freely around the world, especially in countries that are often dangerous to travel to for Westerners. And they claim to do it on a shoe-string budget that, in reality, their stated occupations could not possibly afford apart from outside (government) intervention and financial assistance.
- People are looking for a distraction, possibly an adulterous affair, even if it is just committed on an emotional basis. Naturally, based on the aforementioned, some are there to set the honey trap.
- People are borderline narcissists or even sociopaths who seek to use and abuse those individuals they seek friendships with online.
- People are actually in serious trouble and are legit in seeking outside help from another person online. They may be in danger politically, running from the legal system of their country of birth or residency. An individual may be in danger in an interpersonal relationship or a marriage, possibly suffering at the hands of a controlling and abusive spouse with an alcohol and/or drug addiction.
- All of the above.
- None of the above.
If I could give my readership on WordPress, especially those who are legit in their writing, poetry, art, photography, etc., some unsolicited advice – be very CAREFUL who you build a friendship with online. Monitor your “friends” and “followers” and weed out those you suspect of being nefarious in purpose and, therefore, illegitimate. Evil is always present in our world.
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 NIV
At the same time, don’t get hung up over conspiracies (even the concepts I presented here). Life is full of good people and true friends that seek only the best for you. Now, if I could only find more than one 🙂
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