What A Real Friend Would Do.

a real friend

Is that really what a friend is? Is that really what I expect from a friend?

Is a friend someone who supports you no matter what? Sounds like a cult more than any real meaningful exchange of mutual respect between two people. Do we really expect someone else to like and agree with everything we think, say and do, no matter what? How is that even possible?

The world is full of groups that operate on that basis. At the first sign of anyone not going along with the “group,” they are “out.” And people are not usually happy to just to allow them to move on. It is more likely to be a cost similar to trying to get out of a gang or the mob. Sure, you live to tell the tale, but the group exacts its pound of flesh in the process.

People learn to sit down and shut up, to never say what they actually think, because the threat of the loss of the friendship hangs ever heavy over their head.

“If you were a real friend, you would not do (insert anything you like here).”

“If you think that way, you are not a real friend.”

“If you don’t support me then you are not a friend and you are a liar.”

Would a real friend expect you to surrender your own integrity? The emotional manipulation of these kinds of statements and the sentiment expressed in this poster are actually disturbing. It reminds me of a group of kids on the playground growing up that were trying to make some of the girls pull down their underpants in front of some of the boys. The ring leaders were insistent, “If you want us to like you, you will do it, all of the others have done it.” In this case “doing it” meant you were in with the popular girls and you could have a boyfriend, one of the popular boys.

At 9, I was not so keen on having a boyfriend, even if it meant I was giving up girlfriends as well. I went and played football with some of the other kids who shared my lack of our of control hormones.

All my life I have heard people use that same pressure to force people to do something they did not want to do, with the promised of a reward of “friendship” if they do. Now we have posters suggesting allowing yourself to be manipulated makes you a good person, a good friend.

Sorry, I am not drinking that kool aid.

And at my age, saying something like to me, is the kiss of death on any relationship. Not only is it a ridiculous thing to expect from anyone, it is insulting to me that they don’t know me well enough to know no-one tells me what to say or do, except the voice inside of me that calls me on everything and expects more of me than you can even begin to imagine.

I don’t have a lot of friends. It is because I refuse to operate like this.

If I want my opinion on something, I will ask myself. I don’t need it parroted back to me by someone else. I want other people to be themselves. In fact, I am more often drawn to people who are completely different from me, or who can teach me things I don’t know about, than I am to clones of me. And as for supporting me . . . I am frequently wrong. I make huge mistakes. I am continually growing and learning. I need people to share life’s journey with me and to move past today, into tomorrow. I appreciate someone who calls me on things, who disagrees with me and opens my mind to other ways of looking at things. I want people who can stand up to me. I don’t need a partner in crime, or someone who is going to encourage me to not do the right thing, or to not take responsibility for something I have done.

There are definitely times I should not be supported. There are times when I need to do things on my own. There are times when I need a kick in the pants.

Having anyone in  my life who I can be real with (as in NOT perfect) and who is comfortable in their own skin, enough to have opinions and ideas that are their own, is incredibly stimulating.   I learn so much from my friends.  I am a better me because of them.  I don’t get to slide into negative and destructive habits because it is easy when you have a whole crowd of people willing to go there with you.  I have so benefited from their honesty, their observations, their ideas.  I know when I ask them something, they are going to tell me the truth and because they are committed to living life with integrity, they push me to work harder at it.  They are not always there for me, because that is not possible.   I don’t expect them to take care of me.  But I know, if I needed them and I asked, they would be there and do what they could to help.  I hear them when they come to me with concerns about how I am behaving, because I know they love me.  We talk through our problems.  Our friendship grows and deepens.

My friends make me laugh.  I enjoy them.  They know about me and I know about them.  It is give and take.  Friendship has to be a two way street of give and take, not as this poster suggests, that a person follow you, support you, stand by you, no matter what. Why would anyone even ask that of you? What kind of a person would expect that?

Certainly not a friend.

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