Posted by: minnow | May 29, 2010

Will the Real Friend Please Stand Up?

My husband and I just got back from Oregon.  My husband had a two-day art show in a winery and we were able to stay with college friends while there.  Our friends welcomed us into their home, fed us, encouraged my husband in his new adventure, reminisced, shared their struggles with us, and let us share ours with them.  In addition, we were able to do the wine tasting thing.  And, I discovered a difference truly exists between a forty dollar bottle of wine and a twelve dollar bottle.  Our host for the art show, Laura Volkman, makes a wonderfully rich and smooth Pinot noir!  Check out her website here

On our way home we began talking about friendship.  What makes a friend?  How is friendship different from friendliness?  Who are our closest friends?  And, why do we think of them as friends? 

My husband is a friendly guy and has lots of people he thinks of as friends.  I on the other hand am a bit of a recluse.  I interact with people (outside my immediate family) on Facebook more regularly than I do face to face.  I do not have many I consider close.  And, most are friends from my past, like the people we just visited.

My definition of friend is different from my husband’s.  He has room for lots of people in his definition.  The couple we just visited would fit.  The men in his semi-weekly men’s group would fit.  As would several he sees on Sunday mornings.   His work partner would fit.  And, many people from his (our) past, some he has not seen or spoken to in years.  I, on the other hand, think of friends in various categories: those from a certain period of my life, family friends, and close (on-going) friendships.  Sadly, I do not currently have many people in the last category.  In fact, I could point to only one other couple we see sporadically and one other woman for whom I have not made enough time. 

Facebook seems to have a more postmodern definition of friend.  From a FB perspective any person with whom you have a point of connection can be a friend, even if it is only to play Mafia Wars.  I realize I limit my connections by narrowing my definition.  Yet, I need a depth of relationship, of understanding in my friendships in order to feel comfortable (which is not the same as saying we need to agree).  At the same time, can a person really be your friend if you rarely see eye to eye on any topic with more depth than the weather? 

Recently I had a very unpleasant experience on Facebook.  But it caused me to do even more thinking about relationships.  Lately, especially within the emerging circles of Christians I interact with, the desire to come across as kind has become more important than the desire to assert one’s point of view.  Such an attitude is admirable.  But, being friendly or kind is different from being a friend.  Both are motivated, in part, by an attitude of love.  Yet, loving our friends sometimes requires us to confront negative behavior.

Maintaining a peace-at-all-costs-connection to people can  compromise relationships, not to mention discussions.  When peace rather than truth is the goal we can end up hiding behind smiles and nods and never sharing who we are or where and how we struggle.   Being neutral (AKA: feigning no position) in every circumstance is not the same as being loving in every circumstance.  Rather, it sets us up to ignore the bully on the play ground.  Pretty soon the only one left playing is the bully.  

Granted sarcasm, name calling, and intimidation are never appropriate in a relationship, even when we follow it up with “just kidding”.  By the same token we must find a way to confront and correct behavior which is dishonest or out of line.  If we do not, none of our “friendships” will be any more meaningful than a person’s 500 Facebook conections.

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