The Downright Impossibility of Friendship

yoonsense asked a question:

Is friendship supposed to be super hard? Or am I, are we, doing something wrong?

Hey dear friend — yes, friendship can be remarkably difficult. In fact, most of the time, it’s impossible. I guess you were hoping for good news, which there is, but it’s front-loaded by a whole bunch of bad news.

We’re each naturally going to be selfish. We’re all about self-preservation and protecting our egos. At the same time, we want company and community and we know that life is usually better together. In our friendships, we all tend to collide in those selfish areas, and our flaws and traumas and dysfunctions come spilling out in dramatic fashion. It’s unavoidable. You will eventually run up against someone else’s fault lines, just as you’ll have your own exposed too.

I used to think, “Well the good is worth the bad.” But that makes friendship sound transactional, as if I’m weighing how “good” it can be like an opportunistic salesman. Certainly there are some standards for friendship, and if it gets too toxic, we should consider walking away. Yet friendship is about accepting all the good we have yet to discover and all the bad we have yet to see. The deepest friend who exemplifies this, of course, is Jesus himself. He knows us as we are, yet loves us as we are.

The hard part is that we often confuse someone’s flaws with “morality.” We easily devalue people just because they think differently than us. God forgive me, I’ve done this a lot, and I’m sure I still do. I have to constantly be aware of entering my friend’s point of view, to consider their interests better than my own (Philippians 2), to carry their burdens when they cannot carry themselves (Galatians 6). All these things require a deep humility that will deny myself, which we hate since we’re self-preservers, and it will require that I care less about being right and more about being true.

If I get offended every time my friend disagrees with me, this only shows that I’m deluded by my own isolated perspective — which means I only want a robot for a friend. I know people like this. They only want a fun-filled fantasy that must fit their every whim. They live in a bizarro-world where everyone worships their opinion and dances on thin ice around them. When one disagreement equates to an emotional meltdown, I still have grace for people like that, but I’ve found myself drawn less to being near them. Conflict will happen, but conflict with direction will always lead to growth.

A last thing: A friend isn’t a secondary prop to my own “Main Character Narrative.” We’re all an interlocking tapestry of dreams, hopes, anxieties, and insecurities. My friend’s dreams are just as important as my own. Essentially, I’m number three. God is first, my friends second, me third. I’ve become much happier when I’m not the dictator of my own life.

I’ll leave you with a part of Stephen Colbert’s commencement speech from Northwestern University.

“After I graduated from here, I moved down to Chicago and did improv. Now there are very few rules to improvisation, but one of the things I was taught early on is that you are not the most important person in the scene. Everybody else is. And if they are the most important people in the scene, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them. But the good news is you’re in the scene too. So hopefully to them you’re the most important person, and they will serve you. No one is leading, you’re all following the follower, serving the servant. You cannot win improv.”

— J.S.

6 thoughts on “The Downright Impossibility of Friendship

  1. Great stuff!! I love what you said, “Conflict will happen, but conflict with direction will lead to growth.” Wow. I guess deep down all of us expect relationships to be easy. We like the easy road and if there’s that option we will take it 9 times out of 10. But then we sacrifice the quality relationships we could have. The intimate relationships that are not superficial but deep. I like that you pointed out there is such as a thing as toxic relationships where it is best to walk away too. How do you define toxic relationships? Also, love the reference of “bizarro-world”. You get that from Seinfeld? 😀 LOL


    1. I agree with you. I expect relationships to be easy. I’m a person that naturally tries to steer away from conflict but hearing that “conflict with direction leads to growth” makes me want to pursue friendships with different people… I think this can also relate back to the subconscious act of judging others. “If they’re not like me I don’t want to talk to them.” I know I fall into that trap, and it needs to change.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do the same thing, Jesse. I grew up believing conflict to be a bad thing so I avoided it as much as I could. Since then I’ve learned conflict isn’t really the problem. Not being authentic and not “fighting fair” is the real problem. Or not fighting at all, you could say, is also a problem that bars us from true intimacy with others and stunts our own growth. I’m learning…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey Jesse, I think most people drift away from conflict, which is totally understandable. Those who “want conflict” are often just contentious for the sake of being contrary. I suppose the fine balance is to receive the tough stuff without deflating while knowing what criticism can be dismissed.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I actually got “bizarro-world” from DC Comics, haha 🙂
      I think on one hand, too much conflict at every drop of a hat is too much. I know some friends who immediately want to fight the second there’s a disagreement (I can get this way too). But then never having confrontation is way too dangerous. I know a few friends who are so fragile they’ll only hang around yes-man and moochers, and this is where we enter the fantasy-land of ego-delusion. Balance is needed.

      Liked by 1 person

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