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.”