Christlike love

“I have loved you in the same way that the Father has loved me. Abide in my love. You will abide in my love if you follow my instructions, just as how I have remained in the love of my Father and kept his instructions.

I have told you all this so that you may be completely filled with my joy. This is my command of you – love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to sacrifice your life for your friends. If you do what I have commanded then you are my friends. You can no longer be called slaves, because a slave has no idea what his master is doing. I call you friends because I have told you everything the Father has told to me. I chose you – you didn’t choose me. I selected you so that you could go out and produce fruit that lasts, in order that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. My only commandment is that you show love to each other.”

JN 15:9-17

What is a friend?

Friends share their lives with each other. Friends make time for each other. Friends tell each other what is going on in their lives in person and not on social media. If you find out that something big happened to a friend of yours on social media, then they aren’t really your friend.

Friends are people who tell you when they are in the hospital so you can visit them. Friends are people who visit you when you’re in the hospital. I don’t mean people who say they’re going to, but those who actually visit. Friends are people who when you are home recuperating will bring you food or come and entertain you.

Actions speak louder than words. Promises mean nothing if they aren’t fulfilled. Friends follow through.

Friends are people who tell you when they are going to get married or when their children get married. Friends tell you when they are going to get divorced, too. This is about sharing the big details of your life with them.

As was wisely said to me once – Trouble shared halves it, joy shared doubles it. Friends share both with each other, and it is mutual and even. If one person is only sharing the bad things, then it isn’t a healthy relationship. That is too much for a friend to carry. That person needs a therapist or a counselor, not a friend. If a person only shares the good things and not the hard things, it means they don’t trust their friend to help them with it. There has to be a balance of good and bad from both people for it to be a healthy friendship.

Friends are people who invite you to events. If they are constantly hanging out with other people and never with you then they are not your friend, even if they say they are. If you are always the one who calls or makes arrangements for lunch dates or outings, even if the other person seems happy to be there, then you really aren’t friends.

It is very strange for a friend to not invite you to events and then ask “Why don’t we see you anymore?” This is especially true if she is sharing those events with mutual friends and then posting them on social media where you will see it. If you want to see someone, you include them. You think about their feelings and not make them feel excluded.

Friends are people who are comfortable enough with you to disagree with you, but not all the time. Someone who disagrees all the time is disagreeable. However it also isn’t okay to have someone who’s constantly agreeing. You want someone who is comfortable expressing their opinion and is willing to correct you when you are wrong.

Friends stick with you when times get tough, such as when your parents or your spouse dies. Even if they have never been through something that hard, they still contact you and ask to visit. When someone is going through something that hard, they need their friends even more. Losing your parents and your friends at the same time is very hard.

Musings on friendship

When I was in fourth grade, my teacher approached me with an unusual request. She asked me to befriend a girl who was a little odd. I’ll call her Susan.

She and I both liked to read, specifically science fiction. She wrote a little then too. We both thought Steve Martin was very funny.

Her father was dead, but worse, her father had been abusive. Her mother had to work a lot to support them, so spent a lot of time alone. This was unusual at the time – most families stayed together. Single mothers were unheard of. They lived in a tiny house that was just behind the school. At the time, that size house would have been considered poverty level. These days, the micro-house people would think it was immense.

She had wild hair – too curly to be manageable. She was a bit overweight, and smelled like cat. Perhaps she had Asperger’s. Perhaps she just didn’t know how to fit in.

Did this hamper my social life because I was seen with the weirdo? I wasn’t much of a social butterfly anyway. I would have been just as happy being alone. I never understood all the fuss people (girls) made over boys and makeup and pop stars. Perhaps the teacher thought I needed a friend, rather than the other way around.

Did this help her? She got to socialize with another person. But it was an artificial relationship. Like an arranged marriage. It definitely stopped her from becoming worse.

I didn’t think of it in this way at the time. More than thirty years has colored my feelings. In a way I feel cheated – I made very few other friends while in elementary school. She stuck with me. Out of habit? Desperation? Did this keep others away?

I was far from normal – but I had a stable home. At the time I felt it was a big honor to be asked – this meant I had extra to give. This meant I had a kind heart.

This has softened me to the plight of the “other” the weirdo, the loner. Folks say “he was quiet, and he kept to himself” – yes – so introduce yourself. Talk with him. Become a friend. It is hard to be a friend to the friendless, but it is important. It may save a life (or hundreds), the life of the person, or the people they might harm.

Back in my day, unhappy loners just killed themselves. These days they kill innocent strangers.

However, this hampered my ability to make friends in a different way – it became the pattern for my friendships. I fixed problems. I was the one who listened. I was the one who understood. But when I had a problem or needed to be listened to, nobody could help.

She showed up, unannounced, at my workplace one day years after school was over and asked if we were still friends. I’d not called, she’d not called. We were adults now. This was after my parents had died – -and she had been nowhere during that very traumatic time.

What is friendship? A name in a phone book? A connection on Facebook? If only one person is making the effort, then it really isn’t a friendship.

Friend or foe

“Since we are friends, you can…” (fill in the blank as to whatever rule they want me to break.)

I’m friends with a lot of patrons. I’ve met several great people while working at the library. Heck, I even married a patron.

I’m friendly with a lot of other ones, in part because that is part of my job. Some of them confuse “being friendly” with “being friends” though. They ask me to bend or break rules, to make exceptions for them, because we are “friends”.

We aren’t. If we were really friends, they wouldn’t ask me to do something that could get me fired. Like waiving their fines. Like not changing their address to their new out-of-county address. Like not using their ID or their library card to access their account.

Friends don’t try to get friends fired.

I’ve been a people pleaser throughout my life, and I’m learning it doesn’t do me any good. “People pleaser” is the old way of saying “codependent”. I felt like I needed to do whatever they wanted me to do so they would like me. Fortunately I’m getting over that. If they get angry because I won’t do something that is illegal or unethical or just plain against the rules, then they aren’t the kind of people I want to associate with anyway.

How not to be a bad customer.

This may seem like a no brainer, but if you want good customer service, treat the clerk kindly. Don’t insult her. Don’t talk down to her. Don’t blame her for something that isn’t her fault. (Feel free to change the gender pronouns as appropriate.)

Basically, treat her as you would like to be treated.

I think everybody should work a customer service job for at least a year so that they develop some empathy and compassion.

The person behind the counter is a person, not your personal slave.

She didn’t make the rules, so yelling at her isn’t going to change them. It isn’t fair to her to attack her over something she has no control over. She feels just as frustrated as you do. Perhaps more so.

She isn’t allowed to defend herself either, so you just end up showing how much of a jerk you are if you attack her verbally. It isn’t an equal relationship.

She isn’t your friend. She has to be friendly to you. That is part of her job. If she isn’t friendly, she’ll get reprimanded. If she is your friend, she’ll give you her number or email address. Otherwise, don’t assume.

Don’t ask her out. Especially if she is married. If the only reason you know her name is because you read it on her name tag, don’t ask her out. Really. At least get to know her as a person first. Surely you aren’t asking her out just because she is female, right?

Don’t tell her your personal stories if they have nothing to do with what she is expected to do as part of her job. – unless she is actually your friend.

Don’t ask her to break the rules for you because you think you are her friend. She can get fired for breaking the rules. A real friend wouldn’t ask.

Poem – friend. (predictive text)

First of a little (there are some)
for example and I am not a lot.

Remember the old standbys?
Remember what you want and need.
Rather than being eased
really our own feelings lead.

It isn’t about making a lot of friends.
In fact you can spend the time
If you want on your own site.
I don’t think that you can be found there.

Now what?
Your note for the way home is stuck
to the side of your shoe
caked with mud.

Don’t worry about it
Did you get the best in show?

Who cares if the result is beautiful or well groomed or well trained?

Give me a mutt any day.

Some thoughts on this poem/meditation.

What is a friend? Does it matter if she is popular or polite? What is more important, amount of friends or quality? I’m relearning what friendship means, and a lot of it is about being accepted for who I am and having a cheerleader for who I am becoming. Old friends who complain a lot are being cut out of my life, no matter how long I’ve known them or if they are family and I’m expected to be friends with them. People who don’t take my correspondence with them as private and discuss it with others behind my back are being cut out too. I need honesty in my life, and if it means having only a handful of people that are helpful and healing for me, then so be it. People who don’t make time for me aren’t worthy of my time either.

This started out with the letters in “friend” and then needed a little more so I free wrote the fourth stanza and the last two lines.

Are you my “friend”?

I think we need a new definition of the word “friend”. Or perhaps we need different levels of “friend.” We use the word so loosely these days that it has no real meaning anymore.

One reason we need different levels of “friend” is when we are talking to one about another. I’ve recommended that one “friend” connect in a business relationship with another actual friend. But I don’t know the “friend” very well – and I don’t want the actual friend to think badly of me if the “friend” acts strangely. I can’t vouch for him. I’ve only met him once. I know people he knows, but I’ve not personally spent much time with him.

I think Facebook has blurred the lines of what “friend” means. There are plenty of people who I think of as friends who I only barely know. I only know about their lives virtually. With some people this is how I get to know them. I’ll meet them somewhere at some gathering and “friend” them. In reality I know nothing about them. My plan is to learn more about them, and them about me, in the safe near-anonymity of the cyber world.

I’m discovering that this causes a whole new set of problems for me because I’m still working on my boundaries.

Sometimes I’ll keep someone as a “friend” who only posts to complain or argue. Maybe I’ll move them to another page that I only look at every few days instead of every few hours. Then they will comment on my page only to complain or argue. Seems like that is all they do. This reminds me of the coworker who starts of every (rare) conversation with me to say “Now, I don’t mean to complain…” and then she complains. I need balance. I really can’t handle someone who only complains. This gets really old. I’m not paid to be a therapist.

Perhaps I’ll keep someone as a “friend” who never posts or never comments or even “likes” anything. Will they even notice that I’ve unfriended them? Plenty of people have a Facebook page and don’t really use it. Plenty of people lurk too. Perhaps I need to understand that they just aren’t that into me. Perhaps I need to not take it personally.

Maybe I keep some people around as “friends” because I think they may be useful some day. I think that I may need to contact her or him, so I’ll not “unfriend” just yet. Maybe I’m thinking of people like craft supplies.

Maybe I need to edit. I do this, but perhaps not as deeply as I should. I try to keep my “friends” list to under 200, when in reality I only really interact with a tenth of that, at most.

I care, sort of. I feel like I should care. They are “friends” after all, right?

Recently I unfriended two women that I thought I should get along with, but don’t. One I met in my old church. I’ve finally come to realize that she is just an unhappy person, and I don’t care to participate in her angry world. Another person was a girlfriend of a friend of mine. She was really interesting for a while. Then she started being threatening to me. Nothing big, and I suspect she thought she was being funny. Jokes aren’t funny if both people aren’t laughing.

Rather than tell them how I felt, I deleted them. If I really cared about the relationship I would have told them how I felt. But I didn’t really care. And that was a turning point. I realized that I didn’t owe them anything. I may never see them again. And I’m OK with that.

Would it be different if I did see them often? Maybe. It gets really awkward when people confront you for unfriending them. I’d think they should get the clue and not ask, or not take it so personally, but that is probably my desire to not be confrontational.

There is nothing saying you have to be friends with anybody, cyber or otherwise. Being a friend should be a choice, not an obligation.

I have to think of Facebook as like my home. Sure, they aren’t physically there. But they are inside my head, which is far more intimate. Why would I let someone rummage around in my home who doesn’t really respect or resonate with me?

So why would I let that person in my head?

For a while I’d keep my really conservative friends because I thought that I might have a positive influence on them. In fact, they ended up having a negative influence on me. I got more bitter and cynical. I felt really tense every time they would post something hateful. So I deleted them.

I’m getting more and more protective of my space. I’m just glad that I realized that my space also refers to the space in my head.