Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Friendship and Selflessness

Define "friendship".

When typed into Google, I get:
  1. The emotions or conduct of friends; the state of being friends.
  2. A relationship between friends.

Webster Dictionary defines it in this way:

1: the state of being friends
2: the quality or state of being friendly

Seeing as that merely points us to the word "Friend", it seemed worth while to define that also. Webster Dictionary defines "friend" as:
1 - a : one attached to another by affection or esteem - b : acquaintance
2 - a : one that is not hostile

You may be wondering why I'm bringing this up. Well, it's been on my mind lately, and I decided that it would make a fun/hopefully interesting blog post.

As with any relationship, even a passing nod of the head to a stranger, misunderstandings happen. Sometimes because a person says something, meaning one thing, but the other party takes it a completely different way. Sometimes because a person does something, thinking it is completely all right, and it ends up being totally not all right.

I actually had the fleeting thought of, "Wouldn't be be handy and cut down on a lot of trouble if, when we met someone, we simply handed them a paper of what friendship meant to us in particular, and what our expectations were?" A friendship "code", if you will.

A moment later, I felt a bit bad for thinking this. Why? Because I realized it is completely the wrong way of looking at a friendship. Too many people go through their friendships looking for what they can get out of the relationship. This carries over into marriage, and I think has quite a lot to do with the number of failing marriages. People go into the relationship saying, "This person is so good for me!" and ask themselves, "How is this going to benefit me?" Me, me, me.

Now, I know, sometimes you simply have to think like that some, especially when it comes to long-term relationships. You can't just jump into something, being completely selfless (if "complete selflessness" is possible...), when the person you're getting involved with is extremely selfish and doesn't give your welfare a second thought. You'd get stomped into the mud. In this case, you have to do some thinking about yourself, unless you want to get locked in a relationship that is going to be detrimental to both of you. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to worry about this, because everyone would be looking out for everyone. But sadly, this world is not perfect, far from it, and so we have to walk a fine line between being selfish and being selfless to the point of stupidity.

So, how should we approach friendships?

With an attitude less of, "What can they do for me?" and more of, "What can I do for them?".
Now, it seems a simple enough answer, but there are two parts to this. The outward, and the inward. Depending on personality, temperament, and how a person was brought up, one of these parts could be more easy for someone than another. Or perhaps neither will be easy. For some people, outwardly being selfless is more or less easy, but on the inside they're far from selfless.
I'll address each of these points.

So first, outwardly. The most obvious. Letting someone else have the last slice of pizza, letting someone go before you in line, making a meal for someone, helping someone with their chores... The list goes on. With the combination of my temperament and how I was brought up, this is the easy part for me. I'm quiet, so naturally I'm not as likely to voice my opinion, more likely to just go with the flow and let people do as they want, even if I don't particularly enjoy what that means. And I've also been brought up with the knowledge that I am not the center of the universe, therefore I shouldn't be always demanding my way and throwing tantrums when I don't get it.
So that is the first part-- Outward selflessness.

Second, is inward. Less easy to control, at least for me. You can let someone go before you in line, but then glare at their back when no one is looking. You say someone else can have the last piece of pizza, that you don't really care, but in reality, you do, and you give yourself a dose of self-pity as you think about the lost pizza slice. You help someone with their chores, but instead of doing it with a helpful spirit, you do it with the knowledge that now this person owes you a favor, and they'd better pay up someday. These lines of thinking pretty much destroy whatever you do outwardly. So. What, if you help someone out, if the next day you demand that they help you with something too, holding over their head how you were there for them last time? That isn't selflessness, it isn't friendship either. It's using the person for your own good.

Yes, sure, virtually everyone is going to expect something back for being a good friend. It's only human nature that if you do something kind, you expect that person to be kind back to you. It's polite, too. However, there is a line between "healthy" and unhealthy expectation.

I already described unhealthy expectation; The notion that since you did things for someone, they should do them back to you, and if they don't, you should confront them and remind them of how good a friend you are, and how they are falling so short of being a truly good friend, simply because they failed to do one thing for you.

"Healthy" expectation, to my knowledge, would be more along these lines:
You are a good friend to someone, helping them, comforting them, being their for them. Naturally, you hope they will be there for you when you need them. That, when you need help, they will return the favor. Not because they feel guilty because of what you did for them, but because they want to.
Shortly put, you shouldn't expect someone to return your favors to such an extent that you become angry when they aren't returned. You shouldn't consider that they owe you. That's business, not friend...ness...

Anyways. That is a bit of a long, ramble-y post.. hopefully I wasn't too confusing, and conveyed correctly what I think of this matter.

Until next time!

No comments:

Post a Comment