The World’s Greatest Lie
And the Path to Freedom
By Kendel J. Christensen
Part III of VIII
A True Friend
As I look at Facebook, it tells me I have 2099 friends. It is a lie. I was an early adopter, and accepted any and all requests from anyone I had ever met. Though I had intentions to be good friends with everyone on my Facebook, I have since given up on that ambition. It has been a great tool to keep in touch with my network of acquaintances, extended family, and my various types of friends. But of all those types of friends, only a select few would I consider “true” friends.
Friendship is widely treated as a relationship of convenience. Two people both happen to live in proximity, and are opportunistically using one another to enjoy things that one can’t do alone. We are kind to our friends. We would never offend them, even if our true thoughts were otherwise. If you happen to see them, and if it is convenient to help them, you are happy to do so. It isn’t necessarily bad. It is absolutely a mutually-beneficial relationship, and we can learn much from any association. Additionally, both parties often come to rely on and support each other. And who knows when two people make a connection of convenience into something more. It has to start somewhere.
But true friendship is much more. The approach is completely different. And it is an absolute necessity to become truly free. The path of freedom, though personal, cannot be marched alone.
True friendship isn’t about opportunism. It doesn’t ask about convenience. It’s about a certain type of regard, a love that wants more than company or validation or shielding others from consequences. True friendship wants its object to be the best he or she can be.
A quote by C.S. Lewis illuminates the essence of true friendship:
Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering... it is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.
In other words, a friend of convenience values more that the “friend” be temporarily appeased than ultimately bettered. By contrast, though a true friend would not seek to offend and respects certain boundaries, a true friend values the friend themselves, more than the friend avoiding temporary suffering. And that includes inviting their friend to challenge possible victimizing attitudes.
A true friend would question any attitude that insinuates accepting less from life, if it truly is important to the other person. A true friend wants the best for his or her friend. And what is best in the ultimate sense is often uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or uninviting in the short-term.
So what does friendship mean to you? What do you value more? Do you hold people to a standard that temporarily appeases them, or ultimately makes them a better person?
All of my true friends, without exception, hold me and themselves to a high standard. They regularly and proactively ask me how they can do better, where their blind spots are. They call me out when I claim to be a victim or when I attempt to justify acting beneath my ideals. They invite me to think critically about the role I play in my problems. They invite me to think more creatively before I accept conclusions about the truth of the matter.
It is sometimes hard in the moment, but looking back on my life, I see it as one of the greatest contributors to the overall satisfaction in my life.
Do you know how it feels to have someone know everything about you—the true blameworthiness of your offenses, the true breadth of your failures, and the true depth of your weaknesses—yet stands by your side saying, “I am completely invested in helping you discover the right thing to do, and seeing that you act true to your best self”?
When I talk to one of my true friends, it puts me more in control of my life. I am filled with strength. I feel like I am seeing things as they really are. I feel truly confident that I am approaching life with both eyes open, and living without being deceived. I finish each meaningful conversation truly empowered. While the entire world is left feeling empty and unsatisfied from their relationships (because they are merely seeking to feel justified and have their complaints about life confirmed), I regularly stand in awe at how truly great my life is due to the quality of the relationships I have. I am truly satiated by them (because I know they are based on truth—even if that means I am told how I contribute to my problems, how I may not be not acting in accordance to what is really the best thing to do). An average person might say that it is too hard to live this way, but exceptional people know that it is a critical component to satisfaction and self-respect.
It is a type of satisfaction and self-respect that can only come from refusing to see yourself as a victim. And I could not do so without my true friends.
So what type of friend are you? Do you enable others to be their best self, or enable them to be… less? Consider well. As Bob Marley once said, “Your worst enemy could be your best friend, and your best friend your worst enemy.”
…to be continued…