You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. So goes the saying. Ask yourself if that is true for you. Did you choose your friends, or did you allow them to choose you? It may be that in selecting you they gave you a great gift, and that you can learn from them as you enjoy being with them. It may also be that some of them chose you because you allow them to reinforce some rather negative habits that they hold dear, and some of that thinking is rubbing off on you.
We need to be as careful of whom we have as friends as of what we eat, because we all have come across toxic people, and many of them will want to make you their friend. And the same thing goes for you — you may wish to bring people into your life because they agree with you, and perhaps some of the thoughts that you want them to agree with are not that charitable, compassionate, or elevated.
Yet we also need to be sure that we are allowing those people who are good-willed and helpful into our lives. Nothing will waste your time more completely, nor keep you from the accepting path of love and compassion more effectively, than a high-maintenance or selfish friend.
Observing How Friends Run Their Lives
You may need to observe closely how your friends run their lives. Do they seek to dump their problems on you? Are they gossips, spreading half-understood stories or alarmist “facts” about your shared experiences? Do they seek to dominate you by giving advice that you don’t want or organizing your life in ways that you don’t challenge? The point here is to see if you can spend more time with people who bring you real delight, who help you see the world as a finer, more joyous place.
You may have to review your friends carefully. Do you feel peaceful when you are with them? Do you leave conversations with them feeling as if you’ve been energized, that you’ve learned something or seen with new eyes? If so, then you have a friendship that may well be highly productive. Do you feel you are an equal contributor, or more of a receiver? Real friendships are built, and built strongly, because each person can give to the other.
Real Friendship or Buddy-ship?
For most people, friendship is a fairly shallow concept, reduced to the level of buddy-ship. Following the same teams, engaging in the same leisure activities, whether they be flying kites or playing golf: these are the things many people regard as friendships.
I’d put it in more specific terms. A real friend sees who you are and loves you even with all your faults. That is why a friend will challenge you when you are making a foolish move or will disagree with you — because a friendship that depends upon one person repressing or denying something that is true is not a true friendship.
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One woman I worked with told me a heart-rending tale about her disagreement with a friend. This woman decided that she’d risk losing the friendship forever rather than not speak up. As she said: “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t say something; and I knew I’d rather sacrifice the friendship than agree with what was wrong. I won’t agree to a lie for the sake of a friendship.” These are powerful words. How many of us would have the courage to speak out? How many of us would refuse to put up with a friendship where there were certain disagreements that couldn’t ever be mentioned if that friendship were to continue? How many of us would have come to a polite compromise?
If we take this one step farther, I’d argue that loving a friend in this fashion is a way of experiencing unconditional love. The woman who was protesting was not ceasing to love her friend. She was, instead, asking her friend to live up to some high expectations, and was therefore loving her more, not less.
Connecting with the Best not Second-Best
In this world, it’s true that you get what you decide to put up with. If you accept second best, then that’s about what you’ll get. And if you have second-best people in your life, their presence will stop you from being able to connect with the best people who are out there and the best part of yourself. You simply won’t see what else is available, or if you do see it, you won’t have time to welcome it into your life because you already have all this second-rate stuff going on.
Worse still, second-rate people will try to pull you down to their level, every time. They feel more comfortable when you’re not doing well, when you’re not happy. In fact, your successes will be troubling to them because success makes them ask why they haven’t managed more success in their own lives.
Every choice we make, every behavior, holds a perceived advantage. That’s why we persist in sticking with them. Sometimes, though, the advantage is not what we actually need.
Friendships: How We Run Our World
We can take this farther. Friendships are often microcosms of the way we run our worlds, which is why this topic is so essential. Do we indulge vague complaints about our “friends” and in the process allow ourselves a sneaking sense of superiority, rather than attempting real intimacy? We can choose to fill up our minds and our hearts with anything we wish, but are we choosing the best things we are capable of?
The wrong friends can be as limiting as the wrong career. Our tendency to hide this from our highest consciousness is an even greater danger, since friends and family are, for many of us, the reason we do what we do. If they let us down we may find we have nothing to lean on at all. That, at least, is the fear.
This article was excerpted with permission from the book:
The Path of Synchronicity: Align Yourself with Your Life's Flow
by Dr. Allan G. Hunter.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Findhorn Press. www.findhornpress.com
About the Author
Allan G. Hunter was born in England in 1955 and completed all his degrees at Oxford University, emerging with a doctorate in English Literature in 1983. In 1986, after working at Fairleigh Dickinson University's British campus and at Peper Harow Therapeutic Community for disturbed adolescents, he moved to the US. For the past twenty years he has been a professor of literature at Curry College in Massachusetts, and a therapist. Four years ago he began teaching with the Blue Hills Writing Institute working with students to explore the memoir and life-writing. As in all his books, his emphasis is on the healing nature of the stories we weave for ourselves if we choose to connect to the archetypal tales of our culture. For more, see http://allanhunter.net.