The older I get, the better I understand the paradoxes of friendship.
We need friends in our lives just as much as we should do our best to avoid them. Being the social creatures that we are, friendships play crucial roles, not only in our developing years, but also in our adult lives.
The world is naturally communal and, as such, it becomes impossible for any single person to flourish without closely interacting with countless others.
In fact, the definition of success revolves around the idea that affecting others – positively or negatively, depending on your perspective – is crucial.
If we don’t affect the lives of others in some way, then our lives are basically deemed selfish and pointless. While we are quick to accept selfishness as a reasonable cause to pursue action, pointlessness is… well… pointless.
We dread living a life entirely on our own because such a life holds little meaning. For our lives to have some sort of purpose, they must have a purpose others respond to – a purpose that isn’t secretive but rather one that can be gazed upon, admired or hated by others.
We live, in a sense, to influence other people. Unfortunately, this works both ways, which is why it’s better to avoid some friendships than to pursue them. The people whom you surround yourself with, especially those you trust and who are closest to you, have the greatest effect on you.
Family and friends mold us into the people we inevitably become. They don’t necessarily do so proactively, – unless they are manipulative sociopaths – but they do so through mere interaction.
We assume, we interact, we perceive, we learn and we tweak our assumptions. How we tweak these assumptions depends on how we were affected by the interactions with others, especially with those closest to us.
Family, in large part, we are stuck with. How our family members affect us and how they shape our reality begins at birth and continues throughout our lives or until we decide to cut ties – which few ever decide to do.
Friends, on the other hand… friends, we pick and choose ourselves. Or, at least, that’s what we believe. The truth is that most of us don’t spend too much time picking and choosing our friends. We sort of just end up together and cohabitate in our small social circles for as long as the friendships last.
It’s ludicrous if you think about it. We will spend hours on end looking for the perfect pair of shoes, the perfect pair of jeans or just the right color for our kitchen. But when it comes to filling our lives with the right individuals, it’s almost first-come first-serve.
While most of us have one or two close friends who truly do hold value, most of our remaining friendships are useless. More than useless actually – they’re damaging.
The majority of the people whom most people surround themselves with are people they shouldn’t be interacting with whatsoever. But they do so nonetheless.
Why? Because it’s easier that way.
Most people don’t like confrontation – especially when it comes to the people we consider friends. No one wants to cut a friendship because we don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings.
More than that, we don’t want to risk losing the friendship of the others in our small social circles. The idea is very similar to that of breaking up a romantic relationship. We are afraid that people will choose sides and that we’ll end up getting cut off altogether.
All I can advise you to do is to risk it. If those people prefer him or her over you, then they’re not the right friends for you anyhow.
Everyone seems to want something from everyone else. That’s how conversations work, isn’t it? You want something from the person, even if only a piece of information, and so you talk to him or her to get it.
Friendships form when people believe having such a friendship will benefit them. The only types of friendships worth anything at all are those between individuals who love each other simply for the company they provide.
The only friends worth having are those you appreciate for their friendship — and their friendship alone.
We often find ourselves taking part in friendships that are based on everything but love and mutual respect.
We have friends we keep around because they are fun to party with. Or because they are loose with their money. Or because they have a great apartment. A great car. Get a discount at Barney’s. Get followed around by attractive people of our preferred sex.
We fill our lives with friends we use as a means to an end. Such friendships aren’t actually friendships, but because we treat them as such, they poison us.
Most people you will meet in your life will not be friend-worthy. Most people will simply be a means to an end. If this is the case, then be honest with yourself and admit that your relationship is what it is.
Don’t pretend that it’s something else because, after a while, you’ll begin to believe it yourself. You’ll consider them real friends and your life will start to rot.
As a general rule of thumb, if the person isn’t someone you’d love to see every day of your life, then don’t treat that person like a friend.
These types of people aren’t really your friends; they just happen to be there. Such fake friendships make life for all parties involved miserable. On the other hand, if such friendships didn’t exist, then we’d never have classic films, such as “Mean Girls.”
LIFE • PAUL HUDSON