The Art Of Friendship

The Art Of Friendship

As we age, it is nearly impossible to avoid gaining knowledge and insight into the world around you. Well, to be fair, that is only if we manage to take off our blinders, step away from our distractions, and look around once in a while. It’s that thing everyone has been telling you ever since you could remember – “you’ll see when you get old.” And you know what? It’s actually true. Your perceptions of every aspect of the world around you change and that teenage know-it-all attitude you had seems to slowly fade away into either a slightly jaded or brutally realistic sense of injustice. See, life simply isn’t fair because too many people are continually trying to get one over on other people. Mostly for money or power, but usually for both. It really is a shame but through all of these years I have been given here, I could either spend my time one of three ways:
With my head in the sand pretending life is only what I can see and touch.
With me bashing my fists against a wall hoping to change the world.
Or spending my time doing what I can, when I can, making my corner of the world a little better in the best ways I know how.
I figure the latter is the most effective.

I think most people fall into one of these three positions I have laid out and try as we might, we all judge people. Oh sure, we like to say that we are not judgmental people but that’s just some idealistic phrase that we heard along the way and never truly understood. We just think it makes us sound a lot more magnanimous when we throw it out into conversation. We judge every one and every thing we encounter whether we realize it or not. From the person bringing the food to our table, to the drivers around us on the expressway, to our bosses bosses who hand down ultimatums. So shut your trap, you judge people just like we all do. But hopefully, there is a sense of justice and fairness to it all. Or at the very least, an attempt. Either way, these three positions are completely valid judgment calls on a persons character. They are symbolic lines in the sand of where people stand, who they want to blame, and how they react to their surroundings.

Have you ever thought about the people you surround yourself with and where they stand? Like, really. Have you ever just turned off your television and sat in silence on your couch and ran down your list of friends in your head and wondered if you could trust them with a key to your house? If you had a daughter, would you be happy if they dated your friends? And what is it that they bring to the table to enhance your life? Again, three more things I believe are fairly accurate questions to measure a person’s character.

The harsh realization was that I surrounded myself with so many people based upon surface commonalities like the music we liked and the venues we attended. Things like having the same favorite actor or cartoons we grew up on or video games we liked – those things fooled us into believing these people are “friends.” But if your definition of “friend” is someone you keep around based upon a work schedule or a favorite band, well, you really need to turn off your television.

The other day I actually looked up the definition of “friend.” Let me give you the key points:
A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
A person who gives assistance; patron; supporter.
A person who is not hostile.

I sat there on my couch with the television off and the lights low and I closed my eyes and ran down the list of people I have called “friend” and to my unfortunate surprise, I realized just how many people I have kept in my life that did not fit those definitions. People that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with having a key to my apartment, people that I wouldn’t want to date my future daughter, people that never asked about the important aspects of my life, and most importantly, people who simply did not have the desire to enhance my life. And right when I started to feel sorry for myself I remembered that this seems to be the case for most of us. Not just me, but you too. And I guess there was a little solace knowing I’m not so along in my disappointment but all of a sudden I felt a smile creep across my face. Because I remembered the people who are still here. The people who I speak to on a daily basis. The people I am legitimately proud of. People I like texting a simple “good morning.” People that ask about my life because they appreciate me in the ways that say, “I feel lucky having you in my corner.” And holy shit that is an incredible feeling.

I guess I just spent so much of my time surrounding myself with people that I never realized that THEY were the distraction. And once you put a little distance between you and your distractions, you can take a good and hard look around and see what is missing and what needs fixing. And the older you get, the more developed your sense of what is and isn’t healthy for your growth and happiness becomes. And more often than not, it is by distancing yourself from familiar people who have become negative anchors to your positivity. And sometimes those distractions are our jobs or the people who work at our jobs or our boyfriends who don’t want us to pursue our dreams or our family members who guilt us into living a “realistic life” or people we believe are “friends” simply because they’re always around.

I guess what they should have told us all along is that you determine your level of happiness. And that the first way to improve that is by adding distance to distractions and anyone that isn’t supportive. I don’t need to tell you that hostile and negative people hold you back, you’re smart enough to realize that. But what you might not realize, what you might not be able to see because they are too busy distracting you with gossip, self-loathing, and manipulation – are the people who call you a “friend” but have no idea what that truly means.

About author

Christopher Gutierrez

Christopher Gutierrez is the author of several books on love, sex, and relationships. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Deep End, in addition to running Deadxstop Publishing. Since 2006, he has given hundreds of speakings at colleges, coffee houses and universities all over the world.

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