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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Essence of Friendship

The essence of friendship is to have the best interest of your friend as a paramount objective.  This flat-out means that you may disagree with, anger and even work counter to the wishes of your friend if doing otherwise would be counter to their best interest.  There is a phrase “you’ve got my back.”   It’s worth considering the implications of this phrase.  Does this mean that one must support their friend in whatever they do—say in committing murder?  Obviously, being a friend sometimes means withholding support and can even mean intervening to prevent the realization of a tragedy.  Of course, it is earnestly hoped that on most all occasions affirming friendship will entail pleasing the friend while coincidentally operating in their best interest.  This is commonly the case and over time results in strong feelings of fondness and bonding often found in kinship.  This all may be obvious, but in practice it can be very difficult to put the best interest of a friend ahead of pleasing them when that proves necessary.  This calls into play the rule of reciprocity.  Say, someone gives me candy—an apparently friendly act.  I am pleased by this and naturally want to repay if I can their obvious efforts to please me.  I can become in a real sense indebted to them—often all out of proportion to the original gift.  This is a very common phenomenon in human behavior and affects gang life as surely as it does national politics.  It is devilishly difficult to run counter to the gravitational force of returning favors.  Yet the greater responsibility called for is not to reciprocate with irrational and misdirected generosity but to loyally adhere under the disciplines of love to the essence of friendship. 

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