Friends and Enemies

A good friend is hard to find, they say. Actually, it’s more like a great friend is hard to find. Look at your own friend pool and select the one you’d place ‘best’ in front of ‘friend’. If you can identify a certain someone, then you have decided to be exclusive. It’s kind of like dating. Others may be on the fringe of being selected, but ultimately don’t hold that special something to earn the title. And if you’re fortunate, that certain someone has labeled you withe the same distinction. This is the essence of the best friend. 

Conversely, there is the enemy. The arch-rival; the nemesis; the one in opposition to your joy. At one point you may have tried to be cordial; to mend the barrier between you, but either you or the other party just wouldn’t have it. And it would seem that every meeting afterward has had the same ending: you don’t like them; they don’t like you; and if you could, you’d secretly like to see them fail, if possible. This is the essence of the enemy.

When I was growing up, I had a few good friends. I was fortunate to have a best friend too, and he and I have remained that way well into our 20s and now 30s. I feel even more fortunate looking back, seeing the times when we could have called it quits, but didn’t. Truly , we are best friends. And not surprisingly, the best men at each other’s weddings.

But, then there’s the enemy. That revolving door of faces I’ve encountered, ever-changing in a way that was dependent on where I was in life: elementary school, junior high, high school, college, the professional world – you name it, I had an adversary for nearly every major transition of my existence. I chose some of them; some of them chose me. I figured this was the natural way of things – like Darwin’s law enacted in real-life scenarios. Some people were just “out to get me” and I needed to get them first, if I could.

Not surprisingly, I found this type of life to be exhausting; chock full of missteps and empty victories. For example, spending so much time in rival mode can make a person into the thing he hates most: an enemy. I was a friend to many and had a best friend of my own, but how was I treating strangers? Was I someone I’d want to be friends with? Seems like a weird question to ask, but ask it of yourself. Then be honest with the answer. You may be shocked by what you discover.

A mentor of mine once said, “Enemies will let you trip and fall on the sword, but a true friend will have the courage to stop you where you are and tell you the direction you are headed is the wrong one.” 

In other words, being a great friend means taking risks with the people you love the most. You don’t even have to be best friends; just start with being a friend, first. I know many who have fallen into a less-than-admirable category – myself included. Preferring to sit on the sidelines, preferring to show up when things are good or when consult is easy; preferring to shy away from the encouragement necessary to see their friend succeed. That doesn’t sound like a “friendship” at all – one that’s reliance on conditions doesn’t hold the weight of a real bond. Over time, you may begin to see the line between friend and enemy become blurred. The primary reason for the confusion? Friends are interested in seeing each other succeed; they enjoy it when their friends have won something, beaten the odds, or conquered a major trial in life. But an enemy? They’d rather have things stay the way they are – comfortable, yet uncomfortable. Content, yet discontented. Continue to be identified in a narrow scope of existence, blinded from the possibilities of a broader horizon. They adhere to routine, no matter how juvenile or stagnate that routine may be.

I hope and pray my enemies become fewer and my friends grow greater. I will certainly find more opposition, but it’s not a future I must look forward to; only prepare. To be stuck in that old thought cycle of “they’re out to get me” sucks too much life from me. And I’d love to have more life if I can get it.

Joy: Friends and Writing

Writers tend to lead a solitary existence (insert crying face).

No secret to anyone who claims to be a writer, but to the ever hopeful and aspiring young scribe, this may come as a harsh truth. Yes, you may need to be with people less if you aspire to be a published author. But, if you’re willing to sacrifice a few social hours for writing hours, you’ll embrace a new understanding of what it takes to be a written warrior. As ridiculous or enlightening as that may sound.

But, what about your social life? How do friends – people you’d hopefully define as “joy-bringers” – how do they fit into your life? Us lonely writers need to seek out friends every now and again, but what about anyone else looking for common ground and a good conversation? Well, we live in an age of identifiable “top 5’s” and “10 reasons to know when…,” but truth is, friendship is literally born out of joy; not fleeting happiness. Here’s some reasons why – from a writer’s perspective, of course:

Friends will build your spirits, not your walls

Hanging around your friends should give you energy, not take it away. Introvert, extrovert – neither distinction really matters. Friends have a unique effect on your psyche and your overall health. And the resulting effect should be a renewed spirit, not a desire to lock yourself away.

Shared experience breeds life

Writers need experience if they are to write about experience. And friends can provide you with this crucial element if you let them. Granted, not all experience can be good, but every experience can be beneficial to a person’s growth in the long run. How does someone deal with heartbreak? By leaning on the shoulder of the one they call “friend” – that’s a start. Or how does someone know what it means to win something together? By winning with someone at your side – that’s how. Despite the circumstances, all experiences can eventually lead to a better outcome. And having a friend by your side is a good way to go about it.

Emotional Intelligence – What’s that?

In the same way you get energy or gain experience, you can also become the recipient of an increased emotional intelligence. What does that even mean? Well, consider how your friends intrigue you. They bring old news and new news with them. It’s not that every moment has to be exciting; however, there’s definitely something about them that’s as comfortable as it is challenging. And having a ‘ying’ to your ‘yang’ is a powerful force when walking life’s journey.

Isolation is not life

I’m not someone who does well with solitary confinement – ironic, considering my line of work. If I’m faced with long periods of alone time, I talk out loud. Just to hear a voice, I’ll talk out loud. Not because I want someone to answer back, but just because I like to know I’m not just trapped inside my head. One of the biggest traps we face today is fighting isolation. For as much as social media has connected us, it’s also distanced our perception of what “life” and community really look like. And no, it’s not about having over 1,000 Facebook friends – it’s having at least one or two people you knowingly can call on to give updates on regular life “status.” You know, real life status. And that’s the opposite of isolation.

It’s also something called joy.