Archive for January, 2014

The Sucking Sound of Slipping Friendships

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

After all, what are friendships? Do we really need them, or are they just nuisances? Are people too busy with their own lives and careers to appreciate and nurture friendships? Or has the need for actual friends been usurped by the ever-expanding demands on our lives by today’s technological advances?

I have always believed that friendships ought to be nourished and, if needed, repaired immediately. Of course, sometimes they can’t be repaired, in which case one should just cut losses and end the damn thing. But that’s extreme, and I believe that every effort should be made to preserve a friendship before it is cast aside.

I want to examine one aspect of what it is to be a friend. While there are others, of course, I question whether or not our communication technology has shifted the emphasis to a different paradigm of behaviors associated with being a friend. My mother used to call them “fair weather” friends: those individuals who professed to be friends as long as it served their selfish needs. They expected you to be there for them whenever they needed you; whether to chat, help them out, listen to them, advise them, or lend them money. But they were nowhere to be found when you needed them!

Back in the day, before communication technology exploded onto the scene, it was easy to stay in touch with a friend. You simply called him on a phone (a land line because cell phones had not yet been born). He, she or a family member would answer, insuring that you would talk with them enthusiastically, sometimes for hours. This was especially true for girls. Or, you would trot a few doors down the street and just walk into their house; back then, there was no need to lock doors. Once there, the two of you would play games in the yard, or watch shows on one of the few TV channels that existed at the time. Since your parents knew where you were, there was no need for them to be overly concerned about your whereabouts. And when it started to get late, you simply walked home, remembering to call your friend to let him know that you made it back okay. And this call could also develop into another long conversation.

Indeed, a variation on this scenario continued throughout high school. Wow! What a wonderful era that was. Friendship at its best. Not so these days. Recently, I became aware that I have several of these so-called friends in my circle. With one of them, a colleague whom I have known for thirty years, I have made futile attempts to reach her for over six months now. I left telephone, email and Social Media messages at least once a month during this period, but she still has not yet responded. Another example is a dear friend I’ve known for more than seven years. We used to hang out together regularly, and mentor each other professionally and spiritually. True, she keeps a busy schedule now, and has messaged me back twice in the past two months, promising to meet me for coffee. I keep trying to reach her, but it has not happened yet, and no further efforts to reach me have been made.

There are other examples, but you get the picture. I have to ask myself, “Is there something about me that is keeping my (so-called) friends from staying in touch with me?” My inquiring mind wants to know. I value friendships and keeping them healthy. And I value my friends especially. Admittedly, I’m pretty discriminating about who I embrace as a friend, so if I call you “friend,” be assured that this is a high honor for me to bestow on a person. Similarly, if you regard me as your friend, that’s a blessing, for which I remain grateful.

I’m a pretty busy fellow myself; what with caring for my family, pursuing my career goals and building an online business presence. I realize that other people also are busy, but I can always find a couple of minutes in my daily schedule to return phone calls; or to respond to their text, email or Social Media messages. If I can do this, I submit that others, including my friends, can do the same. After all, nobody is busy every minute of every day; otherwise, he would not be able to get any sleep!

I live by the adage, “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” I admit that my standards are generally high, but I hold myself to the same lofty standards to which I hold others. So if I can stay in communication with my friends, especially in responding to their attempts to contact me, then my friends can at least attempt to duplicate my example. After all, actions do speak louder than words.

I would regret deleting any contact information of my friends, but I would do so if he or she persisted in not responding to my attempts to stay in communication with them. Because if I make time to nurture my relationship with friends, and they don’t return the gesture, I must conclude that I am not as important to him as he (or she) is to me. It then becomes a one-way relationship that needs an adjustment, which I would be forced to make. Simply, you may consider me your friend, but under these circumstances, I must conclude that I am not YOUR friend; in which case, cutting the strings that bind us seems the best course of action for me to take.

And concerning the two so-called friends I mentioned above, I have since removed them from my contact lists, and have stopped trying to reach them. And that sucks.