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On Trust and Friendship

July 1, 2009

Dear Reader,

What does it mean to have kinship with someone? A friendship? A relationship?

First, I will make it known that I have had very few, if many, friendships endure for any significant amount of time, but I am young, and I recognize that friendships at my age, especially as a young wandering prince, are transient. They have an initial spark, but one of us changes too much in habit or opinion, or we have no time for each other, and we move on in our separate directions. A phenomenon that I have noticed, however narcissistic it may seem, is that my friends that I split with or drift apart from seem to be much worse off without my friendship. I know, it seems arrogant of me, but I can’t help but think it – maybe it’s what my mind expects to happen without me, but, nevertheless, they seem unhappier, and, more interestingly, hurtling towards a life of vice. And, after making some contact after our schism, it is awkward – they seem to have moved on into some damnable, unhappy sort of life, and, like it or not, my absence has some role in that. But I can’t do a thing, because, as they say, a man is defined by the company he keeps – and, oftentimes, I perceive some sort of taint on my ex-acquaintances that makes me wary of their influence on me.

I’m rambling again, am I not?

So, I’m caught in a position of half-guilt and half-relief, where I’m guilty for breaking with them, but I’m relieved that I don’t have them in my life, as they would have a bad influence on me (or so I think). I’m somewhat reminded of Rorschach in Watchmen, when he says:

The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’ll look down and whisper “No.”

Maybe not that extreme, but I still feel like, although I have the power to “save” them, or at least renew my friendship with them, I have to look down and whisper, “No.”

But I’m rambling again!

So, with all this in mind, what can we do to make sure you don’t end up with a bunch of ex-friendships like me?

Nothing. You will inevitably have to cut the cord with many of your friends, except you must keep one thing in mind…

Princiom #4: Never, ever, ever, burn bridges with a friend. You never know when you’ll need a helping hand later in life. If you must cut contact, do it peacefully, quickly, and civilly – no drawn out arguments or shouting matches.

That’s the core of it when you feel like you need to get someone out of your life. Do it quickly, respectfully, and, above all, don’t burn bridges. Oftentimes, just disappearing out of their life is the best way to get your way out of a debilitating friendship or relationship: once you open your mouth, you are playing with fire and just may end up costing yourself the relationship forever. Plus, you can just come up with an excuse like, “Life happened! I’ve been doing so many things lately that I haven’t had time to talk with you!” Except that shouldn’t be an excuse, and should be the reality – ultimately, the decision has to be that your life, interests, activities, and aspirations are more important and bring more happiness and fulfillment to you than that relationship did.

But I’ve talked enough about what happens when you decide to distance yourself from your friends, for your own sake. How do we go about doing this?

There are, in my mind, 5 determinants of one’s value as a friend:

1. Values: Obviously, if their values aren’t aligned with yours, you are probably unlikely to form a very strong bond with them over any period of time. This is what leads to acquaintances staying acquaintances and nothing more: the values of the two people aren’t close enough for a closer relationship. This one usually works itself out on its own.

2. Outlook and Influence: If your friend is a friend worth keeping around, then they probably have a positive influence on your life and their company makes you feel good. On the other hand, we’ve all had the negative friends who did nothing but drag their friends down (I was one of these people once). When around them, ask yourself how being around them makes you feel, and how it affects your mental state. If you feel in good spirits because of them… Good. If you feel agitated or unhappy, consider making an exit from their life.

3. Changes: How do they deal with change in their lives? Do they maintain a positive outlook when things are changing? Do they adapt? I recognize that people go through lows during these types of ordeals, but some people respond better than others – those are the types of friends keeping around. More importantly, how do they as people evolve? Do they reach towards self-improvement and aspire to good things in life, and sincerely seek to improve their character? Or are they lazy, unmotivated, and dodge the idea of progress, and would rather let life rot away? The people who reach towards self-improvement are the truly positive ones who have a love for life. Keep them.

4. Congruence: This is a huge one – how congruent are a person’s words and their actions? If they say one thing, do another, and mean something entirely different, then you’ve got a problem case on your hands. On the other hand, a person who does what they say and intend to do can be trusted. A person who is trustworthy is the only type of person worthy of your friendship – you do NOT want the headaches of a person who does not act congruently with their words. If they are incongruent, they cannot be trusted, because their word means absolutely nothing. If they cannot be trusted, then they cannot be anything more than an acquaintance. You never know when these people could be lying.

5. Accountability: Ties in nicely with congruence. We want friends who own up to their mistakes and are unafraid to showcase their accomplishments. Friends who aren’t accountable will always play the blame game with you – and most of the time, the target of their blame will be the nearest available target, you. Don’t deal with them and their childlike tendencies.

If you have noticed, most of the people who have 2 or 3 qualities that are on this list have them all. You shouldn’t be surprised when you say that they are your close friends. If your close friends do not fit the profile, then get the hell out of there. You don’t need their “friendship”, because, if they are the antithesis of what I outlined above, it is unlikely they are true friends, and are likely treating you badly. Fight back – walk away. Just cut all contact, and keep things on an acquaintance level. You’ll find better friends eventually, and you’ll have much more time to do something positive. You’ll thank me later.

Finding better companions,
The Prince

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