Friends with benefits

Except, what sort of friends don’t come with benefits?

If they don’t are they really your friends? I’ve talked a lot about romance and relationships over recent weeks, but I want to pop across the fence to explore emotions of perhaps a more challenging, and certainly less spoken of, kind. Those you share with your friends.

I give a lot of time in my head to thinking about someone who I might be interested in and rarely a second thought about who I class as my friends. And while romance is a messy business at least it has a clarity and definition that is largely missing with friendship.

A romantic relationship can be clouded with confusion and aching with fragile emotions, but the emotions are identified and the parties to the relationship are hopefully limited. And although people talk about falling in love and stumbling into something as though it happens by accident, I suspect there is always an element of intentionality involved.

I recently read “Safe People” by Henry McCloud and John Townsend. I was slightly suspicious as it is what I would class as a ‘counselling book’. And it is. But all the same they make some very challenging points. How much thought do we really give to the affect the people around us have, do they help us grow, do they stretch us, force us to be better, do they cause us to love ourselves or love each other? Do they ask for our service or help us serve?

I’m aware that I’m probably not what they would describe as a Safe Person. I am too self centred, I am too concerned about getting everything right. I use friendships for what I can get out of them rather than what I can give. On occasion I want to rescue, and on others I am the one in need of help.

But then again, I’m not sure any of us are completely safe. I think each of us tend towards narcissism at times. Each of us lack the strength of character to love completely and selflessly.

Friendship is too accidental, too often it’s just the people we happen to be around. For me it sometimes comes down to who will have me. And that’s not left me feeling able to be picky.

I don’t think it’s about dumping our current crop and trading them in for better models. Otherwise the scrapheap would be overflowing.

So how do we grow safe together?

We write a story together. We learn that we are not just living for the moment, that it’s not just about the enjoyment of now, but about the place where we are heading.

I want my friends to make me a better person. I want them to call me out when I am an idiot, and love me when I am falling to pieces. I want to laugh with them, I want them to cry with me, I want to know that even when my worst sides turn to face the world they will not walk away.

But what is the destination? What is the script of the story we write? And perhaps most challenging of all, who are we letting do the writing? Throw me your thoughts, we’ve got a little way to travel with this topic. Next time I’ll pick back up on the idea of conflict, and how this comes into play.

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