Friday, November 18, 2005

Post No. 40: An Analysis of Friendship

I suppose that I would perhaps offend quite a few people out there, especially those who have an idealistic perception of the concept of Friendship, my friends and those who call themselves my “friends”, with this essay of mine. For in this essay, I shall be attempting to examine the concept of Friendship from an analytical point of view. In fact, I may perhaps be so clinical & dispassionate in my analysis that people may criticise me for being cold-blooded & cynical about Friendship. To my potential critics I would answer that while I greatly cherish my relationship with my friends, I do not develop an overly-rosy or idealised picture of Friendship. Hence, in this essay, instead of writing about Friendship in the form that many people think it ought to be, I shall be discussing Friendship as what I think it really is. [Sidetracking, in my opinion, much unhappiness & problems could have been avoided if people are able to see things as what they really are and not as what they think those things ought to be like.]

What is Friendship? To me, it is a relationship between 2 individuals who find the companionship of one another enjoyable, that is they are able to obtain pleasure from being friends with one another. Of course, besides finding one another’s companionship enjoyable, these 2 individuals could also perhaps find the companionship of one another as being useful and/or beneficial to themselves. In addition, like all other relationships between human beings, Friendship could be characterised as being an “investment”, that is we “invest” our time & effort into these relationships to make them work and that we, though we may not be completely conscious of it, expect some sort of “returns” (physical and/or non-physical) from these relationships.

Now that I have perhaps defined my understanding of Friendship, I would move on to discuss 3 observations of mine about Friendship…

Degrees of Closeness

Let’s admit it. There are people who are close to us and there are people who are not so close to us. Even amongst those that are close to us, there is also the difference of who is closer than the other. Yes, though it is theoretically ideal that we treat everyone we know equally, it is not highly possible that we do so. It is perhaps inevitable that we will treat a person we know with greater affection than another person we also know as we feel closer to the former. Though we may have the phone numbers of all our friends stored in our mobile phones, we tend to prefer calling a certain friend than our other friends when we feel the need to talk with someone. 人的心是偏的。。。

Personally, it is my opinion that there are perhaps 7 “degrees of closeness” that we apply to people around us (since I am discussing Friendship, I will be excluding family members & relatives from these 7 “degrees of closeness”). They are, arranged in accordance of least close to closest, enemy, neutral, acquaintance, friendly acquaintance, friend, close friend and best friend. For those who need to visualise these 7 “degrees of closeness”, just imagine a person standing in the middle of 7 concentric circles, with the circle nearest to him/her being “Best Friend” and the one farthest away being “Enemy” and the rest in between. These 7 degrees can be further divided considering that one close friend may well be closer than another close friend or that a friendly acquaintance can be friendlier than another friendly acquaintance.

Nominal Friends

Perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a molehill… However, it annoys me slightly that people tend to call everyone they personally as “friend”, regardless of whether they are classmates, schoolmates, CCA mates, section mates or platoon mates. It is as if the term “friend” has become a catch-all label for “people I know personally”. To me, the term “friend” has a special meaning, thus for someone to christen another person as “friend”, that other person should really be a friend to that person; if not, it would be an act of cheapening the value of Friendship to call everyone “friend”. In my opinion, it is perhaps a sign of laziness and condescension to call everyone we know as “friend”.

What I am trying to point out is that though a classmate or CCA mate can be a friend, it is not necessary that a classmate or CCA mate must be a friend. We should not be afraid to call a spade a spade and a shovel a shovel. Instead of being precise about who are their friends and who are just people they know personally, people tend to call everyone they know personally as “friend”, resulting in the situation whereby they have a lot of “nominal” friends, that is friends in name only.

Different Circles of Friends

Throughout our lives, we can make many friends. It is highly likely that these friends we make we got to know at different stages of our lives and from different places. In other words, some friends we may get to know from primary school while some we may get to know during our JC days, some we meet as CCA mates and some we meet as platoon mates.

With the above in mind, it may be observed that it is highly unlikely that a person can have only one circle of friends throughout his/her entire life. Instead, that person would most likely have many different circles of friends. Some of these circles of friends may overlap while others do not.

Hence, having many different circles of friends, it is most likely that we have to balance our time & effort between these different circles of friends. We have only so much time that we can have and most of us are faced with the situation of having to decide how much time to “invest” in the many different “portfolios” (read: circles of friends) that we have. The time & effort “invested” in one “portfolio” cannot, at the same time, be “invested” in another “portfolio”. Also, having many different “portfolios” to manage, it is highly likely that people can only concentrate on certain “portfolios” at certain times while neglecting other “portfolios”.

Earlier on, if you all can remember, I commented that much unhappiness& trouble can be avoided if people are able to see things as they really are, instead of what they think things ought to be like. So what possible unhappiness & trouble can arise from people not being aware of the 3 phenomenons I have discussed? Well, one possible unhappy & troubling situation that can arise would be the mismatch in the “degrees of closeness” between 2 persons. For example, Person A may see Person B as being just an acquaintance while Person B, on the other hand, sees Person A as a friend. Hence, in this case, Person B, assuming that Person A sees him also as a friend, would expect that Person A would treat him in the manner befitting a friend. However, Person A, seeing Person B only as an acquaintance, would not be that close to Person B. thus, discontent could possibly arise in Person B against what he perceives as Person A’s “less than appropriate” treatment towards him while Person A could also perhaps get annoyed with Person B, thinking: “Why this person so like that?”. To make matters worse, it is highly likely that Person A, out of convenience’s sake, call Person B a “friend” i.e. Person B is only a “nominal” friend of Person A. this would add to Person B’s indignation against Person A’s perceived “less than appropriate” treatment towards him; Person B would be thinking: “He calls me a friend but why isn’t he treating me like a friend?”. Of course, it would be an ideal situation if the world behaves according to the dictum of: “Be a friend to others & others would be a friend to you” but we all know, deep down inside, that, realistically speaking, such a situation, though ideal, isn’t quite possible.

Okay, now that we have looked at how a mismatch of the “degrees of closeness” between 2 individuals can lead to unhappiness, let’s us now look at how having different circles of friends can also lead to much unhappiness. As I have written earlier on, we all tend to have many different circles of friends and having limited time & effort to spend, it is quite inevitable that we would have to balance our limited quantity of time & effort amongst our different circles of friends. I suppose that, with this in mind, it would be pretty obvious to all of you how unhappiness could possibly arise from such a situation. To those who haven’t figured it out yet, perhaps an example would make things clearer. Now, let us suppose that Person X and Y are friends who befriended each other in JC but Person X also has a group of close friends from secondary school whom he still keep in close contact with. Now, let us further suppose that Person Y invited Person X to join him and their mutual JC friends for a gathering but the date for this gathering clashes with another gathering that Person X has with his secondary school friends. Having not seen his secondary school friends in a long while, Person X decides to turn down Person Y’s invitation and instead choose to attend the gathering with his secondary school friends. Hence, failing to recognise that Person X has friends besides him to attend to, Person Y may perhaps feel neglected and if he was the petty sort, he would perhaps think that Person X treats his secondary school friends better than how he treats Person Y, thereby creating discontent in Person Y towards Person X. Yes, you all may dispute that not all are as petty or as insensitive as Person Y but it cannot be denied that people like Person Y exists and/or that pettiness also sometimes manifests itself even in the most understanding of people, hence allowing unhappiness in a friendship to arise. Yes, you all may dispute that it is not impossible to divide & balance our affection equally between our many different circles of friends but it remains that it is extremely difficult to do so, especially if one has countless number of friends.

Furthermore, unhappiness in a friendship can also arise when a person start thinking that his/her friends should/must be obliged to meet his/her expectations of them. It cannot be denied that we all have expectations of what people around us should or shouldn’t do but it doesn’t mean that they are obliged to meet our expectations, especially if our expectations are unreasonably high. We all expect the Sun to rise up in the east tomorrow morning but surely the Sun isn’t obliged to do so…? Likewise, it is not possible or reasonable for us to expect that our friends should meet all of our expectations. Nobody is perfect. Perhaps before we all start accusing our friends of not meeting our expectations of them, we should question whether our expectations of them are reasonable and whether we too have, from time to time, failed to meet their expectations of us. We all expect our friends to be there when we need them but they too have their own lives to live and their own troubles to attend to; they can’t always be at our beck and call. The universe doesn’t just revolve around us, you all do know that, right? We all expect our friends to agree with us and/or support us when we are in an argument with others but what if it is obvious that we are the ones at fault? Should our friends neglect this fact and still support us? Well, if you do expect it this way, then you don’t need a friend, you need a sycophant. We all expect our friends to visit us if we are in hospital but if they, for whatever reason, do not come visiting, do we start accusing them of not being caring enough of us or being callous? Surely, a friendship should be built on stronger foundations than on whether our friends came to visit us in hospital? In short, we all expect a lot but expectations are still just expectations, it is not necessary that they should be met and we shouldn’t get angry if things/people fail to meet our expectations.

In conclusion, a friendship is something special and it should be cherished but this doesn’t mean we should hide all our unhappiness for the sake of preserving the friendship. If we are unhappy about the friendship, we should be open about it and tell our friends why we are unhappy and not complain to others behind their backs. If a solution can be found, good but if it cannot be found, remember that no relationship is always perfect or happy. However, if the friendship is causing much more unhappiness than happiness, perhaps it is apt time to see what’s wrong with it and consider whether to continue it or not. All in all, it wasn’t my intention to criticise anyone but I was just stating things as I see them. Apologise for any perceived offence mistakenly taken by anyone.

1 comment:

::Child of Eden:: said...

Haha.. How I love reading your blog! Great analysis. And I do agree to some extent. Keep going!

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