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Friendship Misunderstood

The most common reaction I get from most of my clients is when, during a session, they pause for a moment and say, “no one has ever said that to me before,” to which I always reply, “are your friends honest with you?” To this question they always answer in the affirmative, but when I ask them if they are honest with their friends, then the usual but unfortunate answer I get is “not all the time.”

We expect our so-called friends to be perfectly honest with us but we do not impose the same duty on ourselves because we do not want to offend them or maybe lose their friendship. We do not understand what friendship really means and we often confuse true friends with acquaintances or people with whom we share a hobby. And through this confusion, we are scared to offend those we call our friends by being honest with them. So we change the meaning of the concept of friendship to fit our misguided lives.

If we have values; if we call ourselves persons of character and integrity, then our daily struggle ought to be to better ourselves and become more than what we were yesterday. If that is true, then every morning we wake up and look ourselves in the mirror and challenge ourselves to that task. But since human nature is not made for self-policing sometimes we need others to help us strive in achieving this high standard. So we call on our friends to help us keep in line and reach for perfection.

Friends cannot be truly friends if they have to walk on eggshells. They cannot be honest with us this way. Their honesty cannot come from envy or jealousy, however, if they are merely helping us achieve our standards. They are merely challenging us to do what we said out to do in the first place. If their honesty upsets us, then the weakness or the fault is within us and not with them.

If we truly call them our friends then they do for us what we ought to do for ourselves. If people allow themselves to wander off the values and standards they set for themselves, and find such behavior acceptable, then they will find so-called friends who are enable them to wander off. Enablers are not friends. But if people are honest with themselves and the values they hold, then the friends they choose are those who hold them accountable to their shortcomings as they would hold themselves accountable. That requires honesty. And friendship is a serious relationship which requires honesty. This honesty must be applied with no exception, and it must be reciprocated.

About the author

Dr. Tseday is a clinical psychologist and one of the country's leading experts in marriage, relationships, and self development. She advocates a unique and at times controversial approach to the dynamics of marriage and personal development, the necessary element for a successful relationship. Read more »

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