As is explored in this Guardian article about friendship, people have widely differing ideas and expectations of what having friends is all about. For today, I’d like to look at the issue I alluded to last week of enlisting the support of our friends as we make changes to ourselves.
Jim Morrison said a friend is “someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself” and this seems to me wonderful. My own experience has been that such people are extremely hard to find, though I suspect this may be largely because I practically never allow myself that freedom. On my journey through life, I have made friends with people who responded favourably to the me I was at the time and these relationships have generally not lasted through any significant changes I’ve made. In order to reinvent myself, I’ve had to leave behind the friends I had before and make new ones, who meet me on the ground I inhabit in my new incarnation. Most of my former friends didn’t overtly resist my changes – although some did – but I found it easier to start again and not have to keep explaining and justifying why I wanted to do things differently.
There’s a whole big world out there, full of potential friends. If your friends are holding you back, clinging to the old you, it’s got to be better to let them go than to stifle your own need to change. You’ll find others who appreciate the new you.
Conversely, of course, if you’re uncomfortable with the changes a friend of yours is making, try allowing that person total freedom to be him- or herself and see what happens. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak your mind if your friend is going off the rails – the changes I’m talking about are in the person’s interest, not a result of degeneration. I very much like Jim Morrison’s definition but I think this one by American businessman Arnold H Glasow is even better: “A true friend never gets in your way, unless you happen to be going down.”