OK, I admit it. I’m rich. Rich in health. Rich in wealth. And rich in family and friendship. Although I don’t know exactly what friendship is, I have lot of friends. I mean dozens of them. And they aren’t just friendly acquaintances but individuals I know well and care about, men and women who could have my help and attention in a second just by asking. And I’m certain they’d do the same for me.
So if I wanted to define friendship based on my experience of it, I’d say that it is a relationship of good intent. A good friend is someone who wishes you well, who cares about your problems, who enjoys your triumphs, and who will sacrifice for you. The best friendship is mutual and reciprocal, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Some friendships — some good friendships — are one-way affairs.
I have friends whom I care about but who don’t care so much about me. I am interested in their happiness and progress in life and do what makes sense to help them. They see me as some sort of privileged resource — a person to take advantage of. This kind of friendship is usually considered bad — and it may indeed be. But it doesn’t feel that way to me. I enjoy this kind of friendship completely. Perhaps, as some say, it’s because giving feels so good — and maybe they are right.
But it begs the question: How does this kind of selfish friendship feel to the other person? How does it feel to “like” someone because you hope to get something out of him? How many warm moments do you get from a relationship that’s based on taking rather than giving? Here’s another somewhat silly character test (to follow last week’s test on manners in Message #581) that you can use to determine whether you are (or someone you know is) a “what’s-in-it-for-me?” type of friend.
How strongly do you identify with the following comments:
1. “When I am introduced to someone, I am primarily concerned with that person’s importance — financial, political, commercial, etc. — to me or my world.”
2. “If I meet someone who has nothing to give me or teach me — or who can’t even amuse me — I act civilly but coolly.”
3. “The best thing about having friends is that they are willing to listen to my problems.”
4. “The next-best thing about friends is that they will do business with my honey/spouse.”
5. “Another value of friendship is that if I get into serious financial trouble, my friends will be financially capable of helping me out.” Rate yourself (or your friend) on a scale of 1 to 4 for each of the above statements, 4 representing “strongly agree” and 1 representing “strongly disagree.”
If you scored a perfect 20, consider yourself on your way to a major career in politics or Hollywood. (I’m guessing.) If you scored a perfect 5, you will be happy for the rest of your life. If you scored somewhere in-between, decide for yourself which direction you want to move in.