Monday, November 18, 2013

How To Choose and Fire Your Friends

The older I get, the fewer friends I have.

That sounds sad, but it's not.

I find that I have an ever-widening circle of acquaintances, and some of those are very important to me.

But friends - that's another matter. As we get older, I think our sense of what it means to be a friend ripens and deepens and becomes more valuable.

Instead of trying to define a friend with prose, I'd like to tell you two stories about real friends in my life.

The first we'll call Bob. I've known Bob for one fourth of a century.

Just typing that makes me feel old.

The thing about Bob and I is that both of us have enjoyed some measure of what people would call success.

And both of us have really screwed up at times - royally.

The one thing you could say about Bob and I is that our lives have not been boring.

Here's the thing...when I think of each of those screw-up moments, Bob was there. I mean physically there, even when we lived hours apart. And at his screw-up moments,  I was there too. It would never have occurred to either of us not to be.

We were totally on each other's side, even when we knew the other had screwed up.

It's like this. Say I slathered myself in peanut butter, and tried to scale the walls of the White House to launch a revolution and proclaim myself King of All I Survey.

I'd probably lose a few friends if that happened. But Bob would be there to try to bail me out (unsuccessfully, I grant you).

And here's what he would most likely say...

"Seriously, peanut butter?"

Let's call the second friend Owen. Owen is older and has been a big influence on a bunch of other friends my age.

Years ago, Owen was accused of doing something he didn't do, not really, and many of his friends abandoned him. Some of them outright abandoned him in ugly, blatant ways, and others did it in a really "Christian" way - subtly and with shaking heads and promises of, you know, prayers and stuff. Gossip under the guise of 'we really need to pray for Owen'...'can you believe that about Owen?'

("Well, have you talked to Owen to hear his take?" "No, I am sure Owen has people surrounding him. I'm just gonna pray for him").

The deal was that on the surface, things looked bad for Owen, depending on what part of the story you got.

I was talking with another of the young friends of Owen - a guy my age -  about how things looked and he stopped the conversation suddenly and said "So what?"

"So what, what?" I asked, intelligently.

"So what if he did it? He's still Owen. I mean, I'll tell him it was stupid if he did it, but he's Owen. He's always been there for us, defending us even at cost to himself. And we're loyal and we've got his back no matter what. We'll go to war with him even if he's in the wrong. We're Owen's guys. That's what friends are."

And, you know, these many years later and with a lot more life under my belt, I think that about sums it up.

Do you have friends like Bob or Owen? Tell them you love them today and never lose them.

Do you have people you consider friends but who would cut and run in ways either blatant or subtle if you ended up slathered in peanut butter outside the White House?

Fire them. Gently, but fire them.

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