It’s a marvellous thing the internet isn’t it? I was doing some work on a drawing made out of words this morning and I started wondering about the origins of one of the phrases in it. It was one that my mum got off my late grandmother and has become relavant a number of times in my life. The phrase is “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.”, I googled it and it turns out that it is a lot older than I thought as it sprung from the lips of Chinese philosopher Confucius some five hundred years before Christ. There is also a version in the bible, Proverbs 13:20 “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”this has become simplified over the millennia to “you’re only as good as the company you keep.” There is a reason these phrases have been around as long as they have and in vastly different cultures, the people around us dictate our reality and our reality dictates what we think and how we behave.
I’ve had a few shitty friendships in my life, they’ve come about at times when my self esteem has been through the floor. Of course I didn’t realise that at the time, it was only years later, after much work on myself that I realised just how far I had sunk at various points in my life. Throughout my teens and twenties I had one particularly dubious friendship. It wasn’t totally awful but I realised later that my perception of events were completely at odds with those around me. In my head I was the tag along, there for company whilst my tall and handsome friend worked his charm, it wasn’t until years later that I heard the same story, over and over again. It turns out that everyone thought my friend was a bit of a twat and that they suffered his presence because they wanted to talk to me. I do wonder about the world that would have unfolded where I had realised that one simple fact. Who knows? But that friendship ate away at me and kept me down for many years, reinforcing a view of me that limited my horizons.
The quality of my life has taken a few dramatic leaps forward over the years and they have all coincided with the jettisoning of people from my life, the one I’ve touched on above, a deeply unpleasant family member and the last one came about during two years of therapy. I am ashamed to say that this person took extreme advantage of my then vulnerable mental health to take around three thousand pound from me over the course of a few years. On top of that, I ended up doing things like walking twenty paces behind her so people didn’t think that I was her boyfriend, she even made me face away from her because she could feel my breath on her. This was inbetween making the occasional pass at me, to make matters even more confusing. When my self esteem improved enough for me to see her for what she was, I got her out. My therapist cottoned on to her having acute narcisist personality disorder long before I did but couldn’t say anything. That really is the problem, you can’t tell anyone anything about their friends, they have to work it out for themselves and many never do, spending their lives just scraping by as one disaster after another befalls them. If you try and tell someone that their friends are shit, they will hate you for it, sad but true.
I know an awful lot of people and there are many I will happily chat with, but I only have a few close friends. It’s impossible to maintain more than that and have any time left to make a life for yourself. We share good times and bad and help each other where and when we can but we all understand each other enough not to make ridiculous demands. They accept me for who and what I am as I do them and nobody makes demands or has expectations of anyone else. If there is conditionality in a friendship, they are not your friend. If you feel under pressure to do something, they aren’t your friend. If someone is going to kick up a fuss because you don’t attend their social gathering, they aren’t your friend. If they cost you time, money, your health, your relationships, put you in harm’s way or put you at risk of losing your job or getting a criminal record, then they definitely aren’t your friend. If you find yourself making excuses for more and more extreme illegal or immoral behavior, then maybe they shouldn’t be in your life. If you are frightened of being yourself around your friends, then you really need to do something about it.
Of course, conversely, the reason your friends are awful might be the simple fact that you are not very nice yourself…. It’s worth considering… Maybe you are an appalling human being and like attracts like, birds of a feather and all that. What do I say to that? Yay you! Go team! Embrace the evil! Seriously, if you are like that then what are you doing reading my blog? Go away! You are making me feel all dirty and soiled. Seriously, bugger off! Byeeee!
Have they gone? Good! Joking aside, there are some awful people out there and they are best avoided. When all pickup a few when we are too daft and young to know any better but as we mature, so should our friends. That’s not to say we all have to act like old codgers, there is a big difference between being childish and childlike, get that wrong and you are screwed.
With good friends you can pick up where you left off years later, some of my friendships are thirty years old now and we can say more in a look that most do with words or deeds.
To finish I would like to use a phrase that would be more appropriate if I wasn’t tea total, but it still works, we’ll sort of.
Champagne to my real friends and real pain to my sham ones.