There is a friendship that I had once upon a time. Although, I am not sure I can consider it a true friendship. I did enjoy this person's companionship, and I believe she enjoyed mine. But, I often felt as though I were more a "project" than a "friend." As with all friends, there were issues on which we disagreed. They had to do with the usual things moms talk about -- parenting techniques, nutrition, medical issues, finances, home management, religion, politics...
Now, I don't mind back-and-forth discussions with people. I enjoy entertaining various ideas about various topics. I usually don't mind friendly disagreement; and I am quite content to "live and let live." (Although, one area where I admit that I have no patience whatsoever is Conspiracy Theories.)
With this particular friend, however, I often had the feeling that what she really wanted -- and the ultimate goal of her relationship with me -- was to win me over to her way of thinking. I often felt that she put up with me mainly because she was hoping to "save" me from the error of my ways.
Last week's election got me to thinking about this "friendship." It got me to thinking about the nature of friendship, in general, and how friendship, persuasion, and acceptance are interconnected.
As no two people are exactly alike, it is normal to have disagreements with our friends. No two people are going to see things in precisely the same way. And, because of this, we will sometimes have discussions with our friends in which one will try to win the other over to his or her way of thinking. And this is all good.
But, in the end, if you are truly a friend to someone, you will like that person whether or not he or she disagrees with you about certain things. Maybe even important things. You will seek out that person's companionship because of genuine affection. You will actually and truly accept that person just as he or she is. You will not feel a continuous need to change or "save" that person.
At least, that's the sort of friendship I want. The sort of friendship I wish to both give and receive. That sort of friendship is a true gift. And it is, most likely, rare.
Maybe it is because I have had a few dealings with people who you might say were "not of good character" that I look at friendship this way. If I can trust you, if you are a person of good character, if you are an individual of good-will who is good to people, if you are kind-hearted, if you accept me as I am, it really doesn't matter so much to me if you share all my beliefs.
And I want to feel that you are my friend because you actually like me and enjoy being around me -- whether or not we agree on everything. I don't want to be your project. I don't want you to be mine, either. I just want to be your companion on this journey through life.