Tuesday, August 17

friendships


how stringent are you with choosing friends?

as a loner, and someone who does best with 1-2-1 intimacy, i've never been one to have many close friends. so, i do choose my closest friends carefully, as do many of us.

but how stringent are we on differences? how often do we allow someone into our sphere that seems so very different to us? even holds different values or beliefs?

in my spheres i can include a christian or two (i'm not religious), social mothers (i'm a mindful one), city dwellers, homesteaders, a polythiestic shaman (don't believe in gods), working mothers, homeschoolers, pagans, business exec, hippies, meat eaters, a vegan, a few working hard to accumulate material security, crunchy mamas, some airy-fairy sort, the very down-to-earth......

when you examine your friendship circles, both inner and outer, how many different types of people can you spot?

do you have the courage to let in someone who challenges you? someone you disagree with on their parenting? someone who doesn't need your help? someone you feel could improve their lifestyle but has no intention on changing?

we find safety in sameness. and in our own fears we find security in gathering those who agree with us.

we grow with support and love, and sharing same values or lifestyles is satisfying and encouraging. but we stagnate without challenge.

i've learnt about the most difficult aspects of myself from those who are most different to me, and from those who trigger my fears, insecurities, and shadows.

also, i have become more compassionate.

online, i have witnessed so much division, between breastfeeders and formula users, between the semi-green and the super ecoconsious, between working mothers and the i-make-everything-by-handers, between schoolers and homeschoolers and unschoolers. we divide and divide and divide...until we are left with ultra exclusive and acutely narrow types of friendships.

and this breeds intolerance. even in the nicest of us.

can you stand firm in the uniqueness that is you, and allow another into your sphere that shines a very different light?

28 comments:

  1. ~i enjoy who and what i am and am surrounded by many in my life that are far different in values and beliefs...i enjoy embracing the differences and learning from such...i have never been one to label myself or my life and how we live...no need to justify by the use a word to seperate me from one or another...i am who i am...as i have gotten older i found distinctions of "labels" to be somewhat difficult and way to judgemental...if a friend is a friend then shouldn't we embrace the uniqueness of eachother...rather that allow our differences to push away...ii don't know...sorry for the ramble...warm wishes and brightest blessings~

    ps~ you new page is wonderful!

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  2. I think about this all the time - every now and then I get frustrated with my friends who are so different from me, or even my boyfriend who is my opposite in many ways. Then I realize how important it is to open up to the world, and to NOT be afraid of people's differences.

    I'm all for differences and tolerance "out there," so I find it ironic that "in here" (in my own life), I can let fear make me forget how important it is to be open!

    P.S. Love the new look!

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  3. I have many acquaintences, but few friends.

    It takes a great deal of time to cultivate and nurture relationships and my primary focus is on my husband and children.

    I have several friendships still in existence from my youth, but rarely do I take the time to cultivate new friendships.

    As for what differences I permit - that's an interesting question. I know religious/spiritual belief isn't a deal-breaker. I've had friends who were agnostic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, etc.

    I do tend not to tolerate people who are significantly different in their parenting philosophies because it's emotionally painful to me to be around them. I empathise with the children too much and also don't wish to have my children exposed to violence.

    I've had friends from differing socio-economic groups and cultural backgrounds.

    I think the hardest challege is when I'm in a different life stage than my friends. For instance, I have a college-aged son and also a toddler daughter. I don't associate much with my friends who have older children any more. The activities I engage in with the girls just don't interest them.

    Financially we're also not in the same places, typcially. Being a SAHM limits our income significantly and most Americans with college-age children are two income families with far more discretionary cash than our family enjoys right now.

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  4. well I've really had to look at this long and hard over the last 5-6 yrs . I beleive we are always placed in each others lives for a reason even the bad expereinces we are to learn and get the good out of it ☺
    I had to deal with what I called a friendship but wasn't , that of 28 yrs. It was infact an enabling relationship .She was an alcoholic who stopped gpoing and replaced other things in place of alcohol etc. she even exploited AA , changing sponsers whenever they did not suit her needs .I was indeed a very bog enabler in her life .
    I realized this person wanted needed a mother figure in her life . She felt a good mother is one who will never say No and let you do whatever you wish even that which is harmful .
    I had to really look long and hard at my role in this relationship & cycle . I also when looking back on my life at all the positive friends I truely do have those who are real & truthful whenever this negative person was in my life the others disappeared , she in fact never was friends with any of them !
    Once I stood up and said no I will not take part so many beautiful people true friends returned into my life . Yoga , natural living etc. as well .
    Sometimes we just get lost in other peoples stuff we are not helping them or ourselves . I am so so happy I got out .
    I've about 5-6 very very close gal pals , then some casual friends who I say may know only thru homeschooling but for 12-15 yrs , then many aquiantances .
    It is good to be able to see very clearly the differences .

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  5. that's an interesting point for discussion. I guess because I've always been different, and because I am an extrovert, I am usually good at making friends with all different kinds of people. Their religious beliefs never bother me, and often inspire me in my own thoughts. Their vastly different lifestyles also make me look at my own and wonder where I can enrich it. And while I may disagree with some parenting methods, I know we are all doing our best, and our children will come out healthy/screwed up in the end no matter what we do! Some damaged adults I know had very mindful parents who just got it wrong for their particular child.

    I'm also usually fine with people who challenge me in some way or who refuse to change, probably because of my therapy training - I know people are at the level they can manage at the time (including me) - and also it is my religion that we are all connected, so "failings" in one person reflect something going on in me - although I must admit lately I have been less tolerant because I am surrounded by such strong and flexible and basically good people, I am enjoying it hugely. It concerns me that I seem to have less compassion, or perhaps its better to say less willingness to give to others who I see as needy, even if they don't see themselves that way. But I think its actually a sign that I'm developing better boundaries around myself. So I'm with Rox on that one.

    Although I absolutely agree with you about letting all different types into your life, I think sometimes it is also healthy to stand your ground and draw a line around it to protect your integrity or your most important principles.

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  6. faerwillow - you are a beautiful soul and i see your acceptance evry time i read your blog.

    greenspell - that's agreat point about the differences 'out there' to the ones in our own lives. it's so true i think. many of us rally for tolerance in the big wide world but shun neighbours and strangers for the simplest choices.

    kari - nice to see you.
    now here is another difference. for some of us it takes a lot of work to cultivate friendships and for others it comes so easily. one of my favourite bloggers has such a wonderful group of friends and is tight with husband and son.

    i make friends very easily, even with a baby and then toddler, but it takes the other person willing to go as deep as me to allow it to flourish.

    i would also find it difficult to tolerate someone being violent to their children. i guess i'm referring to more benign (!?) things, like breastfeeding or not, and so on.

    rox - welcome!
    yes, letting go of toxic relationships is also important.
    i totally agree with you on this:
    "I beleive we are always placed in each others lives for a reason even the bad expereinces we are to learn and get the good out of it."
    which is why it's always worth being open even to challenging friendships... but not allow ourselves to be abused by them of course.

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  7. funny I was only thinking about friendship myself today, after meeting with one of my oldest friends at the weekend, and realising that, having spent an entire evening together, she'd not asked one single thing about me or what was happening in my life, but I was fully up to date on everything in hers, and it made me consider, is it worth holding onto a friendship just because of shared history?
    Previously I might have just accepted it - I'm quite introverted and don't open up easily, but as I become more aware of myself and who I really am, I think I am becoming more demanding of my friendships in some ways.

    I do like to have a range of friends, but would agree that I nearly always pick the friends who think along similar lines to me, wth regard to the ones with children - I guess because when people do things differently it can cause difficulties when the families get together, and it's much easier to be with people who make the same lifestyle choices we do. Plus, it feels good to belong - I know at Chris's school I'm considered very much the odd hippie one, just for the way I dress, half of the other parents have no clue about my views on attachment parenting, media limitation etc, whereas, at Amelia's playgroup nearly all the parents follow the same philosphy and I get to not feel like the oddball in the corner! That said, I will talk to anyone, anytime, and do love meeting new people, I guess I just don't count that interaction as a friendship - few friends many acquaintances. As I get older I realise I need fewer friendships but those I have I treasure and find are operating on a deep level (generally)

    PS LOVE the new look

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  8. I think sometimes it takes some of us time to realize that being ourselves and being unique is really what is important. I have so many friends from all walks of life and I love to learn and listen to what makes them tick. I used to be a very different person.......envious of what people had or what they were doing.......with age I have become more tolerant of peoples choices and lifestyles because I am very content with who I am and what I am doing. It is very challenging to be content with our lives in such a materialistic/technological world. I take a little bit of everything I have learned from my family or people around me and from all you wonderful bloggers. I love learning and I hope my kids will feel as content and full of love as they mature. It has taken me time to learn those things, it is kind of like an "awakening"....
    I love your posts!!
    Brigitte

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  9. The older I get, the more I embrace the differences between myself and others. I am happy to say that I have a very eclectic group of friends. I learn so much from them all, and I hope they might learn a little from me. Frustrations arise at times, but that can happen with anyone.

    I think there is some comfort in sameness. There is nothing wrong with that. But the more you can be open to other ways of thinking and doing, the more you will be able to find comfort anywhere. At least, that is my theory. :)

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  10. What an incredibly poignant post. As I considered your questions, I began to wonder something. Do friends choose each other or is it just kismet that draws two people together? I've tried to "choose" friends and it never really works. And I've tried to resist a natural friendship also to no avail.

    I also have few but close friends who are all incredibly different. And, strangly enough, I feel often that people tend to assess me or catagorize me incorrectly which limits friendship opportunities. Which then leads me to wonder what kind of energy I'm giving off!

    Thank you for inspired such self-reflection!

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  11. Wow, this is powerful and so important! I've thought about this often ... the way we DO divide and judge and judge, and, well, judge some more. I've learned a lot in the last year in relation to this, and it's mostly that I judge others when I am feeling insecure about something within myself -- be it a belief or a choice or lifestyle habit or whatever. When I am confident, then I am a lot less likely to judge others. When I am confident, I am also compassionate, giving, loyal, kind, generous, positive, and so on. I am my best self. Perhaps this sounds crazy, but it works for me in this way.

    I've become much more sensitive to negativity -- both in the blogosphere and in my physical life. Mostly the way people speak in a negative language. I've been wanting to blog about this, actually. I think we are so unaware about the negative language we use in our daily lives, which is unfortunate because this leads, I think, to more negativity. I know that when I am upset, and I get on a roll, well, I don't stop so easily. But when I step outside myself, remind myself, look at the big picture, look at where the other person is standing and imagine myself there, well, it's a whole different picture. I love this about myself, that I am able to do this now whereas before, it was so, so difficult.

    Thank you for writing this. What a wonderful discussion you've stirred up.

    xoxo

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  12. By the way, I love the new look of your blog!

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  13. i can allow just about anyone into my sphere...except the one who insists that i convert to her way of thinking! as i've gotten older, however, i've found more people to be rigid in their thinking, friendships, and expectations.

    i'm not interesting in dividing, but i think that the process of connecting to like minded individuals, can result in perceived or actual division.

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  14. Oh variety is the spice of life! I am all about meeting new typs of people and peering into them. I think everyone has something to offer and I am certainly always available to give an open ear to anyone who has anything to say. I have found that generally the blogging community is pretty devided as you say. However on the countrary I have certainly found that it has opened my eyes to quite a bit. I am a pagan, and untill I discovered some lovely blogs that turned out to be very christian I would have never indulged such things. I didn't relalize all the possibilities, and I still don't but I have certainly become more open to them!

    As for the few real life friends I have I am working on being more open to them too and maybe make a few that don't have the barrier of a competer screen between me and them.

    Blessings,
    kat

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  15. sarah - well said. some great points.
    i don't think it's less compassion to withhold from a needy person. someone like that isn't actually helped by constantly being helped... you know.

    I think sometimes it is also healthy to stand your ground and draw a line around it to protect your integrity or your most important principles.

    yes! that's what i was suggesting in my last thought. to be wholly ourselves yet still be able to accept someone else's truth. standing strong within yourself doesn't mean digging your heels in, not necessarily anyway.

    yes, and the point about bounderies is very important.

    julie - hey. i do believe that friendship is a mutually supportive relationship.
    of course, all being different, some of us need to talk more, and some of us are just superb listeners. but yes, if you start to feel like you're there for that person and that's the whole relationship, it's no longer a friendship really.

    i would add though, if you feel there is something more worth salvaging, or if any of us ever find ourselves in a similar situation... consider stating your needs clearly, or indirectly if that's more your style.

    someone i knew, who i confronted with her lack of sharing, said 'but you never asked'. which was such a shock to me. i mean, i'm the classic listener friend. my natural approach is to be open and vulnerable and thus leave space for others to do the same. she expected a direct question. fair enough.
    although to be fair, she always clammed up when starting to speak about herself, so i think that stopped me asking direct questions thinking she might feel pushed. also, she has an arrogance shadow that draws walls around her own shortcomings or life problems. anyway, main point is that misunderstandings can occur simply from having different styles of relating.
    do let me know how this pans out.

    good point about conflicts between families. as someone who has been openly mocked because of my 'unnatural' choice to stay at home every day with my child, i fully understand the comfort and practicality of finding parents who at least generally align with your own values.

    however, i like the idea of someone having a different parenting style to me (not abusive though) and we both can accept each others' styles as not our business and generally support each other as people. i do have a couple of friends like that.

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  16. Brigitte - welcome!
    i totally agree with you. that's what it boils down to. if we are confident and content in ourselves, and therefore know how to truly Love the world, we don't view differences as a threat.

    Sara
    the more you can be open to other ways of thinking and doing, the more you will be able to find comfort anywhere.

    oh i love that!

    Amanda
    Do friends choose each other or is it just kismet that draws two people together? I've tried to "choose" friends and it never really works. And I've tried to resist a natural friendship also to no avail.

    how interesting. i have also had people thrust into my life. but i've only ever felt powerless when i was less confident in myself.
    now, well, i still have people thrust into my life, and not always nice ones, lol. so i do also believe in some sort of kismet/fate/whatever. however, i don't believe in sealed Fate. that is, i do believe that i can choose to let go of a bad friendship. you know?

    I feel often that people tend to assess me or catagorize me incorrectly which limits friendship opportunities

    oh boy can i relate to that! lol

    Juliana - hello lovely.

    it's mostly that I judge others when I am feeling insecure about something within myself

    yes, absolutely. judgement, that is, judging down, stems from fear. always.

    the thing with negative language is tricky, because we all have such diverse ways of communicating. and i tend to dislike very strict ideas about what not to say or how to say it.
    for example, i'm very blunt. i do tame that a little with tact and diplomacy, but it's who i am. as long as i'm not mean or uncaring.

    i like others to be honest with me, so that's something i offer. of course, not everyone wants it, lmao

    and then there are degrees of sensitivity. some people are so sensitive that they will read negativity that another person cannot see.

    when I step outside myself, remind myself, look at the big picture, look at where the other person is standing and imagine myself there, well, it's a whole different picture

    oh yes! putting ourselves in another's shoes makes an enormous difference to our view of them. great point.

    amy i'm with you on no conversions allowed. ;)

    kat
    I think everyone has something to offer

    what a simple and brilliant way to look at it.

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  17. Something interesting to think about.... I am currently at a weeding phase with some of my friends ;)
    I am actually realizing that some people are just not worth my time and I prefer to have fewer friends that I have an awesome time with + more time to spend with my family.
    I am also loving blogland and meeting so many great people here... it's where most of my inspiration and creativity comes from.
    Peace.

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  18. On the whole, the majority of my friends are somehow 'outsiders', culturally, or otherwise. They often identify with being on the margins, or are slightly outside of things. Observers. But even within that there is such diversity. I love that - I feel I can breathe where there is difference. Maybe I just feel less of a freak. heh.

    I have a teeny-tiny handful of close friends. But a wide-ish circle of friends and I suppose I don't think about the differences until they are all in the one room together, and then...well, my word that's interesting...hehehh...they are all so very different from one another. BUT - they are all embracing of difference, of otherness. They recognise each other amidst the difference. They are all generous spirits with awesomely big hearts. Unlikely tribes can be found quite by accident too...I found this particularly as a new mother, but certainly since.

    Vive la difference...an' all that : )

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  19. Very cool post. Since becoming a mother my priorities changed, therefore I've been editing certain friendships - mostly those whose moral compass doesn't support mine.
    Being an Aquarius however, I do tend to have a bizarre mix of friends....a born again Chrisian, a gay man, pagans, homeschoolers, city girls, and a white trash friend with bleach blonde hair and tight hideous clothes...lol

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  20. love your blog! you are really aware about your blog like about all the things around you.
    on my blog i will do some interviews about parenting and all the magical stuff with our kids and i would love if you would participate!
    you can read more about it here http://growingintomylife.blogspot.com/2010/08/august-break-15.html
    much love, dorothy

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  21. I love befriending a lovely variety of people to add zest and interest to my interactions in this life. I'm a conversationalist so it's intriguing to me when I find a new "type" to add some new topics for me to discuss and absorb.

    Wonderful post once again Mon.

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  22. very thought provoking… I’m very much a loner, i've spent most of my adult life on the move.. and I always feel like I fit in nowhere and yet everywhere at the same time lol. I tend to get along with people easily, yet don’t necessarily make friends easily.. those deeper friendships for me are few and I love the diversities we share.. they help to open our minds and expand our souls.. and add spice : )

    I just don’t get labels.. never have, I’d even go so far as to say they confuse me :-/
    even a group of people into the same things or ways of doing certain things can all be so very different from each other in so many other ways. We all have so many aspects to our spirit…

    so yep, I guess I can stand firm in the uniqueness that is me, and allow another in who shines a very different light… i think together our diversity makes rainbows… even among the shadows.

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  23. ella - yes, definitely quality over quantity. i also gain so much inspiration from other blogegrs.

    nettles - "Unlikely tribes can be found quite by accident too"
    oh yes! and i believe the more open we are to differences the better our chances.

    BSM - our relationships will all have some influence on our children. i don't care about different parenting choices, but yes, if the 'moral compass' is way off, then i will make a decision based upon how i think it'll impact my daughter.
    i think we get too hung up on minor differences. or differences that we really don't like but that don't have any bearing on our own lives.

    *waves to d and septembermon*

    "even a group of people into the same things or ways of doing certain things can all be so very different from each other in so many other ways."
    exactly greenwhisper. there tends to be an assumption that oh, she's a breastfeeder so all is ok. she isn't so obviously she's evil incarnate.
    one choice one lifestyle behaviour doesn't sum up a person.

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  24. What a great post.

    My story goes way back. I've always had my religious beliefs and been aware of how people affect me (I'm very spongy, so I've had to be careful in choosing my friends). I abandoned a friend in 4th grade because she took the Lord's name in vain a lot and it really bothered me. But then I became friends with someone else whose language was even worse. I guess I learned to filter it out.

    In 6th I was forced to associate with a girl I didn't like and she became my best friend. Then in 7th or 8th grade she became friends with someone I could not stand at all. In 9th grade I became good friends with her as well. One of them is materialistic and so pessimistic, but she's still my friend today.

    After that I realized I could be very good friends with people who were very different from me, and I've welcomed people of all types into my life. I have a knack for finding common ground, and a willingness to see the good in people and the benefit in friendships with them, even if I don't always agree with them or like the way they do things. I've learned so much from people who are different from me.

    I always wanted a friend that I had more in common with. I've never had a close friend who belonged to my religion, for example. I always thought that would be nice. The closest I've ever got to having a good deal in common with someone is actually one of my newest friends, my neighbor. We have similar parenting beliefs, are probably about the same amount of crunchy, and are devout Christians, though we belong to different religions. It's been like a breath of fresh air. It only took 30 years to find such a friend!

    But I love those who challenge me as well, like you! I love learning from people who are different from me. The only place I draw a line is when I have negative feelings when I associate with a person. I don't want to be friends with someone who brings me down. (Well, I've done it, but it's REALLY hard on me.)

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  25. What a nice post and nice discussion above! As someone who's lived in a condition of "identity and cultural displacement" for most of her life (currently, bicultural family living at the outskirts of a very traditional rural village), my tendency is to welcome the other and the different. About your remark on the division online, I've just become aware of the little close tribes, and it makes me a bit sad - so much for the virtual connection across borders!

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  26. Great Post! And discussion :)
    I have always responded or commented on blogs and posts that I connect with. I tend to take people as they are. We all have little bits of everything in us and that makes the world a beautiful place. I am stretched by those that hold different ideas to me. However, a person's heart is what I connect with first and foremost, not their ideology.
    I have been so sad to see divisions and problems arise online. Arguments, however well constructed rarely solve problems.
    I have seen people be shunned, ignored, and critised for simply being a little different and it's heartbreaking.
    Assuming the best of others is usually the best way to go.
    So... I'd be more than happy to be one of those two Christians you mention (cheeky grin:)
    Little bit of everything else thrown in blog readers of yours.... If the places aren't already taken :)

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  27. This is great.
    I think we always go for friends with similar view points because it's easier and pretty fun to have something in common to talk about and agree upon.
    But, I also like friends with opposing views. Like, for example... one of my best friends, from India, is REALLY outspoken. He'll argue anything and everything with me. It's really fun because we both have difference in opinion in a lot of different areas and we can always discuss them and then not get to hostile about it later. Those people are few though. I have a hard time doing this with any other people. I think I always worry they might get offended and maybe I would loose their friendship. But some say, honest friends are the best... there must be a place for both.
    Thanks for an intriguing post...it's really something to think about.

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  28. Lisa
    "I realized I could be very good friends with people who were very different from me"
    brilliant.

    i do think it wonderful to have friends we connect with on our beliefs and lifestyle choices. i would love a bff that was like-minded. as long as ourwider circles include diversity, we're always set for tolerance.

    Francesca welcome!
    yes, i'm also living ina different cultural community. and getting to know locals as friends has been a great experience.

    suzy good to see you.
    "a person's heart is what I connect with first and foremost, not their ideology"

    yes! their heart, their character, first.

    "I'd be more than happy to be one of those two Christians you mention"

    sorry, the places are filled.... okay okay, one more then. ;)

    hi Cassie. yes, i also think those friends are rare. a lot of people take things very personally, or are defensive, or just see it as rude! lol but i love a good debate, as long as it remains respectful of course.
    and a friend that's such as way, i have one of these myself, will always help you grow.

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