Saturday, March 17, 2007

Amicus vs. Animus

'Cause we're all guilty of the same things
We think the thoughts whether or not we see them through
And I know that I have been forgiven
And I just hope you can forgive me too

— from "Forgiven," by Relient K

What do you think the ideal friendship should be like? Leaving aside the fact that the ideal friendship doesn't exist (there are no two perfect friends), what does it involve? Does it involve you giving to others, giving of your time, effort, attention, presence, possesions, finances? Does it involve others giving to you of those things? A little of both? A lot of both? What level of affection is involved (that is, assuming you think affection is a necessary component)?

I am sitting here writing this a mere few minutes after coming to the realization that the stuffed animal (not mine) which at first impression appeared to have exploded in a puff of multi-colored yarn all over the community laundry room had first eviscerated itself inside the washing machine I had just used. Several minutes of picking fluffy polyester viscera off my newly cleaned clothes was yet another time-consuming reminder that things are not always as they at first appear, that things that are merely functional do not always satisfy, and that if it all comes out in the wash, it just ends up on somebody else's shirts.

Going back to the quote I posted a few weeks ago, I can finally say that I both agree (in part with the whole, in whole with parts, and most emphatically with the last sentence) and disagree with it.

First off, being friends with someone is not work, or should not be; if it is, then there are bigger issues to deal with. That is, merely being friendly toward someone (i.e., greeting them, conversing, remembering their name, etc.) doesn't usually involve a whole lot of effort beyond the effort not to be offensive. You might think this one sounds a lot more like acquaintanceship than friendship and, frankly, that is the category in which I would put most people's idea of friendship.

On the other hand, being a friend to someone is work, but most often (though not all of the time) the kind of work of which people say, "I don't really consider that work." Sure, making time in your schedule to do something for or with someone involves a certain amount of sacrifice and effort, but whether it's giving a friend a ride, helping them fix a computer, moving furniture, or simply meeting someplace for a meal, who (under normal circumstances) really considers those things work? To be honest, I think where the work comes in is not the asking, or even in saying "yes" when asked, but in offering.

Finally, maintaining a friendship very often (though, again, not all of the time) is work, especially over long distances. It's obvious to anyone who has ever moved that unless both you and your friend are the kind of person who likes writing letters or talking on the phone or traveling long distances, maintaining a relationship involves a certain amount of work. The same thing is true of friends who aren't separated by distance. Too often, waiting around for things to happen is what causes the starving death of a friendship, thus the title of this post. Amicus is the Latin word meaning "friendly"; animus is most often understoond these days as hostility and animosity, but is in fact just the Latin word for "intention." (How's that for a commentary on human nature?) My point here is the difference between friendly behavior and intentional engagement in the people around us.

All of those things (in addition to the things I have discussed before, and more) go into my idea of what friendship is and should be. Unfortunately, the vast majority of friendships stop at the first part, and abandon the other two; I do it myself all the time. Does that make me a bad friend? Hopefully it just makes me a person in need of forgiveness. The solution? Ironically: work.

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Blogger Kelly said...

Does this mean that you are now accepting the idea that friendship is work?

(By the same logic, is marriage (the ultimate friendship we can have in life (except for Christ)), also something that should be devoid of work? I think most people would tell you the opposite there, and, since that is such an exclusively intimate form of friendship, would not the work required of marriage imply that, in the least, lesser work will be required for friendships? Just a thought...)

Sunday, March 18, 2007 6:46:00 PM  
Blogger treeinforest said...

I am not entirely sure I understand your second question exactly as you may have meant it, since it seems to assume that I don't think friendship (and, consequently, marriage) involves work.

That said, I (and my post, I think) agree with the substance of your point.

I am adding another post to hopefully clarify myself a little better.

Sunday, March 18, 2007 8:54:00 PM  

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