The Search for Spiritual Friendship (1): Rethinking Friendship, Part I

The past few years of my life have involved me thinking and rethinking what friendship looks like. Depending on the day of the week (or the year) my thoughts have ranged from two different extremes. Most recently, my perspective on friendship has been deeply colored by shame, guilt, confusion, and self-preservation, all very strong deterrents. So, before I get into the reason for this new series(?!), I want to talk about the reason against this new series (it feels weird to call this a series but whatever), namely shame, guilt, confusion, and self-preservation.

First off, I’ll say that there is a website, run by Wesley Hill, that deals a lot with the topic of spiritual friendship. However, his website focuses a lot on sexuality and friendship, which is interesting but also specific. Sexuality is cool (I’ve been wanting to talk about it for a while) but I don’t see friendship as a stand-in for a romantic relationship. I don’t know that Hill does either, but I do know that he writes about his own same-sex attraction and the role of spiritual friendship in place of that. So yeah, I’m probably not going to write much about spiritual friendship vs. same-sex relationships because I don’t care that much about same-sex attraction per se and it doesn’t figure much into the discussion of friendship that I want to have (though I’m sure it will come up). On to reasons not to start talking about friendship again!

Shame:

Over the past two years, which is the amount of time it’s taken me to want to stay far away from the topic of friendship, I’ve begun to associate shame with my desire for close friendship. Through a series of unfortunate events, all of which have been detailed on this blog, I’ve come to feel like too much closeness isn’t ideal between friends, my expectation of friendship is ridiculous and dumb, and quality time beats quantity time. None of these things are true (and I’ll post about each of them later) but it’s easy to feel that way when a close friendship blows up in your face. This also leads into the next point.

Guilt:

Like I said, the dissolution of a relationship can lead to a lot of shame about the way things were, but it can also lead to guilt about your hand in the affair. I’m super imperfect (as is evidenced by reading even one of my blog posts) and I have a major tendency to beat myself up so it’s not too surprising that guilt plays a major role in my recent distance from this topic. Mostly, I’ve felt guilty for imposing my idea of friendship on other people, especially if they can’t handle it or have no desire to participate in it. I don’t think it’s bad to feel that guilt, but I do recognize that it has stopped me from thinking through my friendships.

Confusion:

Confusion has come in the aftermath of shame and guilt. Confusion exists because I wonder where I’ve gone wrong and if my whole idea of friendship was just flawed from the get go (it was, of course). But confusion is stifling because it makes me second guess every decision I make, which makes it hard to make decisions.

Self-Preservation:

My, and maybe humanity’s, most common reaction after experiencing failure, disappointment, or discomfort, is to board up all the windows and doors and do whatever I can to save face from now on. If I’ve already fallen on my face, I’m not interested in doing that again. If I’ve already made myself vulnerable with disastrous results, rest assured, it will be a long time before vulnerable-Danielle comes out again. And if I feel like a certain level of vulnerability is required of me, I very deeply consider running away as fast as possible. So that I don’t get burned.

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Because of all these reasons, and probably more, I haven’t thought about friendship much in the last few years. At least not as much as I used to. Every so often I think about best friends and whether or not I want or have one. Sometimes I think about settling and accepting whatever I have in front of me. But most times, I try not to think about it at all. And I’m usually successful.

Except I haven’t been recently. So I’ll talk about that next time.

DJP

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