Canoe

Some things that seem so incredibly natural to me are obviously not the way the world sees things. 

Also obviously, I wish the world saw it my way. And maybe it should. Or maybe I’m naive. 

The problem I seem to have is that I am exceedingly loyal to my friends. Stupidly forgiving. Groping desperately for them to see me as generous and helpful. My friends are my heart, and my heart is big.

So when a friend uses anything other than a simple, direct invitation to help them solve a problem- it feels like a slap in the face. Spit in the eye. It feels like the most offensive insult. I feel like this should be such a common and deeply shared way of seeing things, but I am surprised at how many people try to do this with me. This must mean they are either intending to insult me, or they don’t feel the way I do. Since I don’t believe any of my friends would intend to insult me, I have to assume that they honestly don’t see things this way.

Perhaps as I’ve summarized it above- you may be thinking that I’m overreacting, and that is entirely possible. (I am a 4 on the enneagram after all, and I love drama more than I can admit, and probably more than I’m even aware of.) But please hear me out in all my dramatic glory before you make the final call. 

To me, this would feel like a friend giving me five bucks after hanging out for an hour to pay me for my time. That feels like it cheapens it, doesn’t it? Or like a family member laying $25 on the table to pay for dinner when you invite him over for thanksgiving. Or a husband getting out of bed to grab his wallet, take out 10 $50 bills, and lay it on the nightstand for his wife after sex. Or a dad sending his son a bill after spending a couple hours at the ballpark together for his time. It seems to me that as soon as you introduce something more than friendship into a transaction, you remove all of it and it becomes at best  a strictly business transaction , and at worst signaling the end of the friendship.  Bottom line, friends don’t use contracts, commerce, or coercion to move their friends… they use the connection.

When you add anything to friendship and friendly cooperation, it displaces the friendship for me. Friendship and business are mutually exclusive in my mind. Business is services rendered, contracts haggled, and we do the work because we are obligated. But I want to help my friends, I don’t need to be forced into it. I feel like that’s what friendship is all about. I get a lot of personal joy and satisfaction from helping my friends because they’re worth more than money to me.

Imagine a friend emailing your wife, pastor, and your boss to ask these third parties to push you to help him move in 3 weeks from 2:30-5:00. Obviously your friend is emailing these other people in an effort to coerce you into helping them rather than just asking directly. Doesn’t that change the whole dynamic for you the way it does for me? Doesn’t that change the way you’re thinking you’ll engage with this request? For me, I feel like I’d be less likely to help- and if I did help, I’d show up at exactly 2:30 and leave at 5:00 sharp like I said I would, even if there was another couple hours of work to do. But if a friend just asked for my help- I’d show up early and stay late until every box was unpacked. 

That’s the difference between how you address business transactions and friends. With business, you’re trying to get the best deal. You are trying to take as much as you can while giving as little as possible. The goal is to minimize your obligations while trying to maximize your personal profit, and you get it in writing because you want there to be the threat of legal ramifications if they fail to comply exactly as described. Let’s face it, contracts are just that… a statement of the limits and terms on the relationship. They exist because you come out of the gate saying “I want there there to be a legal way for me out of this, and to not have to do any more than this contract states.” It’s essentially a prenuptial agreement for business.

But with friendship you give as much as you can, as soon as you can,  without expectation for compensation at all. That’s how everyone is, right? Family and friends get all of you, and work gets just the hours and job they paid for, right? Sure, you may work past your hours when there’s a big project and the deadline is close… but if they continuously demand more from you than the contract says you owe, then you negotiate for the raise to cover the additional workload and responsibility- or you quit. There is no relationship behind the contract. 

But you never quit on friends and family even when the workload seems heavy. Because friendship is about helping each other toward your individual and combined goals. Sharing in the joy of helping another person you know and who you value. Not because of what you get out of it, but because the work IS the reward in friendship, isn’t it? Paradoxically in friendship, giving is part of the gift, right? It works because there is give and take to get to a solution to the problem, not to simply meet the demands of the contract only, even if improperly worded. 

Or am I still just an optimistic, naive hippie that is just waiting to be taken advantage of again by a selfish individual that knows how to schmooze and play at friendship just to take more than they give?

Do your friends and family get others to ask you for help or work on getting leverage to coerce you to help as the first step in making a request? Do they go “over your head” before just asking friend to friend?

I mean… that would be weird, right?