On Being a Friend

I spent many of my formative years away from civilization. My father had a Voice From Heaven call him to a far-away country. I overheard my mother tell people to "Find out what God wants you to do, and do it." I adopted both goals as my own.

I couldn't do much about the Voice From Heaven -- which didn't happen to me as it did my father -- but I did develop a value system around serving God. Being away from the factory educational system, I also didn't learn double-think like the drones. OK, they aren't really drones, but they are far more like each other than any of them is like me. By the time I was finally mainstreamed into the education factory, I was already so far off-track independent, I never did recover the assembly-line way of thinking.

There are a few other people like me in the world -- weird, driven non-conformists (I read about one of them in WIRED magazine every now and then) -- but none with my focus on serving God. Some people have the focus on serving God, but they went through the assembly line. As a result, there really isn't anybody I can form a symmetrical peer-to-peer friendship with. It's been that way all my life.

Every once in a while, somebody comes along who feels like they want to be my friend, and it develops into a kind of mentoring relationship for a while -- and then they grow up, or their interests change, and they move on. It's probably better that way: they need to develop balance, and I need protection from getting too cocky.

One of these, "Mark" never did really learn to think for himself, he just bounced around from guru to guru. I think we fell apart after he got into a good church, and the spiritual leadership there was promoting different priorities than I was. That's not bad, but Mark didn't have the discernment to know what was Biblical and what was just cultural. Unfortunately, I didn't have the discernment to back off and let him go with the group. It's not my way of doing things, and I don't always recognize that other folks are fundamentally different, not merely trainable. Mark was not even teachable.

Another one, "John" got involved with his blended family. That's got to be the hard way to do family life, what with absentee parents competing with step-parents for control. I have no personal experience with those kinds of problems. We stopped being involved with each other.

"Pete" took a shine to my intellectual pursuits. However, when you spend as much time as I do tightly focussed on probing the depths of each issue, there just isn't enough time to cover a lot of breadth. Essentially, I'm a very boring person, too boring for Pete. He got angry over some misunderstanding, got vindictive, and then it was over. He tried to resume friendly relations, but he was unwilling to address the outstanding problems.

"Sam" was several years younger than I, but somehow figured that his second marriage or business acumen or something (I don't know what) qualified him to tell me how to repair my relationships with people. I guess he did not understand that the problem is that I'm different, not that I'm refusing to see his point of view. He also kept bringing in obsolete events, as if they were relevant. How can I relate to a guy whose eyes are tightly shut when he tells me about my vision failings?

I would like to be somebody's friend, but not if they want me to give their unfounded opinions priority over God's Word.

I would like to have a friend, but not if they want the friendship to be symmetrical on their say-so instead of merit.

I think having friends is a wonderful idea, provided that the relationship is beneficial to somebody, and not an unmitigated drain on all parties. We need to be able to recognize when it's not working, and either make the necessary changes, or else politely say goodbye. I'm not very good at that. My most recent "former" was even worse than I am.

Oh well.

Tom Pittman