When you have continual arranged contact with someone, through work or school for example, an illusion of closeness can occur. It takes a lot less effort to be friends with someone who, through their normal activities, interacts with you frequently than it does when interaction takes planning. You will find that many of these relationships, which I will call “convenience friendships”, feel genuine and easy at the time. In many ways, Facebook friends are friends of convenience. After all, what can be easier than pressing “like” or sending a quick note from your phone? It’s when life events happen that the truth becomes painfully obvious, especially when one party is more committed to the relationship than the other. When you really need people there to support you, convenience friends are rarely there. Unless of course, you are standing in front of them, because you both had to be someplace at the same time.
I’ve learned a lot about people over the past year. Not just from personal experience, but also from talking to others and endless amounts of reading. What I’ve learned is that when you are in a position of power, convenience friendships take on new meaning. Some of this is purposeful but it also is the by-product of our culture. A culture where success, money and status are so important, we innately act in certain ways to protect our position. Some of us are better than it at others. Unless you are prepared for this realization, you can misjudge your relationships in these settings and feel much closer to people than you should.
When you have something that’s important to you, for example your employment, status in a social circle, etc., you may find it impossible to reconcile information that conflicts with how you view the world around you. It’s similar to a Detective who decides early in an investigation, “the husband did it”. Information contrary to this theory is ignored, in favor of supporting the preliminary hypothesis. Admitting things were not as you initially perceived is difficult for anyone. If this acceptance challenges your relationships or your work, it is much easier to vilify someone or something than admit you’ve been fooled. No person is the summation of one comment or action. Yet we as a group, often shame those around us or simply ignore them, because doing so is much easier. If life is a puzzle and one piece is difficult to fit, many of us will simply give up on the puzzle. This is especially true of friends of convenience and those that judge without compassion. When you realize this, you begin to accept not all people are guilty, not all things that happen are just and what people tell you may not always be true. The world begins looking like a different place.
What we all need are friends who make time for us, who want to be there to offer support. Even if they have to drive somewhere or take time out of their weekend. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few of these, some near, some far. But I’ve also struggled with disappointment and hurt when convenience friends disappeared from my life. I am sure you have too. The difference is that I now know the difference. Will you?