Saturday, 25 June 2016

Thoughts On The Matter Of Friendship

Those familiar with the `The Water Babies’ by Charles Kingsley will no doubt remember Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By and Mrs Be-Done-By-As-You-Did. When this tale was read to my school class I was seven years old and extremely confused by these characters and their odd names. It took years for the values embedded in Kingsley’s story to become clear and fully resonate with me. And again it takes a particularly robust personality to remember to apply the tenets of Mrs Do-As-You-Would-Be-Done-By consistently to everyday dealings with people; I cannot say that I have ever applied the doctrine with any uniformity . However, though I say it myself (and I hate to boast) … I make a very good friend. I encompass most of the attributes you could possibly want in a best buddy (sickening term though it is). I am reliable, dependable and trustworthy. In seven decades I don’t think I have ever been known to let a friend down. And I don’t usually suspect my friends of duplicity; I believe what they tell me which is of course occasionally at least somewhat naïve as others more sensible than myself are wont to tell me. It therefore always comes as a shock when I discover that someone I thought to be a friend turns out not to be quite as constant towards me as I have been towards them. And, perfect chum though I am this nasty situation does unfortunately come to pass from time to time. I have to admit that I am very easily duped. Instead of believing what is open and obvious for all the world to see, when a friend lets me down, deceives me, I look around for an explanation for their behaviour because I am most unwilling to believe the worst of them. Faithlessness from a friend is extraordinarily painful and can never be adequately explained; it must simply be endured. I imagine by now that you are thinking that I trudge through life with `doormat’ tattooed across my forehead and you could be forgiven for reaching that conclusion. But pause for a nanosecond because there is an addendum to this little homily. Although I make a superlative friend, I do not make a very good enemy. I harbour resentment and hanker after revenge and am quite unable to dismiss the wrong done to me. It frightens even myself and it matters little how frequently well meaning people tell me to forget the hurt and move on with my life. I am not good at taking sensible advice and I am incapable of moving on until I have exacted a suitable retribution upon the wrongdoer. It’s not a nice trait and I am not proud of it. Some of the payback I have been involved in over the years would make your hair curl and I shudder when I give it a cursory glance. Fortunately these matters only ever get a glance that is perfunctory to say the least because the odd thing is that I never suffer pangs of conscience. There, I’ve said it! As long as I sincerely believe that the payback was deserved then I sleep very easily at night. It isn’t admirable but at least it’s honest - never mind the shouts I hear of `what of integrity?....what of morality? …what of ethics? ` I find I can simply abandon all thought of such matters. I cannot help thinking, however, that none of this conscience angst would be necessary at all if only others behaved towards me as I invariably behave towards them. As I said, at friendship I am superb!

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