Don't Test For Friendship - Just Be One
Remember when you were a kid and you were hanging out with a friend or friends and one of you said, "I dare you to _________ (fill in the blank)." If they were prone to reject the "dare" then you might heighten the odds with, "I double dare you to _________(fill in the blank)." Back then you risked being called a "sissy" or a "scaredy cat" or worse, being seen as someone who never took chances or risks like Evil Knievel. Enter now the "Social Media Age." With internet/social media challenges today you can "dare" or even "double dare" people to do things worldwide.
Some of the online social media challenges have been for worthy causes such as the ALS "bucket challenge" which gave proceeds to ALS research. Other challenges have been downright ridiculous and dangerous such as the "Tide Pod Challenge" which sent many kids to the hospital for trying to consume these pods designed to wash clothes.
THE UNFRIENDING PHENOMENON
The problem is not just that we have this new way to "dare" people to commit sometimes dangerous acts, it's that we've extended this idea into our personal lives so that if people don't submit to our idea, they are no longer friends and we then ceremoniously, via worldwide viewing on social media, "unfriend" or old "friend." This is what I call "litmus testing friends." The recent presidential election is a really good example of how it works. If you happened to support a particular candidate, then you are "unfriended" by your friend simply because they support the other candidate. The "un-frienders" have identified you by this one singular act of being unworthy as a friend. In today's environment it is so bad that some facebook posts actually begin with a "litmus test" disclaimer which often reads like this, "if you disagree with me on __________ then you can unfriend me now." Or the more polite way of accomplishing the same thing is the post that requires you to read all the way to the end of the post and then to perform the "litmus test" act. The act usually requires you to respond to the post in a certain way and if you fail to do so, then you're not a "real" friend. As our president would say, "Come on man!"
I happen to travel in a circle of people who through their lives have learned to value people and friendships. Martha Rogers is the author of Living in The World of Shapes: Connecting Through Civility. In her work she has identified how much greater we all can be when we value whatever others have to offer, but this only happens if we "connect through civility." While she calls it a children's book, I disagree. We adults could learn a great deal from it. as well.
Dr Clyde Rivers, acclaimed author, writer and speaker, travels the world as an international ambassador of love and good will and while he does great work with world leaders, in a nutshell, I've learned that he simply sets an example of how to make friends. He doesn't give prospective friends a "litmus test" to see if they qualify by performing certain acts; no he simply decides that they are going to be his friends. He makes them his friends. These are just two of the great many friends that I have acquired over the years. I too never "tested" either of them.
THE FRIENDING PHENOMENON
Robert Fulghum the author had it right. All we really need to know about life, we learned in kindergarten. One of those things we learn early in life is to "make friends," Somewhere along the way that got twisted so that the art of making friends has been lost. If you're considering "unfriending" someone or already have because they didn't vote the way you wanted or they didn't read all of your facebook post and then repost it, consider this; the bible says in Proverbs 18:24 that "a man that hath friends must show himself friendly..." Maybe it's up to you to initiate friendship. Let's go out and make some friends today. Maybe it's not my friends who need the test, perhaps it's me. Am I friendly?