How to be a friend

Seth wrote a nice post called “I’ve got your back.” It reminded me instantly of two very different posts I’ve written that are about the same thing: needing a ranger buddy and character.

What do all of these have in common? On the one hand, they’re about trusting someone because that person is trustworthy and you know that you can rely on what you’ve been asked to rely on. On the other hand, they’re about the idea that pushing the envelope, taking a shot, reaching higher than your grasp, are all really goddamn hard sometimes.

Life is hard; in many places in the world it is still nasty, brutish, and short. In other places, we’ve traded one set of hardships for another (although plenty would be willing to trade places and call us whiners). It’s not easy to strike out on your own just because you have food to eat and central air; indeed, the golden handcuffs can make it harder, not easier. Seth can tell you about the lizard brain all day long to help you understand.

A ranger buddy can pull you up the mountain when that next step feels huge; a friend can help you find the confidence in yourself; a partner can love you whether you fail or succeed.

The hidden lesson here is for the supporters: you have to be as committed as the person you’re supporting. Fair weather friends, gold diggers (to use the vernacular) and spotlight rangers are worse to have in your life than not — they distract the doers, lure them into safety and then – WHAM – someone feels like they’ve been deceived and led into a trap. This isn’t just about starting businesses and creative endeavors: it’s about what “being there” for someone really means, the responsibility you have to actually be there, and what happens when you’ve decided to go and didn’t tell anyone. There’s no real difference in the potential for damage between walking away from a rock climber’s belay and hiding your true feelings; the one leaves prompt visible scars and the other takes its time and grows like a tumor.

Not one of us, not one, is enlarged by making another’s life small. And sometimes not hurting is the best help of all.

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