When I think about caring for my friends, I tend to think not just about how I might be able to help one friend, but how I’ll be able to help all my friends; and as such to try and figure out how I might be someone who is always ready to help friends in need at any time. As such I’m a person who commonly doesn’t like to say “no” to someone and so immediately commit myself to helping people if they ask me for help. This isn’t a particularly bad thing, because after all you’re meant to be there as a friend so that you can be called upon for help when needed.
However, there have been many times where after I’ve helped someone, I was left with a feeling of discontent because in hindsight it looked as if I was being used. I don’t really want to bring up specific examples to subject them for scenario analysis, but let me give some simple generic examples that have probably applied to us at some point in our lives. Things such as people who come to you to borrow money but don’t sound like they have an intention to return that debt, and people who “borrow” your homework simply because they didn’t do it.
Now I know these are minor things, and I reckon most of us have subjected ourselves to this on countless situations. We lend money to our friends without expecting them to pay us back (provided it was a small enough sum), and we share our homework with them though we know they put no effort in doing it. And we do these things freely because we like to think that our friendship with the other person extends way beyond something as minor as money or academic marks – in fact we probably know so, and that’s why it doesn’t really bother us (too much). Another reason to why we overlook these things is because they have a low cost; we are not disadvantaged from giving away a few dollars.
But when I think of things that make me feel like being used, they usually revolve around something costly. namely “time” – time being used to talk to that person; time spent thinking through how you may help that person; and time spent actually helping that person with their problem, including whatever energy and other resources you need to expend for them. What exactly makes you feel “used” at the end of helping that friend? If I contrasted the times where I helped a friend through a tough situation and either felt “used” or not at the end of it, I think the difference between the two is this: there was no desire to build on the friendship; and, to a lesser extent, there is no intention of wanting to repay the debt in some way. Let me address the debt thing first since it’s a smaller matter.
I know I don’t want to think it myself (and I’d rather speak on my own behalf rather than what you might also feel or not), but when I help someone, I have an inherent longing for that person to “return the favour”. Of course friendships aren’t about keeping score against one another (seeing who owes how much to the other person), but I wouldn’t tend to help a friend unless I knew they would somehow feel obliged to help me back at a later point in time. And through this, it is possible to “not keep score” because two friends who are committed to helping each other out simply lend a hand whenever they need to. Even if I didn’t need a friend helping me often, I would be happy to help them over and over again if I knew that for the one time I’ll need them in the future, they’ll be there for me. As such, as long as we’re fixated on simply doing good, there is no measurement for “debt” – we are, in some sense, always in debt to each other.
That leaves me to the main issue I want to tackle: being “used” by someone because in helping them with their problem, they had no desire to build upon our friendship. I didn’t really pick up on this until recently, but it does seem to fit because working through problems together with a friend is what builds that relationship up. Wanting to take away this element of building on a relationship makes it no longer a “friendship”.
Suppose I wanted to borrow homework from you and I said to you:
“Hey can I borrow your homework to copy?” and you reply to me with:
“Okay sure, are you struggling with this course?”, you would probably feel hurt if I then replied with:
“I don’t want to answer that, just give me your homework.”
What is wrong here? The act is simply lending homework, which I would still think at this point is a small thing to ask for. But I think the problem is that there is no desire for me (in the above scenario) to communicate and build on the relationship. It’s like I wanted to distance myself from you, to not treat you like a friend, but to have the benefits of a friend. And that is what generally makes me feel used by some of my “friends” in the past few years. I’d spend my time and energy on a person helping them, but after the incident, we didn’t become closer friends; in fact, that friend often “ran away” and in fact our relationship went backwards instead of forwards.
Here is my paragraph of ramble here before I return to an objective view on the topic. It hurts to have spent so much effort on a friend, thinking you’re helping them, thinking that they’d be able to trust you more, thinking that you matter as a person because you served a purpose in someone else’s life. But at the end of the experience, your expectations of thinking that you’ve grown in your relationship with a friend becomes shattered when they suddenly start treating you less like a friend than before. It makes me feel like the whole ordeal was, to some degree, a waste of time and energy; and sometimes it would’ve seemed better to have not helped that friend because I frankly “lost” a friend in the process; kind of a strange concept to get my head around. End rant.
Now I know there is more to the situation than what I had just described it to be. And we aren’t really acting as “ourselves” when we go through hard times. When we have troubles, I’m sure we’d need someone more desperately to help us, and when things are fine, we no longer need those people around us as much. I, myself, have probable been in that position before, the one who’s turned my back on my friend’s who have helped me at critical points in my life. All in all, the one thing I want to keep reminding myself (and I guess everyone else here through this post) is that we are all responsible for our actions no matter how “bad” we may have felt in our down times. We need to be prepared for a time when we can pick ourselves back up and lend our strength to the people who had helped us; there is a debt that needs to be repaid.
To the people whom I’ve neglected to acknowledge your help for me over the years, I do sincerely apologize and I do pray that I can remember your kindness (if you don’t want to remind me yourself) so that I can try to return the favour for that time. And to the people in the opposite category, though there aren’t many of you, I’ll be honest and say that I still hold a bit of negativity towards you, not because I desire you to return something materialistic to me, but simply because it is your friendship that I desire back.
By the way, I know this sounds like moody post; but I can assure you that it’s just a small thought on my mind. I just thought it would be nice to post something on the “negative” side for a change since I haven’t done so for a long time. That’s just to show that my life isn’t always a happy one as many of my posts this year would depict, but that everyone has their own struggles.