I've spent the last few months watching people get torn up and verbally masticated over the very complex notion of friendship. What is it? What does it mean? When you love someone unconditionally, are there really no conditions? And if they do something horrible and terrible, what do you do? Are you suddenly, "well, I love you and I'm your friend and all, unless you do something horrible. Then you're on your own." If someone has made a horrible, terrible mistake, done a horrible, terrible thing, torn up lives and people and the cosmos, isn't that the exact moment they need a friend the most? Does being someone's friend, and loving them unconditionally, mean you condone everything they say and everything they do?
Friendship is not black and white. That makes it very difficult for many people to navigate. That is why middle school is so hard- kids wake up to what it really means to be a friend, have a friend, need a friend, and at the same time developmentally needing things to be clear and defined. It can be difficult to grasp the fact that friends love each other, true friends love each other unconditionally, and yet they still fight, they still disagree, they are still separate, individual people with their own views, their own experiences, their own values. Individuals don't match up 1:1 down to the last fiber. That is part of being human. Actually, it is part of being.
People make mistakes. They make bad decisions. These can be horrible, ugly, wrenching, devastating mistakes and decisions. We often spend a lot of time and resources trying not to, but it happens. Is that the time you would want to be abandoned by the people who are supposed to be your friends? Would you want your friends to be pilloried, slandered, crucified, insulted, threatened, bullied, torn apart, put down, crushed, and spat at, simply because they still love you, still try to help you, still stand by you when you need them most? If someone you love did something terrible, would you stand by them and try to help them? And does trying to help them mean you condone their actions? What is "help"?
I don't have an army of friends out there. It's not how I am. I've said it before- each and every friend is precious to me, and they are my friends because they are awesome people. That doesn't make you all perfect angels. That's doesn't mean you don't make mistakes. Sometimes big mistakes. Big, honking, holy-cow-world-ending mistakes. And if you make those big mistakes, I'm still here to help and love you. Always. You may not like what I say, or do, or what is needful or helpful. Support is not always easy, just as supporting is not always easy.
When Joey makes a mistake, and I need to shut down his electronics time to help him understand his mistake, try to fix his mistake, and learn not to make that mistake again, it isn't easy. I still love him. I don't condone the mistake. I don't condone the meltdown from the consequence of the mistake. I don't condone him cussing up a storm, calling me names, flailing at me. But I do my best to help him, because I love him, every minute, every day, all the time, always. Unconditionally. Absolutely. Just as much as when he's giggling and dragging me out the door to look at the moon, just as much as when he is covering me in kisses, just as much as when he is helping his brother learn a new game- I love him.
That's what I mean when I say, "I love you guys." That's what it means when I say, "friends are family." And when I say, "we're friends", that is no small thing.
And maybe its a bit more black and white that some would like it to be; or black and white in a different way. Personally, I think it's full technicolor wowness. That's friendship for you.