OK, part II of friends.
When I say it’s important to have friends who share your values, I don’t mean have friends who are carbon copies of yourself. A friend of mine recently posted on her blog about a growing (or seemingly growing) community of conservative Christian women who are very insular – they’re really only friends with others who go to their same church, who all cover, wear skirts, can their own food, homeschool, whatever. They have few social contacts outside of that circle. Yeah, that’s not what I’m talking about.
I mean more like, check your key values, and seek friends who share those values. And know which values you share with which friends.
Clearly, most of my friends share SOME of my values, but not all. I think 90% of those who read this blog who I know personally disagree with nearly everything I say about politics and religion. But even though we may disagree about those things, they share my values about parenting, family, and general lifestyles (um, as in, nobody thinks it’s odd that I use reusable wipes instead of TP). And, on top of that, they’re all wonderful, generous, awesome people.
And I have some close friends who also share my values re: religion and politics. And when I have concerns that have something to do with morals, religion, or politics… those are the friends I go to.
Here’s an example of what I mean. I am a Christian, and there are certain things I’m really supposed to be doing because of that. In recent years, I was struggling with a personal issue and at the root was a matter of feeling GUILTY vs feeling CONVICTED. If I could straighten that out, I could figure out the problem that was vexing me. At that time (pre-kids), I was close friends with a girl I worked with and we got to chatting about the problem one day… but the conversation was ultimately fruitless. She gave me advice that, in my heart, I knew wasn’t in keeping with my moral or religious beliefs.
It was in talking with a group of online friends that I figured out it was a matter of my confusing feeling guilty with feeling convicted. And one friend in particular gave me some great advice about the issue. And another friend gently pointed out to me that my original suggested solution (granted, a vengeful one) was all wrong.
Talking with a person who did not share my worldview re: religion and morality was fruitless for me. If I had been less discerning, it could have been disasterous.
Another example, a little silly. Let’s say Jenny is broke. She talks to her friend Bruce about not having enough money to buy her son something for his birthday. Jenny is a decent person, but desperate. Bruce doesn’t share the same moral values as Jenny, and he tells her about how he’s started stealing to stretch his dollar on the months that there’s just not enough. Jenny decides to do this, too, and goes to prison for the rest of her life. The decision was clearly hers, but she was following bad advice. OK, I got a little carried away there in my morality play, but you see where I’m headed, right?
If you surround yourself with people who share your values, they are less likely to steer you wrong. They are less likely to influence you to do things against your morality in your weakest moments. They will be more likely to remind you of your values when you suggest things that are against your morals.
Last installment tomorrow on Friends As Cheerleaders.