© 2010 John Casimir O'Keefe

Why do you want to be my friend?

I was asked a question today that seemed rather strange, “Why do you want to be my friend?”  Now, at first this may seem like a normal question, but I did not read it that way.  Why?  Because the question implies that in order to be a friend one must have a predetermined reason – a “why” to having friends.  When I think of this question I think in terms of a very modern question that seems to separate us more than it would ever unite us as people.

I am the kind of person that does not comes to the table with a predetermined agenda, so to have a reason why I want to be friends with someone is not something I think about.

If we think in terms of why we want to be a friend of someone, what we are saying, at best, is friendship is based on criteria that are predetermined.  At worse, what we are saying is that we are finding reasons why someone should not be our friend.  But friendships should form over time and never based on a set of criteria determined beforehand.  You meet someone, you get to know them and you become friends and over time that friendship deepens.  How deep that friendship is may be based on common likes and dislikes, but should never be determined beforehand.

What I have found is that people who ask that question usually have something in the past that requires them to base friendships on certain criteria.

There is a trust issue: In friendships we sometimes get hurt.  I have found that people who ask this question do so because they believe others will hurt them again.  And, to be honest they most likely will.  I have found that people who ask “why” usually have had a bad experience with certain people and they believe if the “prescreen” their possible friendships they will not get hurt again.  This is understandable, but it limits our possibilities.  People, who we think may hurt us, could turn out to be some of the best friends we have ever had.  For many who have this as their guide to friendships are actually asking, “What is there about you I need to be careful about?”

We only desire to have a certain kind of friend: This one is the one I have a real hard time with – friendship based on what we can get out of it.  We select friends who will help us in our career, our faith, our church, our homes or our personal needs.  We have a “mind-list” of who we think are the most important to us, and we desire to prescreen people based on that mind-list.  For many who think this way, what they are asking is “What can you do for me if we become friends?”

I see friendship as a foundation to my life and faith.  For me, friends of all different kind, sizes and shapes make for a good life.  I have friends who think like I do, and many who do not think like me at all.  I have friends I can trust and friends I cannot – but they are still my friends.  I believe that what we get from friends is what we give to our friends.

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