By David Yep
I was talking to a young man the other day. We’ll call him Fritz to sound more Austrian, although I don’t know a single young man here in Austria named Fritz. Anyway, it was a normal conversation, nothing complicated, yet it taught me something important about friendship.
One of his friends, Joe, occasionally makes fun of the girlfriend of another friend, Kurt. Fritz notices that Kurt is hurt by the joshing. What amazes Fritz, however, is that Joe doesn’t even realize how he is hurting Kurt’s feelings. Fritz’s reflection was: “It’s so cool that I notice things that others don’t notice.”
So I asked him: “What are you going to do about it?”
“Hmmm…?” He wasn’t sure. How could he make Kurt feel better?
So I then asked him what a “true friend” would do. Kurt was temporarily forgotten. Well, a “true friend” should probably let his friend know that the jokes are hurtful. Suddenly, the “problem” that needed solving was Joe. What could he do for Joe?!
Sometimes we may be afraid to tell someone what we think of them or correct them for something they do wrong. Maybe we are afraid that they will be upset. Maybe we don’t want to hurt their feelings … or get a punch in the nose, depending on the other’s temper.
Sure, sometimes. But often something else is lurking there in the darkness: sometimes we don’t point out a weakness to someone or tell them what they could do better, because we really don’t want them to be better.
We get a kind of secret satisfaction from seeing our neighbor’s weaknesses because then we feel more satisfied about our corresponding qualities. When I see others’ shortcomings, I think sort of smugly that maybe I’m not so bad off after all. Sounds childish, but at its roots is pride.
We are all in a race and we all want to win, right? And if I want to win, I want the others to lose.
Wrong. More than a race, you have to think of friendships like a scaling team. We seek to help one another climb higher, be better, and ultimately to reach our common goal: heaven. Friends truly want the best for each other, friends help each other. I am not afraid that I will be any less important, special, unique … by raising my friend up: he goes higher, I go higher too.
Fritz’s attitude with others in general is this: “I enjoy having this quality that others don’t have because I feel myself ahead of them.” But when Fritz thinks of his friend Joe and of their friendship, he knows he has a golden opportunity to help Joe become a better person.
In the end, Fritz did tell Joe, and they have both grown because of it.