A few days ago, I clashed with my friend of 15 years. It was rather messy and was very public, but thankfully it was a misunderstanding that has now been cleared up. When the matter was settled and things were back to normal, I remembered this post. I wrote it 2 years ago, and it is me thinking of what friendship means to me.
I consider friendship one of life’s greatest gifts. Good friends are hard to find, and are often the difference between a great life and a bland one. But what makes a good friend? I do not know, and I promise to let you know when I find out. What I DO know is what makes a bad friend.
On 10th December 2014, I was in Ibadan, the penultimate leg of my 5-day, 5-city, cross-country travels, part of my Ajala Travels® persona. I was exhausted from the trip of the day before, but I dragged myself to the campus of the University of Ibadan. I was looking forward to seeing a dear friend and sister, someone I hadn’t seen in a while, and not even the hounds of hell could have held me back. In spite of how I felt, it was a good day: the sun was shining, the air was crisp, and my stomach was full of some excellent jollof rice and moinmoin. I was excited and happy, and was looking forward to having a great day.
You see, I’m a friendly guy. I take after Proverbs 18:24a and show myself friendly, ergo, I have quite a few friends. Because of this, while I was on the university campus, I ran across another old friend. One thing led to another, and I was presented with the quite astonishing bit of news that I was a heavy smoker. I was not only informed that I was a human chimney capable of processing and releasing copious amounts of cigarette smoke, In addition, I received information that it was thought by the general populace that I was partaking in the illicit pleasures and dubious happiness associated with and obtained from burning the dried leaves of the shrub known botanically as Cannabis sativa. I was also reliably advised that I was, in addition, quite the drinker, in spite of all my protestations that I had not tasted a drop of alcohol since December 28, 2009.
It was an extraordinary, earth-shattering piece of news, shaking all I knew to its very foundations. It was like me discovering that I was really Angelina Jolie’s younger brother and the complexion of my skin was really only a minor inconvenience that could be fixed by lifting the skin at my fingertips and peeling off the overlying layer of black to reveal the Caucasian underneath. A few minutes previously, I had been convinced that I had never lifted a stick of cigarette to my lips in my life, but as she continued talking, I began to have doubts. Here was unimpeachable evidence from an utterly trustworthy, impeccable source who had no doubts whatsoever she had seen me taking a few deep puffs behind the wheel as I drove, and I began to question my convictions. Could it be that, in a moment of weakness, I had unconsciously taken a few puffs of the good stuff? Could it be that, in that fuzzy state between drowsiness and full sleep, I had repeatedly lifted a bottle of premium quality whisky to my lips and then downed it?
A quick survey of some of my friends revealed that they were privy to the same information I had received, and most of them had believed it for months. I started to believe they were right. You see, the Chinese say that if many people call you a horse, it may be time to buy a saddle. All of a sudden, all the pointed glances, roundabout questions and knowing nods I had been receiving made sense. I had been wondering why so many people I hadn’t talked to in a while suddenly felt the need to check up on me and inquire about my life and my relationship with God. I had thought it was because I had the best friends in the world, people who, despite the challenges of distance and busy-ness, had not forgotten me. As I stood on the sun-drenched tarmac of the parking lot, I received clarification: some of the people I called friends were actually complete idiots.
“A good friend should, on receiving stories about you, defend, correct, or confront you.”
You see, my problem was not the accusation. I have been accused of much worse in my stay on earth, and so it didn’t really get to me. My real problem was that so many people I thought of as friends had heard of (and/or spread) the rumor for months, and not one person among the hearers and spreaders thought it necessary to bring it to my notice or challenge me to my face. I can’t possibly imagine why. I look like everyone’s chubby, friendly uncle, and even my mortal enemies agree I’m a good listener. I cannot imagine why no one wanted to come and say stuff to my face.
It is said that I keep to myself and do not let people get close to me. This explains a lot. Among many others, it explains why certain ‘friends’ couldn’t NOT imagine me as an igbo smoker. It explains why they did not burst into uncontrollable laughter upon receiving such asinine, albeit juicy, bits of information. It is because they do not know me. Among my inner circle, any such gist would have been met with the waves of dismissal and derisive laughter it deserved.
This is neither denial nor explanation. I could go on and on, but I want to keep this under 1,200 words, so I’ll summarize here.
- You have more idiot friends than you imagine.
- Any ‘friend’ that does not confront, defend or correct you when s/he hears gist about you is proof you need new friends.
- The ones that confront, defend or correct you are your real friends. Keep them close. If they do it to your face, marry them, same sex or not.
- Some of your friends will spread stories about you, but since they are not very close to you, it will be gist about the kind of things you can never do, lacking in factual accuracy. Some of your idiot friends will believe the stories. Ignore both spreader and believer. Their suits are not alright.
- Your real friends know the kind of things you can or cannot do, and will filter gist accordingly.
- Looking friendly is not guarantee enough that people will want to tell you things about yourself. Also, it doesn’t help you get a girlfriend, which is why I have decided to grow a beard and look more sinister.
That will be all.