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The price of friendship – Guest post by Nancy Zimmerman July 26, 2008

Posted by Raul in Blogathon 2008, friends.

This post was contributed by Nancy Zimmerman, who blogs at Nancy Zimmerman: A Money Coach

I’m a money coach, and obviously have had hundreds of conversations about how people handle their money. We talk about values and about how their spending aligns – or doesn’t – with their values.
We talk about objectives, and whether their spending habits will support – or not – those objectives.

In short, we work together to increase the client’s ability to be strategic and intentional with money.

I had a thought the other day. In our culture, we don’t often do the same for friendship. A lot of the time, we are friends in a happy, but haphazard, way. If the relationship is pleasurable (things in common, personality mix works) and convenient (geography and time works) the odds of the friendship sustaining over time are reasonably good.

In short, if things fall in place naturally and easily, we have friends.

But what about if there is a price to be paid, for the friendship?

What if the person has an aspect of their personality that deeply bothers us, or even hurts us?
What if the person’s schedule or geography makes it difficult to connect, in our own busy lives?

Our response is often to pull away from the friendship.

I wonder what the opportunity/cost is here, to use economic terms again.

Much has been written about commitment and romance, but we don’t here a lot about commitment and friendship. I wonder: if we got better at the latter as a culture, we we get better at the former?

What about our friendships? If another person has opened him or herself to me or you – by sharing their personhood, by letting us “in” on areas of their life, by connecting to us in some way: what price are we willing to pay? What value do we place on the friendship?

Often, a price we need to pay is forgiveness. As the intimacy increases with a friend, so does the likelihood that something will not work: That some aspects of us will not respond well to an aspect of the other.

In my own life, one of my most valued friends has an issue with lateness. Time and again, I am left stranded – and livid – waiting an hour or longer past the agreed time. I feel insulted and furious. Yet this friend is loyal, would come to the hospital at 3am if needed, and time and time again offers her wise insights after listening to me go on (and on) about something I am grappling with. The late issue very nearly cost us our friendship. It’s still an ongoing frustration.
And yet, this friend is worthy of my love and ongoing offer of friendship (and really, which human life isn’t?) despite this one crazy-making aspect.

As in romantic relationships, the only solution is the price of forgiveness. And not just once, but every.single.time it happens. Christ was once approached by one of his apostles, who was thoroughly pissed off by his brother. “How often,” the offended brother asked, “must I forgive that dude? Seven times?” (note, he was clearly keeping track!) Christ’s answer: 70 times 7. In other words, as often as it takes to keep the relationship going.

A very high standard, indeed. Would we pay that price?

Another price we often need to pay is inconvenience. I’m not sure where the balance is between setting our own boundaries, and self-care v. inconveniencing our life to sustain a friendship, but I suspect we frequently opt out of acts of friendship that are inconvenient. I know I do. My life is full, I have responsibilities, and gave away my car a few years ago. So for example, if the friend moves out of Vancouver proper, odds are not strong that I will continue to invest in the relationship. And yet, again, this human is priceless. Why then, will I not pay the price of an extra hour of commute time, as required to sustain the friendship? Or what if the best times to connect by phone require me to get up earlier or stay of later?

I don’t have answers for this. But I wonder what the effect would be both on individual character growth and the way in which we experience life, if we adopted a much deeper sense of intention and commitment with our friendships?

And resolved to pay a higher price than easy & convenient for all of our friendships? And I wonder what the effect would be on our culture as a whole?

Some thoughts at 4:33 am from a money coach πŸ™‚

Nancy happens also to be a good friend of mine who lives in the Strathcona area, and therefore, is very passionate about issues related to homelessness and the Downtown East Side. Kudos to her!



1. schedule of values - July 27, 2008

[…] about how people handle their money. We talk about values and about how their spending alignhttp://hummingbird604.com/2008/07/26/the-price-of-friendship-guest-post-by-nancy-zimmerman/Schedule of values – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe schedule of values is a detailed statement […]

2. Karen - July 27, 2008


The topic of your post resonates with me deeply. I’ve been having a lot of drawn out internal (and some involving other people like my friends πŸ˜‰ conversations about the nature of friendship as it relates to my own self-growth. I’ve been finding that the people I reach out to don’t necessarily reach out to me much, and I’m at odds as to how I interpret that. These are people I’ve known for 10+ years, and somehow I’m much closer to my other friends who are in New York and Manitoba. They are also the sort of people that probably would not feel comfortable straight-up telling me what they don’t like about me, which just spirals the self-doubt into ever-expanding circles…

So I’ve decided to stop with that and give my time to those who indicate that they enjoy the value I bring to them, and perhaps put more time into the people who really do seem to get value from the time I spend with them. I also recognize that people bring value in ways that I might not always be looking for – I try not to jump to conclusions. It’s the radio silence – the seeming apathy – that really gets to me, over a long period of time, seeing as there are so many methods of contacting me available.

But it is such a tangled mess. So much of the time I second-guess whether I’ve been blacklisted for something I said or did, and realized that if who I am is not worth someone’s cup of tea, then I move on from the energy sinkhole.

3. Maktaaq - August 4, 2008

This was a very nice post, Nancy. I really appreciate this, as I have been on both sides of the friendship commitment area. I agree with the commuting idea – it’s a big issue for friendships in the Lower Mainland and something that shouldn’t be such a deal breaker. I am shocked that some Vancouverites refuse even to leave the historical Vancouver boundaries. (East to Commercial and south to 16th, is it?)

Then the whole lateness thing. I had a very good friend who often kept me waiting, once for four or five hours on a Granville Street corner in the winter. The reason I waited for so long was that, when I checked in with her parents, they reassured me that she was on her way and to keep waiting. It must’ve been a hell of a bus ride, as she never made it. But I forgave her and it’s something I always expect for her. But there’s no way I would sever that relationship with her because of her chronic tardiness. I think it’s stupid to throw out someone on the basis of something that only really inconveniences; but another local blogger wrote about this in the last few months and all the comments were about severing any relationship with the chronically late. Wow, people obviously have enough friends if they don’t care to lose someone over this.

Anyhow, my few friends in Japan and Romania have shown themselves to be far more glad to see me than anyone here. I get the feeling that I am just too boring and stupid to be of interest to anyone here. I hope one day I can move to a place where people like me and I can have lots of friends that I can see regularly again.

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