When she was young, Mercedes came home upset from school. She couldn’t understand why a girl she thought to be her friend would choose to go out of her way to not be nice, and even disallow her from spending time with another group of friends. To her way of thinking, everyone should be nice to each other. In spending time trying to comfort her the philosophy of Friends and Associates was born.
In life you are going to have people come into and go out of your world. As a child you experience this much faster being in a school setting with yearly changing class schedules. That best friend in grade 2 will be replaced by 3 because they moved away. It’s just the nature of life. To an extent this slows down in adulthood, but the same pattern repeats. The thing you have to realize in life is, among all those people coming and going, you can divide them into two camps: Friends and Associates.
We have a saying in our family. “Friends are the people who will show up at 3am with a shovel to help you bury the body of the associates.”
It’s a bit tongue and cheek, but there is a truth behind that. Friends are the people who will drop what they are doing to help you out when you are in a jam. You go to friends when you need to be around people you can tell your problems to. Associates on the other hand are people you are kind to, but own no loyalty to beyond that basic human kindness.
When they’re young kids think everyone is their friend. And so it hurts them when those ‘friends’ don’t return the same level of emotion. Mercedes was certainly this way. She couldn’t understand why her friends would reject her in favor of others. In talking with her, we had to explain that most people are just associates. You treat them kindly. And spend time around them if you wish. But beyond that, you owe them nothing. Because, they will never return that loyalty back.
This is not to say life is a transactional relationship. You should be good to people because you are a good person, not because you want something in return (which ultimately makes you not a good person). However, we are all spending a finite amount of time on this rock hurtling through space. And so you have to be particular with your choices of who and how you will spend that time with.
As you get older, you will find those people who become your true friends. They share that connection and value with you. They are those who you need to work hard to cultivate a lifelong relationship with. Because at the end of the day, it is they who will drop whatever they are doing to help you bury that body at 3am.