Allies, Authenticity, Friends, Meg, Relationships

Friends and Allies

Recently, a lovely young woman wrote to me, “You’ve been nothing but a friend to me. Thank you for believing in me.” Her words were especially poignant because I happen to know she’s discovered, within just the last month or so, that several people she thought were her good friends considered her no more than an ally of theirs.

Everyone knows some people are your “friends” only so long as you agree with them, you do their bidding, or they otherwise have a use for you. What’s curious is you sometimes can’t tell at first the difference between those “friends” and the people whose friendships run deeper than mere alliance. In part, that’s what happened to my young friend. She mistook several alliances for friendships and got hurt. The other part of it was, her “friends” turned out to be the sort of people who hold their allies in contempt.

Some people do that, you know. They do not respect their allies, but are instead contemptuous of them. I suspect the reason for that is they lie to their allies and try to manipulate them. When you lie to someone and try to manipulate them, you usually wind up feeling contempt for that person, even if they believe your lies and do what you want. Especially if they believe your lies and do what you want. So, as in everything else, there are honest people and dishonest people — and the honest ones make for better allies.

Our species is a social ape, and I suspect forming friendships and alliances comes as natural to us as growing hair. But of those two things — friends and allies — it seems a bit easier to find an ally than to find a friend. I’ve already mentioned that an ally is someone who supports you so long as you do their bidding, agree with them, or they otherwise have an use for you. But a friend goes way beyond that. The most profound friend loves you for yourself.

It is easy to say something like that. “Loves you for yourself.” It is much more difficult to understand what that means in practice. Most days, I think the only way to really understand it is to experience it.

It’s my opinion that someone who loves you for yourself supports your being true to yourself. They remain a friend regardless of whether they have any use for you. If you disagree with them, but are true to yourself, they are happy with you. If you fail to do their bidding, but are true to yourself, they remain constant. My lovely young friend seems to call that sort of thing, “believing in her.”

Allies are to friends what a hotel is to a home. No matter how good the hotel, there are some things you cannot expect of it. And no matter how good the ally, you will not find in a mere ally the unconditional support for who you are that you will find in the most profound friends.

5 thoughts on “Friends and Allies”

  1. “When you lie to someone and try to manipulate them, you usually wind up feeling contempt for that person, even if they believe your lies and do what you want. Especially if they believe your lies and do what you want.”

    Thanks for that, Paul… shed a bit of additional light on why my ex changed towards me so rapidly.

    I would add, that one of the reasons that it’s difficult to distinguish between friends and allies is that sometimes part of the manipulation strategy is claiming to be interested in who you truly are. Appearing to offer unconditional love.

    It’s only later that you realise that the supposedly “unconditional” love actually has some very distinct conditions attached.


  2. Very profound Paul. I want to add something here…if one finds out that a person has been lying then one loses respect for that person so in a way its mutual…the disrespect I mean. The other person may imagine that he/she hasn’t been found out, but they have been found out…and it becomes a strange relationship!
    Also there is another thing…at times people who agree with you automatically assume that they have “bought” your friendship or allegiance and they don’t realise that you are agreeing with them for intellectual reasons, because you actually believe they are right. The minute you disagree with their ideas or take a stand, they take it as an insult or a “betrayal.” They expect that you should agree with them on everything, including their disagreement…!
    Like you said, honestly is the best policy.


  3. @ Lirone: That’s a good insight. I’ve read that people who are abusive usually come off as especially charming at first. Part of that charm is probably their pretending to offer unconditional love. The world can be a wicked place at times.

    @ Nita: It’s indeed odd how some of us think we have bought someone’s friendship or allegiance merely by agreeing with them. I’ve seen what you describe and it almost always surprises me — it seems such an implausible reason to believe we have formed an alliance or friendship with someone. I suspect, Nita, that many of us humans simply don’t understand notions, concepts and ideas should be evaluated independently of any friendships.


  4. Makes a lot of sense. At the expense of sounding like a judgemental old lady I have another observation. It seemed like we worked at forming friendships rather than alliances when we were young – by trying to understand the other’s point of view and by being supportive even when we did not agree with a friend. This involved putting another before you. I find that youngsters today are quite happy with alliances rather than having to work at genuine friendships. They do not seem to want to put anything above or before them and their interests. While they are constantly in large groups, I also notice that the people they are with is constantly changing.


  5. That’s an interesting insight, Usha! I suspect many young people confuse alliances with friendships until or unless they’ve learned to discern a difference between them by having experienced both. I quite agree with you that a friendship requires a much greater investment than an alliance.


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