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Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Connecting Over Coffee

Words and coffee, the best things in life are free and $1.55 respectively. “Going for coffee” is a new thing for me; I’ve never been a ‘let’s go for a coffee’ guy but I’m trying to be one now, because I can see the positive effects.

We went on vacation a couple of weeks ago and because of that I missed church, small group, and my talks over coffee or beer with a number of friends I go out with regularly. Then the following week small group was canceled due to certain group members having misplaced priorities such as playing hockey and being in France commemorating the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. In addition to that the Alpha course I had been going to had wrapped up and I was missing those Friday night small group discussions.

In a word, I was disconnected – and I could feel it. The importance of connection, of being in community, is something I have gleaned from my friend Aaron. My friendship with Aaron is a rewarding one because we agree on a lot of things but the things we disagree on we disagree on quite strongly.

I don’t think I have one close friend with whom I have not had a few very deep, very heated disagreements. It’s sort of a prerequisite for me.

I have had more than a few friendships wither for lack of conflict. There’s nobody I ended up hating, but if you can’t disagree with someone about something, there’s really no basis for a long-term friendship. I have plenty of acquaintances – you can’t be a performer, a musician, without having a lot of these – but an acquaintance becomes a friend when we get through our first conflict.

My Fault

I have to admit that I have wrecked a few friendships due to my own deficiencies of character. When I was younger I mocked a lot. OK – I still mock a lot but I like to think I choose my targets more wisely now. You know, like celebrities and people I don’t really know. I call it satire now – that’s the grown-up word for mocking.

Back then, when I was younger, I always thought I was funny, and judging by the laughter in the room I figured everyone else thought I was funny too. But later, after the laughs, they would discuss how much I had hurt so-and-so’s feeling and how I was a backstabber and sometimes worse. And they were right.

To this day, I’m still paying for things I said a decade ago and more. And in a decade from now there will probably a few more things on the list that I shouldn’t have said but I know the list doesn’t grow like it used to. “And that,” as Martha likes to say, “Is a good thing.”

Some of these offenses happened because I didn’t know when to wave the “agree to disagree” flag. I hate that flag but I’ve had to learn to use it. Not everyone wants to battle Braveheart-style until some form of common ground is claimed.

Small Group Battles

In our small group Bible study a few weeks ago we engaged in a heated discussion (Braveheart-style) about depression. This went on for some time and then someone called for a truce. “Hey, let’s make sure we all leave here friends.”

That’s the opposite of my thinking. My response was “But this is what makes us friends. We can scrap and still like each other after.”

We can’t have lasting friendships if we stop talking when we disagree. We become good friends because we can ‘have at it’ occasionally. This friendship couldn’t survive, of course, if discussions always turned to bickering and no congenial discussion ever followed, but perpetual platitudes are no recipe for success either.

Hard-won friendship

One of the guys in my small group is Owen. Owen’s friendship is something I value because it has been hard won. We even exchanged compliments at a wine and cheese party a few months back. Our guards were down I guess (in a good way) and Owen said something like “You know, I wasn’t sure about you when we first started meeting but I like you now.” That was something, a reward of sorts for me. And I felt the same way. Actually, if I had reciprocated honestly I would have had to substitute “I wasn’t sure about you” with “I really didn’t like you at all.”

But I can respect anyone who is strongly principled yet willing to talk, who doesn’t end good discussions with talk-to-the-hand arrogance or skips to “let’s just agree to disagree” too soon. And that’s Owen.

This is not the friendship formula for everyone, but I challenge you to try it. If you have a reasonable disagreement with someone, the next time you see him or her embrace them instead of avoiding them. This is where the rewards come. There are endless possibilities for acquaintances, but few opportunities for lasting friendship.

Healthy Conflict

Most of the healthy conflict in my friendship with Aaron is the result of the worldviews of a postmodern/modern (90%/10% split) and a modern/postmodern (60%/40% split) rubbing against each other. (feel free to correct those percentages Aaron, yours might be 90%/40%) But we agree on technology – we are both in favour of it. We are geek buddies.

The first time Aaron and his wife came to small group I knew I was going to like him because I mentioned phrases like “podcast” and “XML feed” and “RSS” and he knew he they meant. I mentioned Leo Laporte and he knew who that was too. Then the next week in an IM he mentioned Ron Sexsmith. Honestly, I didn’t even care if he was a fan. He knew enough to compare another artist to him That was enough. SOLD!

We also both like Dilbert. But as usual, I digress…

Before coffee time there is often a nagging desire to bail, something that tells me I don’t need to go, that it is a selfish waste of time when I should be sleeping. When coffee time wraps up I never want it to, even when its 11:00pm on a work night sometimes. And last night’s coffee with Aaron was no different. I was tired when I left at 9:00pm and all abuzz when I got back at 11:00pm.

I’ve noticed that as much as I sometimes dread getting together with people, or a group of people, I find benefit (and hopefully provide some benefit to them) in the interaction.

The lie of made-up minds

A lie you hear often is that all this talking doesn’t really change anyone’s mind. That everyone has decided what they believe and nothing you say will have any effect. Well, I’ve had my mind changed on plenty of things by talking to someone who knows more about something that I do. Everyone – EVERYONE – is an expert about something. I like to find out what that is and find out what they know.

More often than not I find out that I don’t know as much as I think I do, and that certainly helps my humility – and I need a lot of help with humility.

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