I think everyone should strive to learn a new life-lesson every day. Life is not at a shortage of lessons to be learned, so as long as we keep our eyes and ears open, there is plenty we can learn from our everyday run-of-the-mill life experiences. Some of these lessons are simple and pleasant, others are difficult, bitter, and painful.
For example, here is the lesson I learned today: “Putting others before yourself is noble; but most people will not reciprocate this gesture.”
The older I get, the more I realize one simple fact: True friendship is a myth. Charles Dickens once wrote, “It is a melancholy truth that even good men have poor relations.” And while I believe this whole-heartily, I think I know the reason behind this sentiment: True loyalty — true friendship — is a needle in a haystack.
This prompts a bit of an intrinsic conflict within my own sense of loyalty and friendship. Do I remain the loyal friend when my “friends” display the antithesis, or do I accept the status quo as an unchanging force and simply “look out for #1” instead? When seeking to avoid pain, disappointment, frustration, and anger, the obvious choice is to simply accept that people are not loyal friends and will seek their own interests (however trivial) ahead of those whom they consider “friends.” Essentially, if I expect nothing from my “friends,” I will not be disappointed when my friends reciprocate nothing.
Granted, friendship should never be a quid pro quo, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask of a friend to reciprocate the friendship every once in a while by putting someone else first.
My wife says I’m bad about over-committing, spreading myself too thin, and offering to do too much for other people. Perhaps she’s right. Then again, I spent so many years basking in my own self-centered narcissism that it feels good (and right) to be giving, selfless, and helpful. So, I suppose, it’s my own fault that I am willing to step up and do so much for other people, only to have those people show absolutely no reciprocity.
My wife is the ultimate example of selflessness; so, in that respect, I try to model my life after hers. She, however, has no expectations of others — a trait which I admire. She is my best friend and has never let me down, regardless of the number of times in the past I’ve let her down. So suffice it to say, she has set a pretty high bar when it comes to friendship (because I truly did marry my best friend).
And for the rest of the “friends” in my life? Well, maybe one or two have been there through it all, but honestly, I think the time has come for me to lower my expectations of what a “friend” should be and expect little-to-nothing from them. I will continue to be selfless, helpful, and honorable (because I need to balance that karma out from my past), but I think I’m going to stop assuming that people will be honorable, loyal, and honest. My own history of dishonesty and disloyalty (and my self-loathing feelings as a result) have driven me to despise dishonesty and disloyalty in others.
So here’s my life lesson for the day: “Expect nothing from no one, and no disappointment shall follow.”
That, my “friends,” is a melancholy truth.