As I begin to receive welcomed feedback from The Friendship Key a common criticism that has begun to surface is that the solutions it offers for so many of our personal, social, governmental, or global problems, are too simple – these are complex problems and we can’t expect to find real and practical solutions in something as basic as friendship.
I agree, friendship does seem too simple. But that is why it might actually work.
Let’s break the criticism into smaller parts and examine each in turn.
Friendship comes with Prejudice
The first point to realise is your idea of friendship and what I describe in The Friendship Keyare different. All of us have already been taught and experienced what friendship means to us, be it time with palls we keep in contact with since childhood, the palls we develop at work, the connections we make in social media, or the interconnection we grow as a couple in a relationship. We think we know what friendship is and its place in our lives. It is often a vague notion, not very important, and certainly doesn’t come across as having much power or urgency. So, to claim friendship is a solution is like saying love is the answer. It is a nice notion – and I wish it would solve our problems – but lacks specifics. It especially lacks a means to understand why we feel as we feel and how we can change it.
The friendship as described in The Friendship Keyis neither vague nor wishful thinking. It is activity-focused. It is founded on experiences and feelings we can all recognise in ourselves and in each other. It is dynamic view of friendship that offers us a frank look at ourselves. It offers emotional honesty and clarity so we can better choose our path and how we want that to feel.
Complexity can Hide Simple Truths
We live in a time when great strides are being made in science and technology. Difficult and traumatic problems such as illnesses are being better understood and breakthroughs being made that are saving lives. By breaking the bigger problems into their smaller parts we are finding solutions in complexity. But such an approach comes with a downside. By focusing on complexity we can forget the bigger picture and the dynamics at play. We can be so focused on the details and searching for complex answers we can end up no longer seeing the forest for the trees.
For instance, suppose we are examining a dying forest – taking the tree analogy a bit further. We can try to solve the problem by testing the soil for chemicals and bacteria, and even examine the leaves. We can be so transfixed on finding the answer in the small and complex details of the tree and what it touches we can fail to notice the forest simply isn’t getting enough water – fail to see the obvious.
Often we can be so sure our solutions must be complex it can cloud our ability to see the simple solutions before our eyes. We can feel uncomfortable if solutions seem simple. It can be an attack on our ego – why didn’t I see such a simple solution before? If it was so simple surely it should have been found ages ago.
What treating patients with psychotherapy has taught me is there are some things we just don’t want or aren’t prepared to see, even if the evidence is right in front of us. A classic example is found among many alcoholics, dependent on a substance that is destroying their lives, yet they would blatantly deny they have a problem with it – it’s their problem it is ours. To admit they do have such a problem would be scary and take away an important life coping strategy. Better to deny the obvious than even be open to facing it. Some would rather die than face what makes them feel deep emotional discomfort. There are many things most of us don’t want, or aren’t prepared, to see. Recognising the value in the simplicity of a solution can be one of those things.
Friendship as Ten Desires Increases Self-Awareness
Seeing friendship in terms of satisfying 10 desires in others has a wonderful side effect: it increases self-awareness.
For example, consider trying to satisfy the desire of being heard in someone else – one of the Ten Desires. This means we have to be aware of what we need to do to make that happen. For instance, it means we should keep eye contact and focus, paraphrase so others understand we get what they are saying. It means doing what we can to show we understand the other person’s point of view. To make someone feel heard is to empathise, to put ourselves in their shoes. To do any of this increases our awareness of self. To keep the eye contact we need to notice what our eyes are doing. To paraphrase means we have to notice we are paying attention to what is being said. To empathise means searching our feelings – noticing them – so we can put ourselves into someone else’s shoes. The whole process of meeting the Ten Desires in others is an exercise in increasing our self-awareness.
The more we apply and promote the Ten Desires in our lives the more we all become increasingly self-aware as we spread self-awareness throughout society. A more self-aware society becomes a wiser society.
When we are wiser as a society we are less easily misled and kept ignorant, blindly doing what others say; less distracted by the business and complexity.
Simplicity Offers Practicality
Yes, there are times when examining the complexity of problems can be useful. But if we make our problems and solutions too complex who is going to be able to apply them? Our leaders? They are often part of the problem. Simple, personally applicable actions and approaches, I believe, have a much better chance of more people using them and creating lasting change from the ground up than complex ones. Besides, we shouldn’t need a university degree to find how to live more sustainable, satisfying, lives. We don’t.
I should clarify here, in case there is any doubt. The Friendship Keywas never written to offer all the answers; that would be impossible. What it is was written to do was to offer frameworks; practical overviews to offer us direction. A bit like a map. A map can help us see where we are going and some routes we might like to take to get there. But it can’t give us all the details of that path and how to deal with all the problems we might find along the way. What I have been fascinated by, however, is the more I study the Ten Desires and how they have impacted on our lives the more practical solutions seem to just appear. The framework has become far more useful than I ever imagined.
As you can see there is more to friendship than meets the eye. I hope if you read The Friendship Key you will gain a better appreciation of friendship’s power and influence and see just how many of our problems it can help us with. I hope, together, through friendship – prioritising the Ten Desires – we can make a better life and a world for generations to come.