Week 1: Virtuous Friendships

It’s almost time for the 2nd week of Love & Responsibility in NYC 2011 season, so I’m taking time to write about what we covered in week 1.

Week 1 is all about friendship.  (Check it out online; not as extensive as the book, but handy.)

In short it’s about how to NOT use people, but to love them instead – whether they be our friends, mere acquaintances or strangers.

The turn out in SoHo was great! about 150+ people showed up for the first week and it lead to some great discussions.  During the small break out discussion group I had a group of about 15 people and only two of them had ever been before.  It was a whole new set of people ready to unpack Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love.

Love & Responsibility in NYC, SoHo

One of the first discussion questions asked, “Have you noticed a friendship that was a utilitarian friendship – one where the friendship is merely for one’s use of the person?”

Boy is that a scary question.  You think you’ve got a lot a friends until you start looking at them closer.

We have a culture of use right now.  “Use me and I’ll use you” is our motto.  This is evident by the latest string of Hollywood movies based on mutual use:  Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached.  Mutual use does not make it ok.  It just makes it doubly gross.

Some people were confused about the idea of use.  When is it using someone? Are we never supposed to gain anything from a connection through a friend?  No.  Here’s an example that I hope will help clarify what is a “use” of the person.

Don’t use your friend as a taxi.

Taxi = 🙂 .... Friend as Taxi = 😦

If we are nice to a person just because they have a car and we hope that we’ll be able to save money by catching a ride with them instead of paying for a taxi, we are using the person as a taxi.  This is very different than carpooling, where the agreed intention of both parties is to save money, increase fuel efficiency, and be better stewards of the environment by reducing emissions and fuel use. This also does not mean that if you are friends with someone you can never take a ride from them again.

If giving you a ride means that the driver is going way out of their way OR if that small little voice in your head answers, “Yes” to the question, “Am I using this person as a taxi?” then it may time to hail a cab, rather than use a person for a ride.

This also applies to the dance floor:  Don’t use the guy as your dance monkey. 

Sure you can dance with a guy without being friends.  But if you find yourself ONLY being nice to the person when you hear a song that you really want to dance to (instead of also being nice to him off the dance floor), then it means that you are using him as your dance monkey.  He gets to dance only when you feel like it.

also Don’t use the gal as the “Bling” – the pretty thing at the end of your arm. 

Sometimes I’ve seen guys twirl a girl around so much that she can’t see straight. I’ve seen him trying to show off by doing all the fancy moves he knows one after the other, without regard to IF the gal is able to follow his lead or IF the gal is enjoying the dance.  A gal is more than a pretty thing at the end of a guy’s arm that simply will do what he tells her to do on the dance floor.  She’s more than a pretty dress.  So if you are a guy and you find yourself caring more about how you look while you are dancing with the woman, than if the woman you are dancing with is having a good time, then you have fallen into the trap of using her.  Stop it.  It never looks good.

One should never see their fellow dancer as merely a lead or merely a follow.  One should see the other person – a unique creation of mind, body, and spirit.

One of my favorite reflections of the evening for week 1 of Love & Responsibility in NYC, was what someone said about our possible “Utilitarian use” of God.

Just like in our friendships, we can fall into the trap of “using” God to get things:  Grace, blessings, and perhaps quiet time away from the rest of the world.  We forget that He is a person.  We forget to see Him as a person.  So instead of thinking of prayer as a way to spend time with Him or a way to get to know Him better, we see it merely as a way to ask for what we want.

So, be sure to reflect on your relationships, whether they be with friends or with God.  Strive for those virtuous friendships.  Refuse those opportunities to take the easy road to Utilitarian friendships.

Do your best to SEE the other person. 

Practically that means that when you are in a checkout line, stop texting and stop talking to someone else on the phone.  SEE the person that is helping you.  Try to connect with them even if they don’t try to connect with you.  (This seems to be a problem in NY; not so much of a problem in the friendly south.)

That’s all for now….

Looking forward to tomorrow’s Love & Responsibility in NYC:  Week 2 – Beyond the Sexual Urge.   It should be a great discussion!

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