Saturday, March 24, 2018

No Real Friends

4 years ago I made the decision to stop drinking.  When people ask me why I did that, I usually tell them that it's part of my Buddhist practice.  This is true.  Sitting in meditation and examining the karmic outcomes of my actions did in fact lead to my sobriety.  But it's not the whole truth.

The other part of the equation is that my drinking had gotten out of control, and both my work and my bank account were suffering as a result.  So I stopped drinking, and my life got better.

But it wasn't all fairy tales and rainbows.  A lot of the people I called friends back then were heavy-drinkers.  And they weren't too pleased with my decision.  To be clear, I never said that they should stop drinking.  In fact, I made a point of not making a big scene out of my sobriety.  I just stopped taking shots with people, and I drank water instead of beer at restaurants.

But that was still a problem for some people.  They thought I was boring or judgmental for not behaving the way they thought I should.  

I quickly realized that they weren't real friends

I was just entertainment to them.  My drunken antics gave them something to talk about the next day.  My poor decisions made them feel better about their own lives.  And my choice to be sober was a slap in the face as far they were concerned.

Thankfully, the members of my sangha were extremely supportive, and I was able to stick with it.  But I still ended up having to drop a lot of people out of my life.  It sucked.  But I've learned that good decision aren't always easy decisions.

I've been thinking about this lately because I've found my self in a similar situation to the one I was in 4 years ago.  I've made some changes in my life that are objectively positive.  And some people I thought of as friends aren't too thrilled.

The situation is making me rethink the whole idea of friendship

In my mind, I've always thought of a friend as someone who would be there for you no matter what.  They're someone who you can rely on when times are tough because they always have your best interests at heart.

But maybe that's expecting too much out of one person.  Perhaps relying on others for happiness and security, even if we call them friends, is a mistake.  This entire ordeal reminds me of a passage from The Dhammapada which states:

One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be?  With oneself fully controlled, one gains mastery that is hard to gain. 160.

That's the great paradox.  We're connected with every living thing in the universe, but at the end of the day we must be our own protectors; our own friends.

In this way, I wonder if there's no such thing as true friendship.  Rather, there are only fellow Buddhas who guide us on our journey.  We interact with them for a short time, learn what we can, and then resume walking the path alone.

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No Real Friends


  1. Changing ones own habits is no easy thing. It's finally coming clear to me that I have to want to make myself better. I have to want to make better choices and better decisions in order to improve my life, because no one is going to do it for me.

  2. Thank you for this post. There is truth in what you experienced.

  3. Buddha clearly said that friendship is fundamental to Buddhist practice. He says that in this Sutta:

    See by yourself. Buddha says how good friends are important to the path. So, according to Buddha himself true friendship exists, and ancient Buddhism calls it Kalyanamitta. Don't be affected by this guys who rejected you. True friends always be our side.

  4. First, I applaud the sacrifice you’ve decided to make for yourself. I think it is true that we are our own best friends. I remind myself of this regularly as part of a self acceptance meditation. Apart from ourselves, other relationships may come and go, but we are always here within ourselves. I remind myself that I support myself, stand up for myself, care for myself and love myself completely as I am right now. Not only that, but my intuition guides and guards me. I think if we can prioritize our friendship with ourselves first, we are better able to engage with other interbeings. I don’t drink either, and so I can relate to the social awkwardness that goes along with it. But again...I stand up for myself, I care for it’s ok.

    It is an interesting paradox, like you said. We are all one, we are interdependent, and yet we must remember the impermanence of all things and relationships and not be too attached. I imagine, once we all reach “enlightenment”/our highest selves, free of judgement, we may be able to experience the perfect connection that exists on a spiritual level.

  5. Wouldn’t pure self reliance be reinforcing the very concept of self we are supposed to work away from? Without deep connections to those around us, it seems to me that the walls that define the self would become very rigid.

  6. The best friends are often strangers, especially those you know well.

  7. To have a friend you must first be a friend. No need to "drop" anyone...people are not trash in need of being discarded. Being a true friend(you)means being honest, compassionate, loyal and loving. So you tell your friend the what and why of your decision and the heart you have for them.I think mostly, anyone who would walk away from a "Friend" who is bettering their life is afraid that you might be judgemental of them or try to force change on them. You can assure them this is not so. If not fear on their part then they are ego driven and not really your friend in the 1st place. But it's not your job to drop them. If they choose to drop you, that's on them. You will have fulfilled all that is required of a friend.