Friendship is a key part of any society, yet has as many interpretations as there are people. Over the past few years I have come to think that honesty is vital within any friendship, though as I've gone through them my ability to trust people has steadily decreased, coming from one place where I was very frequently betrayed, and had little expectation of trust ever existing, to another where I entered with hope for a new beginning, only to have this dream come crashing down around me.
Fundamentally, the dishonesty and the lack of trust of many people seems to stem from vanity, a state which any form of society is likely to perpetuate, as people become increasingly concerned with how other people view them, and what are people to judge on apart from acts? In Robert Lewis Stevenson's Markheim, the murderer is concerned about how he is being judged by who he takes to be the devil:
To you before all,returned the murderer.I supposed you were intelligent. I thought — since you exist — you would prove a reader of the heart. And yet you would propose to judge me by my acts! Think of it; my acts! I was born and I have lived in a land of giants; giants have dragged me by the wrists since I was born out of my mother — the giants of circumstance. And you would judge me by my acts! But can you not look within? Can you not understand that evil is hateful to me? Can you not see within me the clear writing of conscience, never blurred by any wilful sophistry, although too often disregarded? Can you not read me for a thing that surely must be common as humanity — the unwilling sinner?
While, as is clear from the murderer's rhetoric, and his ultimate fate, that he consciously is very dissimilar to how he has acted for his entire life, nobody, not even the devil himself, will judge him to be who he emotionally is. The world is a very similar place, with all judgement resting on actions, not on any rhetoric or emotion. When we are judged in such ways, it is really sensible to expect people to not be vain? Perhaps not, but this depends solely on morals. But what are morals? Mere constructs of a human mind trying to rationalize its own existence and come up with answers about how to live? If we believe the morals to live by are human constructs, then certainly vanity is inevitably in terms of interpersonal relationships; if we do not, then vanity is likely the disobedience against the morals set out to live by.
So, under the first scenario (for I think the latter scenario deserves little more comment than that these people should already be aware that what they are doing is wrong), when vanity is inevitable, should it still be tolerated? This ultimately comes down to a question of what morals you choose to live under, but I would hope most people would put honesty above vanity in terms of morals. Then why does vanity become so prevalent in today's secular society? The only plausible answer I can come up with is egoism, people having a single concern about how people perceive them, caring more about acquaintances than morals I hope exist (as I hope most people believe honesty is a moral). In some ways, Anna Karenina's ability to ignore society's perception of her is a virtue: she gave everything up for love.
Everything is finished… I have nothing but you, remember that.
It is in this disregard of society that Anna manages to become who she is, transcending the rules of etiquette drawn up by society. It is this egoistic interest that the majority of people appear to have in their appearance to society that leads people to be dishonest (that is not to say, however, that Anna is perfectly virtuous character, free of all immorality including dishonesty), and further leads them to believe that short-term dishonesty is what long-term friendship entails, not that long-term honesty is what long-term friendship entails, even at the risk of short-term friendship. I believe that long-term honesty, even if it causes hurt in the short-term, will ultimately cause friendship to prevail. I do not believe that dishonesty, even if it causes great attachment in the short-term, will hold strong friendships together for any length of time. The truth hurts; lies hurt more.
Here's (a rough, quickly thrown together) list of what I expect friends to be:
- Honest (see above),
- Caring (if I am in tears, I probably would much rather have someone's arm around me than me all alone),
- Inclusive (if something is happening, I would like to know, as even if you think I won't be interested, it's nice to have my existence acknowledged), and
- Accepting (I don't want to have your morals forced on to me, I'm perfectly happy with my own morals).
Is this to much to ask? All too often it seems like this is so. Yet whenever I try and settle for less, I only end up getting hurt badly in the end, after a year, two years, or more. Trying to accept I won't get this and drowning my loneliness by having hundreds (literally) of friends I speak to on a daily basis doesn't work either; I still feel lonely. I guess my only option is to dig out the few people who share such morals, but that inevitably involves getting to know far too many people, and getting hurt far too many times.