Thursday, September 26, 2013

Don't Turn Down a Kind Friend

It is said that money can come between friends when it is loaned and not re-paid, but what about when it is spent by one friend more than the other? I recently had a conversation with a friend about accepting invitations, which was very interesting to me...

This summer, my friend was invited as a guest to several concerts and other events by a close friend who is kind enough to insist that her guests do not pay her back for tickets. While my friend enjoyed going, she started to feel awkward about accepting these invitations -- even though she always covered the cost of drinks while they were out together, and tried to extend her own invitations whenever possible, she felt that she wasn't being fair to her friend by always accepting. She became concerned that she was taking advantage of her friend's kindness, and felt self-conscience that the amount of money she was spending did not equal what her friend was spending. She said she had just been invited out again, and although she wanted to go, she was considering turning down the invitation out of guilt.

I happen to be on the flip-side of this equation because through work, I often receive complementary tickets to theatre and other events, and I like to invite friends to attend with me. So, I argued that if her friend wanted to invite someone else, she would have -- obviously, her friend enjoys herself when they go out together, or she would stop extending these invitations. My friend countered that my situation is different because my tickets are complementary, while her friend's tickets are paid for, and sometimes quite expensive.

This is true, but friendships are not based on money. Her friend may simply want to go do something and not be alone while doing it, so she sees the ticket price as equal to the fun she'll have while out. I suggested that as long as my friend is conscience of giving back with different types of favors, they are equal.

But I do understand her concern -- no one wants to be taken advantage of, and I should hope that no one wants to take advantage of her friends. But sometimes incomes or spending habits are different, and this can result in one friend or the other feeling uncomfortable. The friend who is doing the inviting may not think twice, but the friend who is accepting may feel as though she is accepting charity if she is unable to give back in kind.

Luckily, all friendships have goods to trade -- some people offer invitations, some offer good company or wise advice. One friend may be able to fix her friend's sink, while the other may be able to fix her friend's resume. Some have cars to lend, and some lend an ear. And sometimes friends swap roles at different points in their lives. Just as it would not be a true friendship if a guest consistently accepted invitations and did not offer a drink or a favor in return, it would also not be much of a friendship if the friend making the offer was blind to the non-monetary return she was getting.

My friend did end up accepting the invitation, and continues to look for other things she can offer her friend. It is, of course, good manners to be aware of what one's friends do for her, and try to return the favors through her individual strengths. Likewise, it is wise to remember that friendships are based in things other than money -- no matter which side of the invitation one is on.

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"There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- God damn it, you've got to be kind."
-Kurt Vonnegut