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Archive for January, 2020

The Christmas and New Year period is a time many people use to take stock of the previous year and their lives generally. Lists of Christmas greetings and presents are a reminder of which individuals are still in our lives and which ones we choose as suitable recipients of greetings and presents. While it is not the case that friendship is a trading arrangement, it is nonetheless dependent on something mutual or reciprocal. It must involve participation by more than one side, whatever form that participation takes. One-way relationships may just about work between family members, but they are less tenable when there is a genuine choice as to whether they are to continue or not. Chain statements across social media insisting that friends can always ‘pick up where they left off’, that there is no need to keep in touch or make any effort to keep the friendship alive because friendship is somehow completely self-sustaining, have always struck me as wishful thinking by people who hope and trust that saying something is the case makes it so – that is about as charitable as it gets.

My preferred analogy is that friendship is like a bridge that is under constant construction. It needs work from both ends – otherwise it is asking a lot of the cantilevering to expect it to function as it is supposed to.

Returning to Christmas greetings and presents, the whole ritual is generally built on some measure of reciprocity. This is why it is often referred to as an exchange. If there is only ever one party doing the proffering, that does not qualify as an exchange. There are people who may choose to be exclusively givers, never expecting anything in return, but unless it is in the context of charitable giving, most of us eventually get a slight gnawing feeling suspiciously like resentment tarnishing the pleasure of one-way giving, at least when it is to people whose circumstances are not dissimilar from our own.

I have always been notoriously bad at giving up on people, and have often continued to plug away, trying to keep moribund friendships and connections alive long after the sensible decision would have been to get the message that my efforts were not reciprocated … and gently desist. A new year provides the opportunity to try to do something different.

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