Friendship – Are You A Real Friend?

Friendship - are you a real friend?

Friendship – are you a real friend?

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss friendship – what it is and what it means to be a real friend.

First a quick update:

“Whitney Houston – addiction, parasites & enablers”
Listen to the interview I gave to Radio New Zealand National’s Jim Mora about Whitney Houston, celebrities and addiction; the “Impostor Syndrome”, the prevalence of drugs in the music industry and; the parasites (the entourage) that surround celebrities and enable, supply & perpetuate the celebrity’s addiction.

“Celebrity hypocrisy and self-promotion”
To all of the celebrities who mourn Whitney’s death, calling her ‘friend’ and ‘sister’ – why didn’t you all try to save your friend & sister? Read my article and another article.

Now, let’s talk about friendship; what is it and are you a true friend?

Upon hearing of Whitney Houston’s death, hundreds of celebrities took to Twitter to express their feelings. Some said they were devastated by the loss, others saddened and yet others proclaimed their eternal, undying love for Whitney:

  • Star Jones Tweeted that Whitney was a “sister-friend”
  • Shaquille O’Neal called her “auntie”
  • Cee-Lo Green called her ‘sister’
  • “Fortunate am I to have worked with u, and have u touch my life” Tweeted Randy Jackson from American Idol
  • Mariah Carey said “Heartbroken and in tears over the shocking death of my friend” and;
  • Katy Perry and so many others Tweeted “We will always love you.”

So where were all of these ‘friends’, all of these people who claimed to have known her so well? Where were they when Whitney was in an abusive marriage with Bobby Brown or when she was engaging in self-destructive and self-sabotaging behavior?

Of course, there were numerous people in Whitney’s life who tried to save her but couldn’t get through to her. And working with addicts, I can affirm that a person cannot change or conquer the addiction unless he or she really wants it. And he/she can never do it on his/her own.

Nonetheless, it raises the topic of friendship.

Many people make claim to being ‘friends’ with famous people as a way to promote themselves and perpetuate the myth of their own significance.

So, what is a friend and what is friendship?

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher referenced three kinds of friendship:

  1. Pleasure – the joy we receive from the relationship
  2. Utility – the benefits and usefulness we get from the friendship
  3. Virtue – the shared values and character of our friend

Aristotle also defined a friend as someone who:

  1. Wishes and does good things to a friend, for the friend’s sake
  2. Wishes the friend to exist and live, for his own sake
  3. Spends time with his friend
  4. Makes the same choices as his friend
  5. Finds the same things pleasant and painful as his friend (common identity)

Simply put, a friend is someone who cares about you, wants the best for you, acts accordingly on your behalf and shares the same ideals and values as you while also helping you to grow and evolve.

But what does it mean to care for someone, and for their sake?

To care for someone infers that you find him/her worthwhile and valuable – you recognize their intrinsic value. Caring about someone involves taking action on behalf of that person as well as expressing sympathy, empathy or shared emotions (joy for their success, sadness and disappointment for their loss) and; not to do so out of any ulterior motive.

Spending time and sharing activities together is more than companionship – it can lead to intimacy in friendship – sharing secrets, baring one’s soul, sharing ideals, values, goals, dreams and aspirations; building trust.

Friends can act as mirrors to each other, helping each one to understand better their own character but they can also shape each others character or change their values and the way they live. Bobby Brown is an extreme example of the way he influenced and changed the values and character of his wife Whitney over many years.

In an empowering friendship, the relationship can sustain and nurture virtues in each other; it bestows significance on each other.

But the real test of friendship is commitment and integrity.

When one cares for his friend, he is committed to reminding the friend of what’s really valuable in life, reinforcing a commitment to these values so as to prevent her from going astray. But he is also committed to doing what is difficult, uncomfortable and possibly self-sacrificing.

During an interview with Jay Thomas on Sirius Radio, discussing Whitney Houston, Jay asked me to clarify my comments about the parasites that surround and feed off celebrities. Jay asked me ‘how can the people that work for celebrities stand up to them when they engage in bad or self-destructive behavior when it will potentially cost them their job?’ My response was that it is a choice between self-preservation and integrity; I always seek to choose integrity first, above all else.

Many years ago, I fired my then best friend who began to use drugs as the result of becoming friends with another user. I had tried many times to get him to stop using but he refused. I fired him and that meant he was going to have to leave the country and return to Spain – with shame and embarrassment. He was crying and it was one of the hardest choices I had to make but I knew if I didn’t act, it would get worse for everybody. About 9 months later when I called him in Spain for Christmas, he said, “I knew you would call me.” He was clean and is now, years later, a completely different person – a happy, loving father and husband, and a successful businessman. He cites my belief in his intrinsic value and talent as an ongoing inspiration to him.

But also many years ago, a friend acted on my behalf. It was a strange occurrence, but one night, I was completely out of control, angry, shouting, making a scene, and threatening a friend’s boyfriend. My friend, JDS, who also happened to be a former military sniper and trained in lethal combat, intervened quickly; he grabbed me and pushed me up against the wall, holding me by the throat and speaking to me to calm me down. He held me there until I regained control of my senses and emotions. Yes, mister behavior expert was out of control! But thanks to my friend, he saved me from myself at the time; he saved me from my own self-destructive behavior.

We laughed about it over the phone today and I again thanked him!

We all experience stress, trauma, phases, situations and other challenges in our life; we cannot all expect that our boat will only encounter smooth waters, nor that we, the captain, are always in control. But when the ocean of life becomes really choppy and rocky, or when we lose control, we need real friends who are willing to do what is hard – to save us – even if that means that they must confront us – and that we might respond angrily, harshly, disown or cut them off. But how far they are willing to go to fight for us, to help and save us, is only limited by how much they care; by their friendship and commitment to us.

I wonder how many of those celebrities that Tweeted that Whitney Houston was their dear ‘friend’ actually fought for her, to save her.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

Facebook Comments
2 replies
  1. Avatar
    Tom Justin says:

    Patrick, I certainly agree with much of what you’ve said.

    I’ve been in and around show biz for over 30 years. While I’ve been up close and worked with major stars and executives, I can’t truthfully say that many were “friends.”

    For many of the ones I coached or consulted with, I saw the same vulnerabilities that lie within us all.

    As for your questions about those “friends” who commented after her death and what had they done to help her; as you know, celebrities can block themselves from reality.

    They can seal themselves off from the well meaning who would otherwise offer tough love or intervention, hiring paid sycophants who become their new “friends,” and make them all but untouchable.

    The personal responsibility the lies within each of us is no different from those in the spotlight. It’s just that the light shines so brightly on them.

    Tom Justin

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