balance friendship

Selves Worth Expressing

6:00:00 AMVeronica Buehnerkemper

Sometimes I sit back and consider some of the friendships I have seen on my college campus.  There are those people apparently constantly goofing off and not taking life too seriously.  Then there are those other people holed up in the library to study, having contemplative conversations with their friends, and planning their future.

And then there are those who seem to be doing both.

One of my friends can go from one extreme to the other in a matter of minutes, and it all depends on who is around.  He has friends who bring out the crazy in him, and those who bring out the focused side.

Why is it that seemingly similar people can affect one person in such different ways?
I think the change rides on how these friends carry themselves and react to various situations.  Those peers who bring out the more rambunctious side in my friend tend to provoke it by pulling pranks and telling jokes.  Those who bring out the focused side tend to either not react to his wild side quite as much, or ignore it altogether.  They don’t necessarily criticize wild behavior, but rather refuse to fuel it beyond what they deem appropriate.
Matthew Kelly, a well known Catholic speaker and author working to revitalize the Catholic Church, says, “Our culture places a very high premium on self-expression, but is relatively disinterested in producing ‘selves’ that are worth expressing.” 

It seems that one side (the rambunctious, wild one) is focused on self-expression, while the other (the serious and logical side) is focused on the end product.  How is it that we are expected to both develop these “selves worth expressing” while expressing ourselves at the same time?  And to top it off, at times these two sides seem irreconcilable, resulting in dizzying swings from extreme to extreme.  As though there are two separate people existing as one.  

The question becomes: how are we supposed to develop ourselves into fascinating, free, fearless and fully alive men and women?  What will help us to produce these ‘selves worth expressing’?

So this is probably a safe space to admit that I am a die-hard 
Harry Potter fan.  I am reminded of the famous trio from Harry Potter when I think about these friendships.  Harry’s two companions affect him in very different ways.  Ron brings out Harry’s adventurous side, often getting the pair into some sticky situations.  Whether it be introducing Harry to Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans or breaking him out of the Dursley’s house before their second year at Hogwarts or getting himself and Harry stuck in the Whomping Willow, moments with Ron tend to be rather unpredictable.

Hermione, on the other hand, brings out Harry’s focused, serious, side that develops the logical plan for getting out of sticky situations.  For example, Hermione convinces Harry to start Dumbledore’s Army, a group of students committed to learning Defense against the Dark Arts, despite the hated Professor Umbridge’s ban on defensive magic.  Hermione also encourages and challenges Harry to step up to the role of leadership she knows that he is capable of.

Throughout the series, Ron, Hermione and Harry grow up.  Ron becomes slightly more focused and driven, Hermione learns to loosen up her hold on life a bit as she has to deal with constantly changing plans, and Harry learns that he is not alone in the world because he can rely on his friends.  As we grow up, the balance between drive and daring, dependence and interdependence is important to find.

Our friends help us to realize our true selves and to develop these ‘selves’ even further.  We see a small reflection of ourselves in those we choose to keep around us, and we allow our friends to shape these pieces we have in common, whether that means allowing room for more adventure, or room for more discipline.

The bottom line is not that friends who bring out a little more crazy are better or worse than those who bring out the focus.  Rather, it seems that we need a little more of a balance, and a little more continuity as we allow ourselves to be shaped and formed into men and women taking on the world to change it for the better.

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