The Ills of Modern Society and the Contrasts of
Dating and (the Illusion of) Friendship

February 3, 1997

 

People tell me that I have a big heart and that I care about people. To me, that's a great compliment, but it's also the cause of a lot of anxiety. You see, I seem to take my friendships to extremes; I am rarely satisfied with the people around me. I want deep, real friendship, but I am often either upset at what they do to me, or I am upset about what I see them do to others.

It seems that most if not almost all people in our society (since I'm a high school student, I'm thinking mostly of teenagers, and since I'm a Christian, I look mostly at those who are Christians or at least go to church) have become heartless and cruel. It's not a matter of drugs, sex, alcohol, or any of the physical factors. It's a matter of the heart, a state of mind. When people become obsessed with sports, verbally assaulting followers of an opposing team, or when people become hung up on politics, caring more about their party than about being productive and doing something meaningful, I think that our society is messed up. These are only two examples. There are so many more that I haven't mentioned and maybe haven't even thought of. Situations I encounter, words I hear spoken, written words of pain - they all seem to ring out to me the foolishness and "numbness" which characterizes our society today.

Let me explain numbness for a moment. Over the past month or so, this has become one of my favorite words (not favorite, exactly, but the most applicable). A slightly more appropriate word might be apathy. No one seems to care about anything anymore. It's not only a selfish attitude (although many are selfish); it's just a non-concern about anything and everything, an unwillingness to listen, an unwillingness to help, an unwillingness to care, all of which lead to hopelessness, friendlessness, fearfulness, timidity, and despair.

Perhaps I'm just a little strange, but it seems like there is an issue here that is tremendously difficult to deal with, or really to even describe. It is the problem of faked, misplaced, and insincere love, the problem of a lack of compassion, the problem of a society lost in a maze of constant petty demands which may be materially productive but are mentally only distractions from finding any real purpose and meaning (translation: people are too busy doing half-meaningful "things"). These are the ills of society that are present, but everyone seems too apathetic - too numb - to do anything about. Our society is one of paradoxes. We want something, but can't have it. We want to help, but don't. We want to feel love, but are too afraid or too uncaring to seek it. We want to show and express love, but only to satisfy ourselves. We want things to be better, but we really don't expect them to be. We want peace, but never expect to find it. We want good, but often we want good at the expense of others.

This is our society, lost in chaos and so distraught from nagging questions which the increase of knowledge has dropped into our minds that we can't even think straight.

One effect of our lack of direction that I see is the lack of real friendship. I believe that everyone wants to have friends, and some think they've found them, and a few probably have. But more often (in my experience, at least), I find acquaintances, not friends. And as I've sought friendships with the opposite sex, I have faced the ultimate question, "Are you seeking a friend or a dating relationship?" Is there a difference? Surely there must be. But the line seems blurred. If I speak to a girl, I am said to be flirting. If I smile too much while I talk to a girl, I am said to be "hitting on" her. What should I do? Not say anything, keep to myself like the shy introvert I normally am? What do I have then? Friends? No, I have only acquaintances.

And then there are those who are "friends" in theory - those who in the past have shown some kind of interest in me, or those whom I've been able to share some experience with and know a little bit better than most, whom I mistakenly label as "friends." But these "friends" are really only acquaintances as well. What does the word "friend" even entail? Time spent together? Similar interests? Is there more? Time and similar interests make good acquaintances, but NOT good friends. There must be more, some "emotional bond," if you will. But as soon as emotions become involved, we automatically think of girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. Is there any way to find a friendship involving love or compassion with the opposite sex without being seen as a flirt?

And so, our fractured society has one of its supporting structures very noticeably absent. We have workplace relationships (acquaintances). And we have couples (dating relationships). But for everyone and everything in between, there is a vacuum - a vacuum where there once was friendship, but now is either a boring acquaintance or an expectation of romantic involvement. Those lost within that vacuum are either bored or lonely or both. And when this has gone on long enough, when we have all been in that vacuum, we tend to say, "Who cares? Will anything I do ever change anyone in any way? Can I ever really be happy? Will anyone ever really care about me?" And thus we become numb, lose all sense of hope and love, and become living manequins and zombies, going through life without meaning, without expectation, without goals, without life.

 

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My semi-relevant thought for the day:

"Many a man claims to have unfailing love,
but a faithful man who can find?"
- Proverbs 20:6

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Last modified on February 8, 1997