The Ten Levels of Friendship
How can you find people you want to share your life with? The process of finding companions is like forming your own social constellation of people who support you. It takes time, discernment, and clear boundaries.
Pay attention to how people carry themselves. Do they have good posture? Are they graceful in their movements? Are they paying attention to their surroundings? This isn’t to say that everyone with poor posture is unworthy, but people who take care of themselves by standing up straight are more likely to have energy to support others. Do they have callouses or muscles? Are they passionate about a hobby? These are all indications of access to vital life energy and enjoyment of life, which means that person is much more likely to bring joy and reliability to yours. Look for people who enjoy giving with little hope for reward, just for the pleasure it brings to be in service. This is different from giving out of guilt or obligation.
Be discerning. Keep in mind these are people you want to share your whole life with, and few things will tear apart a community faster than a really hurt and needy individual. We can treat everyone kindly and respectfully, but we don’t have to live with everyone. If you wanted to invest in a nice house, would you take the first one that came along? Or would you examine the plumbing, check the roof, inspect the basement? Both houses and people require a large investment of energy over a length of time. It is hard to pay a lot for a house and then have many unexpected problems with it needing more maintenance and not meeting your needs. A little energy in the beginning can save many years of energy expenditure later.
As you meet new and interesting people and start to interact with them, treat them kindly and with respect always, but choose to offer a little of yourself at first. There is no need to tell your oldest secrets to a stranger. First talk about something you have in common. This is the “football and potato chip opener”. If they respond and give of themselves in return (“I like football and potato chips too”), then the friendship grows and you move to a level 9 friendship. If you offer of yourself (“I just love football and potato chips”) and your friend doesn’t open up in reciprocation (they say nothing, or they put you down for liking boring sports and foods), then you stay at level 10, acquaintances.
Be cautious with people who interrogate you with many deep questions while offering little of themselves in return. This leaves you drained and is not a balanced relationship. To continue to offer of yourself without any energy exchange will only leave you very vulnerable to judgment and projections. To continue to offer of yourself without any energy exchange will only leave you very vulnerable to judgment and projections.
Enjoy every friendship at whatever level it’s at, but don’t offer a superficial friend a place in your community just because they say it’s an interesting idea. It is not excessively harsh or judgmental to decide to maintain an acquaintance-level friendship with someone. It simply means you prefer that the level of intimacy between you be shallow, for now. Remember, one behavior or interaction doesn’t indicate a person’s “good” or “bad” character forever. Sometimes people are going through a tough time, they misread us or we misread them. Keeping things light and fun and reserving some of yourself to share later still allows the possibility for deeper connection in the future.