When friend­ship is formed, or bro­ken, based on ma­te­rial val­ues

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - Between The Lines - — Se­bas­tian Par­togi

THE HEAD­LINE OF JU­LIA SURYAKUSUMA’S re­cent ar­ti­cle, “When Dead Friends Make You Love Life, and Live Ones,” in JPlus caught my at­ten­tion be­cause I have been wrestling with my own ques­tions of what con­sti­tutes real friend­ship and re­spect among peo­ple.

I seemed to get along well with one friend, who like me started out as a re­porter in a me­dia out­let. His ca­reer, how­ever, seemed to ad­vance quicker than mine and it wasn’t long be­fore he jumped ship for a “big­ger fish”. His life sud­denly changed, and he made a whole new cir­cle of friends in high places.

He be­gan crit­i­ciz­ing me for never plan­ning my ca­reer care­fully, caus­ing me to get “stuck” (when com­pared to him). He started to count my sins, i.e. my “crappy” stan­dard of liv­ing, while brag­ging about his com­fort­able life. While I could no longer stand this per­son, I also started to fade into obliv­ion for him, be­cause I was noth­ing com­pared to his cool friends any­way.

I am not alone in my ex­pe­ri­ence. My col­league also told me re­cently how so­cioe­co­nomic ad­vance­ment quickly turned her friend into a stranger (her po­lite ex­pres­sion for a “snob”) who con­stantly be­lit­tles her for not hav­ing a car or pri­vate home.

I also get ner­vous at the prospect of com­ing home this Christ­mas. At gath­er­ings, fam­ily mem­bers, in­stead of lend­ing sup­port and strength to one an­other, some­times end up brag­ging about their ma­te­rial achieve­ments. I es­pe­cially can’t stand my foster par­ents, who, with or with­out ill-in­ten­tions, keep putting me down for spend­ing “years work­ing” and yet re­main­ing be­gini-be­gini saja (a no­body).

I love what I do. Maybe my friends and fam­ily are right about the money, but I will not trade my job for any­thing. Plus, I be­lieve that writ­ing is a skill we can use for the rest of our lives. I see se­nior jour­nal­ists who still write and make money well into their 60s, us­ing their skills while so many of their re­tired peers worry con­stantly about money.

More of a con­cern to me is what I ob­serve around me, es­pe­cially af­ter I “grad­u­ated” into adult­hood. Dur­ing child­hood or ado­les­cence, friends are still more or less sin­cere. There are, of course, vested in­ter­ests. But they are still very sim­ple: you want to be­friend a pop­u­lar guy/gal in or­der to be con­sid­ered pop­u­lar too; you want to be­friend a smart guy so that he will do your home­work (I was the “smart guy” dur­ing my col­lege years).

But the fak­e­ness and hypocrisy I ob­serve in adult­hood friend­ships and re­la­tion­ships dis­turb me. Ibu Martha Ti­laar told me dur­ing an in­ter­view that when she was still poor, she was of­ten looked down upon by oth­ers. When she gained her first suc­cess in the beauty busi­ness, many peo­ple sud­denly wanted to be her friend. When her busi­ness went into a slump, un­for­tu­nately, these peo­ple were nowhere to be found.

“I never lost faith; I kept on pray­ing and thank­fully was given a daugh­ter, a true gift and source of strength for me af­ter every­body left me and my busi­ness failed. That’s when I learned that God is the only one we can de­pend on in our lives,” she told me.

I also in­ter­viewed a writer who gained un­be­liev­able suc­cess af­ter years of seem­ingly fruit­less la­bor. “Now, many peo­ple ngaku-ngaku (claim) to be her friends. When she was still strug­gling and a no­body, where were they? Where were they when she needed them most?” her male friend told me.

There is a re­li­gious wis­dom which says that in truth, our true temp­ta­tion comes not when we are down­trod­den and suf­fer­ing. It comes when we en­joy great suc­cess and feel as if we are im­mune to mis­for­tune.

If there’s any­thing pos­i­tive from all this melan­choly and dis­il­lu­sion­ment with hu­man kind­ness, it is its cau­tion­ary les­son: If I ever be­come suc­cess­ful one day, I hope that I will al­ways re­mem­ber to keep both feet on the ground; God for­bid that I get so lost in my own ar­ro­gance that I find no­body at home when a cri­sis does strike me.

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