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One of my friends got himself into some serious debts. I've loaned him money, helped him get his admin organised, I've helped him move into a new apartment....and I single-handedly moved his stuff back out, after he had fled the country in an attempt to run away from his debts. Now, he's back and I've managed to get him into a program to pay off those debts over the course of the next three years. Until recently, we were quite close and he shared many of his fears and thoughts with me and I was glad to be there for him, any way I could. His life seems to be improving now and I'm happy for him. Two weeks ago he started ignoring me and blocking me, because his current girlfriend doesn't believe our friendship is merely platonic. (it really is, though) I do not regret helping him; I did it for him, not for myself. I'm happy he's trying to rebuild his life. I don't think he's in a nurturing relationship right now, but I think that's for him to figure out by himself. My other friends keep telling me he's using me and he's not treating me with the respect I deserve. I agree partly: I do not feel respected anymore. I feel ambivalent. What should I do next? End our friendship? Keep a low profile? How does that teach him not to forsake his friends for romance? We've all been blinded by love before, so I understand why he's doing this right now, however, when I reach a point where it's hurting my feelings, should I end the friendship? I've tried to talk to him about it, but he remains incommunicado. Still I am doing his admin for him and making sure he stays in the afore mentioned "debt program"; it's not helping him to move forward, though, because currently he's not an active part of sorting out his admin. Please advise me....

  • How is this about Buddhism? Did I miss it? – Lowbrow Aug 11 '16 at 7:13
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In Buddhism, there are two kinds of friendship: (i) ordinary friendship; & (ii) spiritual friendship.

In ordinary friendship, Buddhist principles ensure what is called 'false friends' or 'false friendship' does not harm us, including economically. The principles of 'true friendship' & 'false friendship' are listed in this link in the 2nd section, which begins with: "These four, young householder, should be understood as foes in the guise of friends...". You may read this thoroughly & thoughtfully to help provide perspective &/or guidance.

In what you described in your post, the impression of 'false friendship' does not appear to exist because: (i) you have volunteered to help him; (ii) you are not threatened economically; and (iii) you are not being taken advantage of sexually or illegally.

Therefore, your situation appears to be an issue of spiritual friendship. In Buddhism, spiritual friendship (metta-karuna) or 'altruism' is unconditional; it is not given to receive anything in return; it is selfless.

From a Buddhist perspective, since it appears you are not being threatened or harmed, your issues are those related to hurt from 'pride' or 'conceit'. This kind of 'egoism' the Buddhist path seeks to end or overcome because it causes suffering. A mind training verse is as follows:

When someone whom I have helped, Or in whom I have placed great hopes, Mistreats me in extremely hurtful ways, May I regard him still as my precious teacher.

Eight Verses for Training the Mind

Buddhism would recommend to continue helping your friend in a selfless manner & identify the problem as your 'pride' or 'ego' rather than your relationship being something inherently dangerous you must urgently end.

While his new girlfriend may not be ideal, ordinary people do often get possessive in relationship so you can give them some space rather than officially break your platonic friendship.

Ultimately, it is ideal the new girlfriend trust you and express gratitude towards you given you have helped her new boyfriend in an extraordinary & praiseworthy way. Give it time. His new love affair may not work out, anyway (since she sounds very possessive & controlling), thus he made need your help & support again when it falls to pieces.

In summary, true spiritual friendship & altruism cannot hurt or harm us. As long as the five Buddhist precepts are not transgressed (namely, physical violence, economic theft, sexual exploitation, deliberate lying & drug addiction/enabling) then we cannot be harmed or hurt; unless we ourselves are controlling & possessive, in which only our own pride & attachment hurts us.

My answer: keep a low profile! (but be prepared for when he needs you again).

In Buddhism, this is called 'upeka' ('equanimity'), which literally means: 'to watch over/observe a person in a detached manner until we have the opportunity to help'. An intrinsic element of 'upeka' is giving others the space to take responsibility for & learn from their own karma (actions).

Since you have genuinely helped him, you should be satisfied in your own virtue & goodness. One meditation in Buddhism is reflecting upon your own good altruistic deeds (cāgānussati).

  • 2
    Thank you very much for your words of wisdom.....you've really helped me make up my mind about this issue. Today I conveyed my thoughts to him, telling him I only wanted his happiness and would be there for him if he needed my help, but that I figured the best thing I could do right now was to keep a low profile and allow him to find out for himself where his path may lead him. He was completely relieved, for he'd feared he'd be faced with a decision, in which he'd have to choose between romance and friendship. He thanked me for being such a true friend to him and for understanding his needs. – Mirjam Aug 10 '16 at 13:22
  • You're welcome. You are certainly a true friend to him and he is not a false friend but, at this time, has not perfected true friendship. I am glad it all worked out. – Dhammadhatu Aug 10 '16 at 17:58
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You were very compassionate in how you reached out to that person. Mine too was a very similar story. I have no ill will in any way what so ever against that person, but I now keep my distance with him. What I would like to tell you here is that you have to learn compassion for the people around you, and also compassion for yourself. And most importantly you need a good sense of humor.

It is the ability to laugh at the foibles of human nature that leads both you and the person that you reached out to, to doing what is unskillful. We have to learn to laugh at that kind of behavior, but it’s a good-natured laugh. It’s not nasty or mean. It’s the recognition that we all have had those impulses, and we can see the foolishness in giving in to them. The virtue of humor is that it allows you to step back and separate yourself from what you’re laughing at. If you can develop a sense of distance between self and the act, then you can laugh at human behavior. So when you can laugh at yourself, you’re putting yourself apart, separate from your foibles and above them. Then you will learn from any unskillful actions or thoughts from your part, and learn to keep on giving, and reaching out to others without any form of expectations in return.

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