I originally published this article back in 2010. It was right around the time I started figuring out how many toxic friendships I had surrounded myself with and began the arduous task of weeding them out. Today I think is a good day to remind myself of how far I’ve come and that there is still more work for me to do. It has gotten easier to spot the Pretends, but they are becoming fewer and fewer as life goes on. I wish them well, and I wish them on their way. I only have time in my life for Friends. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Don’t you?
Are you a friend? Or a Pretend? If you have to think about those questions it’s likely you’re a Pretend. Maybe you don’t know the difference? Before you proclaim to be someone’s greatest champion, take a look at what that entails.
A Pretend likes hanging out with you and talking about life. They’ll drink a toast to you and tell you they love you. But a Pretend will become scarce when the going gets tough. If you become ill, they will fear catching your germs. If you get into a fight with someone they will look the other way and pretend they don’t know what happened. If they hear someone talking about your misfortune, they’ll listen and politely tell the person “I don’t get involved in that.”And they don’t. Getting dirty to defend your honor is not on their agenda, but they’re not above telling you what people are saying about you. They’re also not above gossiping and saying mean things about you behind your back.
A Friend will bring you soup when you’re ill and they’ll sit next to you on the sofa and read magazines while you heal. If you get into a fight, a Friend will be the first person to step in between you and your opponent. A group of people is often harder to defeat than just one person, after all. And when a Friend hears disparaging remarks about you, they jump to your defense. They know who you are and if someone is misrepresenting your character they will set the record straight. If a Friend thinks you’re screwing something up, they’ll tell you first, instead of going behind your back and telling everyone else.
A Friend knows you would do the same for them.
But how can you tell the difference? It’s easy. You can tell the difference by being a Friend. Being a Friend doesn’t take a lot of work. Being a Pretend does. When you pretend to be a friend you start balancing a lot of spinning plates on poles. Pretty soon your hands are full and your Pretendship has the potential to come crashing down around your feet.
A Pretend is not an acquaintance or a friendly passing. A Pretend is someone that leads to believe that you are close, buddies, almost like family. You totally trust them. The problem is they only lead you to believe this, when in reality, they probably don’t like you that much at all. That is what a Pretend is. They only like you as long as it benefits them in some way.
I have never pretended to be someone’s friend, even if it meant I might get something out of it I really wanted. Pretending to like someone has always left a bad taste in my mouth, so I have always settled on being cordial instead. In other words, I have always chosen to maintain my integrity by being genuine with the people in my life.
We all have Pretends in our lives. It’s not a crime to be either one so long as you know which one you are. Don’t be surprised when you find out someone you thought was your Friend was only a Pretend all along.
There have been a few times in my life that I have been caught completely unaware that I was dealing with a Pretend. I can tell you honestly that nothing is more painful than that realization.
These days when it happens, I pick myself up and dust myself off and turn my face towards the ones in my life that have always been real. I waste no time mourning the Pretends anymore. After all, if they couldn’t see enough about me worthy of friendship, except what they could get from me, or take from me, then there is very little left for me to cry about.
Be the kind of person you would want to include in your life. If you occasionally get a little dirty or catch a cold, in the long run it’s worth it to know you might only be a human, but you’re a hero to the rest of the human race.