Tough Friendship

No one told me about it. I used to have a nice pair of black shoes, my favorite, the first gift Sarah ever gave me, but which acquired a doubtful smell over time. I had never had foot odor before, so I began to suspect the problem only gradually, but by then it was too late. I saw myself in a crowded friend’s house with no way to make things smell better, and had already been at several events and left a trail of questionable aromas and nervous comments.

john-lennon-yoko-ono

To confront friends is a tough task. We all have friends who could benefit hugely if someone told them to switch deodorant brands, to dress up for job interviews, to expand the repertoire of subjects of conversation. Everybody knows these features are prejudicial, everybody knows the person is not aware of them, everybody knows he would benefit if someone pulled him aside and gave some suggestions, but no one has the guts to do it. We fear we might offend him.

The courage to confront is harder to come in more delicate cases still, like with the friend who is fixed for years on entering a specific university but who is simply not ready enough, even tough she studies day and night. Or with the buddy who dismisses great gals that come by because they are not good enough for him, not realizing he is no Brad Pitt himself. Or with the acquaintance pouring investments into a company that is bound for bankruptcy, believing that persistence will eventually turn losses into profits.

“The king is always killed by his courtesans, not by his enemies,” wrote John Lennon, about a meteoric moment of his Beatles career when no one had the courage to confront him even though success was crippling his soul. So-called friends preferred to profit from his fame than to help him navigate it with a clear head.

The king is overfed, overdrugged, overflattered, they make anything to keep him bound to his throne. The majority of people in this position never wake up. They die mentally or physically or both.

But someone eventually saw him eye to eye. Lennon describes how Yoko Ono summoned the courage to talk to him as a man and not as a Beatle, and call forth character and realism and responsibility.

And what Yoko did for me was liberate me from that situation. She showed me what it was to be Elvis Beatles and live surrounded by fans and slaves interested just in keeping the situation as it was… She did not fall in love with the Beatle, she did not fall in love with my fame. She fell in love with me, with how I was, and this brought to the fore that there was something better in me. [I realized] ‘My God, this is different that anything that took place before. This is more than an album in the hit parades. This is more than gold.[1]

A friends’ new awareness more than compensates the awkwardness of confronting moments. A new self-understanding can correct self-defeating habits or even launch someone in a whole new direction of life. It is the posture of “speaking the truth in love,”[2] of caring for the other person too much to let him or her persist in a negative habit or belief. The courage to confront is the measure of true friendship.

René Breuel


[1] John Lennon, quoted in Philip Norman, John Lennon: A Vida [John Lennon: A Life] (Sao Paulo, Editora Schwarcz, 2009), 546

[2] Ephesians 4:15

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