The ranks within friendships.
I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately. As the years go by there are friends that come and friends that go. There are ups and downs, and people who were once close grow further apart and vice-versa. With the passage of time comes an appreciation for the friendships that stick through all the ups and downs, the coming and going, and the trials that make or break these relationships.
But there’s an aspect of friendships and social circles that has always bothered me. It’s the ranks that can form within a group of friends, or even a hierarchy. Just as a leader can rise to the top, so too can someone be forced to the bottom. The “low man on the totem pole.” The punching bag. The one everyone pokes fun at for the sake of a laugh or elevating their own moods. I dislike ranks and hierarchy in friendships because I have a history of being that very punching bag on more than one occasion.
Perhaps I’m being sensitive. I’m a sensitive guy. But I know that friends poke fun at each other because that’s how friends show their love and appreciation. You playfully tease someone because you know they can take it, and you expect to get that much in return. It’s the natural back-and-forth of a healthy friendship, of feeling relaxed around someone you can joke around with. However, there’s a big difference between laughing with someone and laughing at someone. In my youth, my experience was very much the latter in my circles of friends and it sucked.
Which is what makes me so grateful for the small, solid crew I have now. There is no rank or hierarchy among us. There is no leader and no punching bag. Everyone laughs with everyone else when we poke fun at someone’s trivial mistakes or slip-ups. I’ve had healthy friendships like this with individuals before, but this is the best group dynamic I’ve ever been a part of. Maybe it’s because we’re all older now, with homes and families and other adult responsibilities, but whatever the reason it’s an amazing feeling.
No one should ever feel like they hold the lowest rank in a social circle. Your friendships are your havens, your escapes, your refuges. Everyone should stand on equal ground and get back as much as they give, from compassion to jokes.
If you’re reading this and feel like you may be on the low end of some ridiculous hierarchy, do yourself a favor and ditch those poisonous assholes. Find people who will respect you, love you, and laugh with you instead of at you. They’re out there. I guarantee it.