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In Good Company

Devora Zheutlin, MA, CAS

“You don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends you can be certain of.” How is friendship refined and defined?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

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The User vs. the True Friend 

A positive and healthy friendship should be a two-way street, each side giving something to, and getting something from, the friendship. While a mild imbalance is sometimes a feature of dear friendships, it’s wise to be on the lookout for a relationship in which one is being used without reciprocity.
In a user relationship, one person is interested in a friendship with the other because it raises her self-worth or somehow gives her an advantage. The user is not truly interested in benefitting her friend; she’s only interested in what the friend might offer her. 

Here are a few examples of what users might seek in a friendship:

THE STATUS SEEKER The wealthier, more “connected,” popular, or “choshuve” a person is, the more the user wants to associate with her.


Often, early in the friendship, the user will probe with questions that evaluate the person’s worth like, “Wow, how much are you allowed to spend on school shoes?” or “Do you spend a lot of time with your [very famous] grandfather?” Connection to the high status of the friend elevates the user’s feelings about herself, without her having to actually achieve anything. (Now you see why that person is literally using another for her own gains.)

THE CHESED-DOER Sometimes a user looks for a weak and not-so-functional person to use as her “chesed” recipient. In this situation, it may look good on the outside to be so dedicated to an “underdog” and others may praise the user for her goodness. The role of the chesed-doer works well for the user, and she seeks out the relationship, once again using another for her own advantage.

THE STUDENT In the world of junior high and high school, when so much revolves around academics and schoolwork, an intelligent friend is a very dear commodity. To quote one girl, “I spent a lot of time teaching ‘my friend’ AP English. At a time when I could have been advancing myself, I was tutoring her instead.” The user benefits from a private tutor, while the tutor… does not.


When you suspect you are being used, it can be a very uncomfortable realization. We love to judge others l’kaf zechus, and to presume that people are good. We may, therefore, doubt ourselves and assume we’re not seeing real using, or that we are being too harsh. Often it takes a family member or another friend to point out the user’s one-dimensional behavior towards us. When we do realize it, however, a few pathways open up. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Teen, Issue 38)

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