I’ve asked myself what I want to do with my life, and frankly, that was an easier question to answer than “how should you love your friends?” The question isn’t “how should I show my friends I love them,” because the answer to that is expressions of love or demonstrations of love like flowers, a card, and a venti iced caramel macchiato with soy milk, extra caramel, two pumps of vanilla, and a pump of chai with three blonde espresso shots. If that doesn’t say I love you, I don’t know what does. But the act of loving seems so much more complex.
Reverse-engineering the question, I’m confident that you cannot love your friends by lying, cheating, gossiping about them, all the other general no-nos. Stealing their cat. Putting slime on their carpet. That’s all self-explanatory. You’d hate it if your friend did that to you. So it hit me – the golden rule. “Do to others what you would have them do to you,” love your friends the way you want to be loved. I love coffee, they love coffee, love them with coffee. Perfect. But then I ran into a problem – I love hugs, they hate hugs, love them with hugs? Maybe? Something isn’t working.
When they’re sad and lost and homesick, but I’m not, we have a problem. I want to watch a movie or go for a bike ride, they want to sit and let the emotions happen. So we’ll do what they want – that’s pretty easy. Coined by Tony Alessandra and Michael O’Connor, “the platinum rule” is to treat others as they want to be treated. They feel loved when they have attention, so give them attention, even if you’d hate that. You feel loved with words of affirmation, but they just need quality time, so go for a walk in the Natural Lands. But what if they want to text their ex who cheated, and you know they shouldn’t? Or what if they want to leave campus but you know they shouldn’t? I don’t think our rule works anymore. When your friends want something that will make their lives worse, should you really give it to them? They aren’t pressuring you to break up with your girlfriend that they don’t like, but they would be happier if you did.
So what then? Is there just no one universal way to love your friends? I won’t accept it. In late June, one of my friends pulled into a gas station, and their card was declined. The gas light was on in their car, they couldn’t get home. So I sent them 20 dollars. Not what they wanted, but what they needed. My friend who loves flowers bombed a test, they may not want one but I’ll leave a marigold on their door for when they’re ready. My brother is struggling in school, so even though he hates it, I jump on FaceTime with him while he does take-home tests, just to stop him from getting distracted. Over Fall Break, I was indisposed with food poisoning –don’t worry, it wasn’t Stav, it was Burton. I was feeling scared and sick, and my friends were by my side the whole time. It was absolutely not what I wanted, but what I needed.
How do I know what my friends need? Because I love them – when they’re on top of the world, and when they’re not. Because “love is patient and love is kind. It does not insist on its own way, It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” What delightful words. I think that could be called the Amber Rule, because just as amber is unique to the earth, love is unique to us.