On Friendship

August 10, 2008 at 9:17 am (Mary McQueary, Soliloquy)



Jane English wrote that friendship should not be a favor-debt situation. When we are friends with someone the exchange, the tit for tat, disappears. In the place of reciprocity, there is mutuality. The never-ending obligation to be there for each other, at least while the friendship lasts.



Too often we forget to see that the person we are intimate with cares for us no matter what, whether or not we give or take. Of course, nobody likes to only give, and if someone is only taking there is something immoral with that also, but to keep an accounting of what we’ve done to others and them to us makes for a short ending to friendships.


The indebtedness we often times feel can come from many different sources; poor self-esteem, ghost thoughts from the past clouding our present day relationships, perhaps even coming from our religious upbringing. Many have the belief we are forever indebted to God for our creation, though Jane English had something interesting to say about parent-child relationships that I think can also be said of our relationship with our Creator (should one choose to believe there is one).



Both debt-favor relationships and friendships share the common element, attention, making the two types difficult to distinguish from each other in certain situations. Within friendships, we give each other love, the forwarding of their well-being over our own, thoughts of the other, and subsequent actions that we take making our relationship a priority. We have friendships because we like another person. And they like us. Love tangles with time and often is seen as the same within the attention element but do not be fooled, it is not the same.  


Here’s an example:

I worked for a man named Mac Hackett. He supervised 3 managers. My orders were that Mac came first and foremost. He was priority #1. When he was not in need, I could devote my attention and energies to the other 3 managers. They became priority #2. The employees they oversaw became the 3rd priority. 



I was able to manage all of their needs most of the time quite well. Mac was happy, the managers were happy, their people were happy. All their needs were taken care of. Everyone knew where they came on the list of priority, so that when I said to one of the employees that I couldn’t fulfill a request they made of me they knew it was because I was serving the managers‘, or Mac‘s, needs. No squabbles, no begging, no “I can’t believe you won’t help me out here” type of comments. They gave me so much an hour; I made them happy by being their very effective helper. A debt-favor relationship.


Can you see how this scenario could easily happen within personal relationships? Our spouse becomes priority #1, our children priority #2, and our friends priority #3. Our friends come to us and say, “Could I have some of your time?” and we reply by saying, “I can’t right now”. They are understanding that we have spouses or children that have needs to be attended, that we love them, but are we are working with the parameters of favor/debt relationships and neglecting the more expansive needs of friendship?



For many, for their family and friends, they cook them dinner, wash their clothes, give them love. They give food, clothes (although more often than not ones that are dirty), and love in return, making them happy by being their very effective wife/mother/friend (Nina Rosenstand points to the word ‘prostitute’.) 



The favor-debt relationship is a model that is followed by amazing amounts of people, more than we realize, for it’s a tidy little model that is easy to follow. It doesn’t require much thought. No triage here. The formula is already set and like assembly line workers we follow it precisely so that our lives continue in a happy mode. Never an upset, never a crisis noticed. Except there is a crisis and upsets going on everywhere, deep inside the souls of our family and friends. For we are crushed when we are in need and who we need the most can’t be with us.


All relationships shift and alter through time and society’s impetus is to keep things from being messy, to keep things flowing easy, to have relationships be cut and dry, black and white, never a shade of gray, but that fact does not release us from our friendships.


I admit to being overwhelmed with fear when I am unable to respond to someone when I’m needed and it’s out of the priority sequence that mainstream society has for set up for me. I’ve dropped the ball before at a really crucial moment and nearly had a friendship end. It is a shame that never leaves me. It serves as a reminder to tell you and to show you how much your friendship means to me. So you will know that I am trying to be a human being, and that I want to love you like a human, the messy way, the real and deep way, and not as a robot programmed to love and do by formula. My friend, I love you beyond debt or favor.


– Mary McQueary.







  1. Mom said,

    Mac Hackett! Whatever happened to him? Maybe he’ll Google his own name some day, read what you’ve written, and get in touch with you.

  2. Mary said,

    He died of a heart attack.

    One of his staff members called me on April 1st (many, many years ago). I thought at first they were joking and that it was an April Fool’s Day joke. But no joke, he guy had died the day before.

    When I worked for him he was working on developing handheld computers. He used to hold his large hand out and talk up how great it was going to be. Every time I see someone using a Blackberry I think of him.

  3. nancy dinberg said,

    hi max are work for a radio you e mail back Thack you Nancy Dinberg

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