Byron's Babbles

Are We Best Friends?

Posted in Benevolent Leadership, Best Friends, Boston Legal, Conversational Leadership, Forgiveness, Friendship, Listening by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 11, 2019

Do any of you remember the show Boston Legal? It was one of my favorites. The comedy-drama ran for five seasons from 2004-2008. The show focuses on the personal lives of the upscale lawyers and their cases of the law firm Crane, Poole, and Schmidt. Recently, when our cable was out and we could get no channels, my son and I were on the phone and he said, “Dad you know we have a SMART TV so you can watch episodes of some of your old time shows.” I have to admit that I didn’t know that. Then he explained how to get to the shows and that this is what leads to people doing what is called “bingeing.” I also have to admit, I did it – binge watched Boston Legal. It was great and there were so many things said in the show that made me think. So, of course I had to blog about it!

At the end of each episode there is always Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader) sitting on the balcony in cool white chairs, which are called Bubble Club Chairs – that you can buy, by the way, drinking bourbon and smoking cigars. The talk is funny, but very deep and meaningful. In one episode Denny says to Alan, “What I give to you, I do with no one else (speaking of their time on the balcony each night and ultimately about their friendship). I like to think that what you give to me you do with nobody else. Now that may sound silly to you. But, here’s what I think is silly, the idea that jealousy or fidelity is reserved for romance.” Alan replied, “…But gosh what I get from you Denny. People walk around today calling everyone their best friend. The term doesn’t have any real meaning anymore. Mere acquaintances are lavished with hugs and kisses upon a second or at most third meeting, birthday cards get passed around offices so everybody can scribble a snippet of sentimentality for a colleague they barely met, and everyone just loves everyone. As a result when you tell somebody you love them today, it isn’t much heard. I love you Denny, you are my best friend. I can’t imagine going through life without you as my best friend. I’m not going to kiss you however.” Like I said, some funniness to it, but also very deep.

What does it mean to be a friend, a best friend, or to love, I mean really love, someone today? Do those terms, as Alan Shore lamented, really have any meaning any more? I’m not sure they do. In fact the balcony seen at the end of this episode has caused me to really reflect on my own definitions of love and friends. I’ll bet you were recently passed a card and asked to sign it and you may have thought to yourself, “I really don’t know this person.” I’m not saying that giving birthday cards is bad, but have we become a society of trivializing friendship and love?

So, I ask the question that Alan asked; does the term “best friend” have any real meaning any more? I believe to be a best friend is a privilege not to be bestowed on everyone. Showing another human being that you care about them and that their happiness and presence in your life is important to you on a regular basis is, though it may seem obvious, is a fairly big commitment in practice.

Remember how much easier it was to have a best friend in high school or college? You were with them every day. I find it difficult to be a good friend. Life seems to have a way of inserting itself and does a pretty good job of prying us apart. I think of all the times I’ve said, “We’re going to get together.” But, then never do. I’m a little, actually a lot, envious of Denny and Alan being able to sit on the balcony every evening at the end of the work day and philosophize. The lesson that can be learned from studying the characters of Denny and Alan is that being a best friend involves compromise, trust, and a mutual growth that allows certain friends to last through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Really, friendship is a peculiar type of love. There is no real binding commitment to the opposite person other than what you are willing to put into the relationship. I really do think the term “friend” doesn’t have as much real meaning anymore. How many times have you had someone start a conversation with, “As a friend, you need to know…”? Many times there is not the friendship to be making the observation. That’s why, as the person on the receiving end, it upsets us. Again, we learn from Denny and Alan that a true “best friendship” allows us to:

  1. Love you for you
  2. Listen to understand
  3. Be accepting
  4. Be genuine
  5. Appreciate the humor

Do you know and appreciate the value of your best friend?

Forgiveness: Rising Again

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

Forgiveness: Rising Again

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

How do we put down the burden of nonforgiveness when carrying it seems so justified? There are so many experiences in organizations that seem unforgivable. People who are otherwise good betray others, become in one’s eyes untrustworthy or incompetent. In the larger world, there are acts that are perpetrated in hate and anger that seem undeserving of forgiveness.

When we first began the journey of exploring building resilience with appreciative inquiry, we wondered about what it is that opens the door to the possibility of returning to a state of hope, however transient that might be. We deeply understood that the practice of hope and a hopeful view offered the ability to find hope in the tiniest of places. In finding that hope and a hopeful view greater resilience could be created. We also recognized that tapping into strengths and capabilities in times of despair was a powerful sustaining force. 

As we read, thought, and worked with leaders, we began to recognize another element at play in resilience: forgiveness. It wasn’t something that just happened along the way. Leaders decided to enter into the state of forgiveness with grace and power so that they could move themselves and their organizations forward. In the appreciative resilience model, forgiveness is the most difficult element to practice, because in organizations, the thinking often is that people should be punished, removed, or banished. In forgiving self and others, a leader chooses to be in a state of acceptance of what is and begins to move forward from that place.

Forgiveness offers a place where dialogue can begin and change can take place. Practicing forgiveness is very challenging because of the sheer will it takes to enact. Forgiveness is a conscious act that requires one to examine one’s leadership and deeply forgive failures—others’ and one’s own. As one interviewee stated:

Forgiveness is one of the fundamental necessary things we need to have happen in our lives. I wish I had more. I wish forgiveness came easier to me. Forgiveness is very important. In any human system, you are going to have a problem with someone else. Somebody’s going to do something that offends you, or you misperceive and it is offensive to you; whatever it is, you see it as a slight or an attack, and if you hold on to that, you really can’t move forward in a human system together.

It is only through forgiveness that we literally have our minds changed and can see the possibilities before us. Forgiveness is a means of moving toward hope and sometimes of just living with what is unchangeable in our leadership lives. Forgiveness creates a space for leaders to let go of anger and hurt and look forward with realistic expectations.

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About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.