For most of my life, despite whatever large amount of social awkwardness (and awkwardness of other kinds) I have had to deal with, I have gone about my travels and experiences with the belief that every stranger was a potential friend. This did not mean that every stranger or even most strangers become friends, merely that they have the potential to do so, assuming they have a friendly personality themselves as well as decent character and loyalty. It did not mean that there would not be barriers to friendship, but that I would not seek to put up any artificial barriers myself. By the time I reached college, I found it profitable and rewarding to meet people and develop a wide mix of acquaintances and even deep friends from people I had not known for a long time. Indeed, I found that those who had not known me a long time sometimes had an advantage in not being connected to the rather unpleasant experiences that have filled my youth, an advantage that still holds to some extent.
Nonetheless, I thought it worthwhile to examine why my beliefs have changed somewhat to the extent where I consider not every stranger to be a potential friend given my own sensitivities and worldview. I would still say that almost every stranger is a potential friend, but not quite every stranger would be so welcome, as I would have thought in my slightly more naive youth. There are just some sorts of people who are not going to get the chance to be any kind of friendly acquaintance to me whatsoever. This includes people who are abusive, and those who make fierce and unprovoked attacks on me personally without any sort of equally open repentance. Of course, these have always been barriers to developing any kind of friendship, and would be barriers for just about everyone, but it is worthwhile to put these sorts of barriers out there even knowing that they are obvious ones.
There are other less obvious barriers that in my life have frequently hindered the development of deep friendships even given plenty of time and at least a superficial “friendliness.” Some of these barriers are worthy of comment. I find it difficult to be friends with someone whose worldview is a personal attack on mine. This does not mean I cannot have friends who have different political or religious beliefs (which is itself rather common), but rather anyone who wishes to be a genuine friend must have a worldview which considers my own legitimate. For example, anyone whose worldview leads them to make constant insults about biblical religion, or the vital importance of human freedom and dignity, or who seems to advocate a certain doctrinaire harshness to life is almost certainly not going to be a close friend. Additionally, people who continually attack sensitivities are probably also not going to be close. Admittedly, I’m a person with a fair amount of sensitivities, but most of them are fairly obvious, and as I’m a person who goes out of my way not to attack the sensitive ground of others I generally expect the same amount of respect for myself. I find it particularly bothersome, for example, when people cast aspersions on my character and needle me endlessly about my single status. It should be readily obvious to anyone who sees me personally that I enjoy the company of lovely young ladies and would want one in my life, but for a variety of reasons it has not been easy for me to develop intimacy. This is a fairly obvious area of sensitivity, and the amount of people who hammer on it without provocation is somewhat alarming to me personally.
In a similar way, I find people who have rather different drives and motivations to be somewhat difficult to understand if their own motivations leads them to look down on my own. As someone who highly values respect and honor, I tend to treat disrespectful conduct on the part of others, or judgmental conduct directed toward me, as a sign of unfriendliness and a lack of decency. I imagine that many people view likewise, and consider this is a barrier to friendship as well. As someone who greatly values culture and education, I appreciate those who love music or books or have a love of learning (even if the subjects they love are different than my own). That said, I find those whose constant preoccupation to be money or material possessions, especially if they are of the belief that they can buy the love of other people, to be rather unsuitable as deep friends given my own abhorrence of mercenarial behavior, and given that such people would tend to look down on me because of my own goals and aspirations.
We ought to expect that such barriers to friendship are few and far between and are fairly widely shared. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed anyway, and so some level of worldview and personality compatibility would appear to be necessary for deep friendship anyway. People with very different goals and ways of looking at the world, unless those differences are conducted with a great deal of personal respect for others, are also likely to have barriers in developing or maintaining a deep friendship. Those who have different conceptions of loyalty and honor are also likewise to cause offense or appear judgmental. None of this is surprising. What is perhaps surprising, but also rewarding, is the fact that even a fairly scarred traveler can see most people, almost everyone even, and see potential friends, and find that faith generally rewarded. Perhaps we all might take comfort from such occurrences and fight against the cynicism that robs life of so much joy and fellow feeling. Hopefully we can all turn many of the potential friends in our lives into real ones, and find the joy that comes from ridding loneliness one friendship and relationship at a time.