So maybe that title looks like nonsense to you. Maybe you think “of course, you can have like-minded friends, that’s what draws people together, shared values!” And that’s right, I can pretty much agree with that statement. So is that the end of the story? Well, not exactly.
Here’s what I’m getting at, “Like-Minded” is a specific phrase that is used in specific circumstances where people are making a concerted effort to start or grow a very specific and ideologically driven tribe. If that supposition is correct, then the question changes a bit. In fact, I am hinting at a tension I see between true friendship which is affection for people who are like us in some ways but very different in others, and the kinds of relationships that develop in grand cause, or ideologically driven communities.
The “True Friend” is a character who is just enough like me for me to be drawn to and have some trust for him, but still differs from me in important ways.– ways that make me curious and perhaps help me grow. Most importantly there is affection that makes me pursue understanding when we have differences, and also listen with patience through things that I don’t initially understand, and/or may never fully understand. The relationship is lasting, the shared vales are secondary and at least somewhat malleable.
The “Likeminded Friend” is a character who I connect to because we want the same thing. We want the same candidate to win, or maybe we want people to believe the same thing about the end of the world, or maybe we agree about the problems in our society. There’s real camaraderie in the shared goals, but the relationship is utilitarian. We are banded together for a purpose. And in this case the cause is eternal, and the relationships are conditional and temporary. If someone falls away from the cause, they will fall away from relationship.
And that’s where the question comes from for me. If our friendship depends on my loyalty to our shared cause, are we really friends? Does the fact that I held true to the cause yesterday, make you at all curious that I’ve changed my mind today? If so, we might almost be friends. Does the fact that I’ve changed my mind prove to you that I was never a true member or true friend? Then perhaps we were never friends, and perhaps in that sense there is no such thing as a “Like-Minded Friend.”