What kind of friend are you?

by Jeanne Reilly Burgess


Live purely. 

Be quiet. 

Do your work with mastery. 

Like the moon, come out

from behind the clouds. 


                         ~ Buddha







Sandwich, Massachusetts

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Buddha says “An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast;

a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.”

So, I asked the Buddha ‘what does this mean?’ … since my job, the way I understand it, is to interpret the Buddha for the new Age. I like to pick Buddha sayings that are perplexing and this one seems pretty straight forward, yet it got my attention.  Buddha says that yes, it has meaning on the face of it. But, feel more deeply. Who are your best friends — typically, they are spouses, people very close to us…over years.   His message is more to the ‘friends’ than to the wild beast. And, aren’t we all friends to someone? And, the role of friend comes with responsibility. So, feel into your close relationships. How often, particularly in romantic relationships, do you truly hold the highest reality and potential of the other person? How often do your own fears and doubts creep in? As a close friend, your opinion matters and you know it. As a close friend, you know the Achilles heel of the other. Are you capable of putting aside your fears and doubts and being honest with the other person?

Simple example:  Husband and wife are reasonably happy. They get along, usually. They have four children that they both wanted and enjoy, though they are demanding. Husband is offered a promotion to do something he has always wanted to do. It would involve travel. Wife, afraid of the travel, expresses doubts about the offer… points out the aspects of the job that do not play to Husband’s strengths, creates doubt in Husband. She knows full well her Husband would be great at the job… she is just afraid of him taking it and traveling ‘too’ much and cannot talk honestly about her fears. In her own fear, she grows doubt in him.  Because Husband loves and trusts Wife so much, and knows that she truly knows him better than anyone else, he starts to doubt himself. They never have a conversation about Wife’s fears.  He doesn’t take the job.

Husband and Wife continue on in reasonable peace and happiness. But something has crept in. Deep down, Wife knows she created doubt in Husband to soothe herself.  Over time, she watches Husband be unfulfilled in his job. She starts to see that she would not admit her own fears… that there may have been many ways for the job to benefit the family — perhaps Husband’s travel would’ve been less than she assumed, perhaps the additional income would’ve provided for a nanny and she could’ve gone back to school and/or accompany Husband on some of the more exotic trips, perhaps the travel would’ve been short-lived and then he would’ve been promoted again into a ‘home office’ role. Still, she doesn’t have the courage to be honest with Husband, so she carries the fiction that the job ‘wasn’t right’ for Husband and creates some defenses because she feels guilty. Husband doesn’t know what the shift is, but he feels Wife is more distant… which is puzzling since he made a big decision based on her guidance.   

Another example:  Two business partners are on their 20th year of business. Partner One is truly a visionary. He has the innovation and delivery capability to change people’s lives. Partner Two is more conservative; a bit fearful by nature. They recognize their differences and know that the differences help them achieve balance and success. Partner One is given an opportunity to improve the lives of millions, but he would have to take time away from Partner Two. He is excited; this is a HUGE opportunity. Partner Two, afraid of the time taken from their own partnership and doubting his ability to succeed without Partner One (who isn’t leaving Partner Two, by the way), expresses many concerns about Partner One’s opportunity — everything from health risks to time away from his family to the possibility of failure. Partner One knows Partner Two’s nature, and knows that it has been a beneficial balance in their work relationship. He takes his Partner’s counsel, not knowing that, in truth, Partner Two is really coming from his own fears about losing Partner One. Partner One, sufficiently warned by Partner Two, foregoes the opportunity of a lifetime. He never knows what he misses. He and Partner Two never have an honest conversation about Partner Two’s fears.  

Partner One and Partner Two continue their business relationship. But, something has changed. Because Partner Two knows that he wasn’t just expressing his fearful nature… he was manipulating Partner One to assure his own comfort. On some level, Partner One knows (or, at least, suspects) it too. They continue in ‘successful’ relationship… but it could’ve been so much more. 

Buddha is clear — this kind of insidious fear and doubt-making is more damaging to the psyche than any overt wound. Something creeps into the energy field when those we love most — and who love us most — wound our minds. We may not even know what has happened, but it is in the energy field of the relationship. Fear, doubt, manipulation, control. All the worse when disguised as loving advice, kindness, honesty, and shared decision-making. The ‘wild beast’ is direct. You can understand what is happening and address it openly. You retain your right to choose. The ‘insincere and evil friend’ is often in disguise.

What kind of friend are you?