I posted this on Facebook today:
It's true, and it means that I often find myself in the middle of two friends who really, really hate one another. Or at least see the other as useless, stupid, dangerous...you get the idea. I also often find myself unable to defend them. It's not because I don't think the friend under examination isn't worth defending, obviously! It's just that the reasons I keep them around aren't taken seriously by the questioning party. I don't need people to have all of the qualities I want in one person. Those qualities aren't universal throughout my social group, even the ones I find very important.
Recently, I was in of those mildly uncomfortable situations. I've changed some details about the values involved, but it went like this:
Alice is a high-energy, aggressive individual who believes in truthseeking and agency above all else. She also believes that it's important to see how people behave in stressful situations, and gets accused of trolling while attempting to incite that reaction over social media. I like Alice because, in addition to just enjoying her, her communication style helps me practice not being defensive in response to criticism, because she is very insistent on calling out dishonesty among her friends. Even when it's implicit.
Bob is a kindhearted individual who values truthseeking as well, but also loving-kindness in their social circle. He has a lot of compassion for people who've had hard lives and advocates for lots of accommodations for the disabled. He has been known to hide some things due to his anxiety, and is not very resilient to disruptions in his life. Bob is useful to me as a source of compassion and caregiving, and is in favor of more social accommodation than most of my close friends are, so I get to see a viewpoint that I'm not exposed to that much.
Alice and Bob hate each other. They've both asked me independently why I put up with the other, or implied that I shouldn't. I didn't go into extensive detail about their value systems, but I gave enough to illustrate that while I find them both valuable, I can't defend one to the other. The reasons I keep them as friends aren't enough to overcome their distaste for each other. And I don't think there's much wrong with either of them. At least, their flaws are the sort I can put up with well enough.
I started writing this to brainstorm ways to present my reasons in a way that's palatable to the offended parties. This particular situation is one I've just ignored, but one of the individuals has recently reduced the amount of contact we have, and I feel like this may be why. This is frustrating. It makes me think that I should add a friendship criterion: When I say that I do get something out of a relationship, and they aren't hurting me, just fucking trust me.