By John Aaron Williams

This is a controversial subject. What follows is just a realization I had about the subject of friendship.

There was a time when I was in the Sea Org for about 8 years. I left feeling a bit betrayed by the individuals I thought were my friends. What was worse was that those friends had no problem with what had happened that made me walk away and no need to speak on my behalf.  The incident left me quite befuddled.

As I continued to look at this dilemma of why friends didn’t stand up for their friends in the SO I realized that they were taught “situational ethics.” Now, what I mean by “situational ethics” is ethics based on the situation you found yourself in. In case this is still not clear I will give you an example and I am sure that if you have done liability for something in the church you will recognize this.

(I saw numerous liability formulas of this type when in the Sea Org so feel it may be more real to people than one of my own.)

Let’s say that you did a little “heavy petting” with a member of the opposite sex and this became a big problem because the two of you were not married. This is a problem because you violated a rule (moral code of the group) that said there is no heavy petting until you are married.

So on your liability formula the first thing was to “find out who your friends are.” Your answer to this was: “My friends are those SO Members who follow the moral codes of the group and do not violate them for their own base desires.”

Now that sounds nice and decent and the Ethics Officer would pass that as a good answer to “finding out who your friends are” but did you really find out who your friends are?

I can tell you from experience via talking to individuals who brought these to me to sign that they were sure it was what the Ethics Officer wanted to hear. There was no evaluation about who “their” friends were. It was a 3rd dynamic action (Justice) not a 1st Dynamic action (Ethics). And back then I just went along with it.

Church members and Sea Org members responded to that question on a 3rd Dynamic basis based on the situation they found themselves in. Not by 1st dynamically deciding who their friends were. Real friends. Groups don’t have friends. Only people have friends and ethical people choose those friends based on some personal criteria not off of what a group you belong to tells you. This is because ethics is the action one takes on ones self not the action one does to satisfy the group or convince them that you will follow the rules.

I realized when leaving that not one of these people had truly been a friend to me as they say Ethics as based on a 3rd Dynamic criteria. Their friends were always “Scientologist or Sea Org members who . . .” A 3rd Dynamic activity not a 1st Dynamic Decision. Since I had been in the same boat I needed to find out what a friend was for real or I would never truly be able to apply that condition. Worse I would never be a real friend or be able to have one.

This question of defining what a friend is I found was on the minds of many people. But as I kept looking at this I found it could easily be answered even though every one seemed to vary in their viewpoints on what makes a person a friend? I knew it would come down to a simplicity just as everything other thing in life. Knowing that there are no absolutes meant there must be a scale of friend to enemy.

Also I came to understand that the individual decides what is ethical from his viewpoint and can align himself to a group that has a similar ethics level but can disconnect from that group if he finds that they are not what he thought them to be.

Looking back on my experiences I realized that those who call each other friends, attempt to assist each other in their survival. As an example, husbands and wives are supposed to be friends.

An enemy is someone who is attempting to slow or lessen your survival in some way. This could be by harming you (directly or indirectly), the group that helps you survive or even mankind as a whole. One or more of these people could even be harming the world you live in.

For some reason many of us are not that strenuous on who we choose as friends or we let our “friends” get away with things we know are wrong and still call them friends. And once again we are back to the question of “What is a friend?” or “When does someone cease to be a friend?”

The real problem most individuals have with understanding who is a friend is the problem of their emotional ties to people.


A fellow loves his wife but she is continually sleeping with other men behind his back. Yet he stays with her.

A woman is beaten by her husband almost daily but will not leave the relationship.

A school kid starts hanging out with a “rough” crowd and ends up in jail.

These are examples of not understanding what true friendship is. Your emotions play a part in friendship but cannot be the deciding factor in determining who your friends are. Friends assist each other in the creation of a better future for both of their lives. If it is one-sided it is not a friendship. One person is being cheated by another.

Like having a “Friend” who is always in trouble and you need to keep bailing him out of it. You wouldn’t dare ask him for help you because even if he came to help something would go wrong and you know it.

So where is the line on friendship?

If your friend is causing more problems than he/she is bringing good into your life then he/she is not being a friend. From there on up is a gradient scale of how good a friend you have.

To be able to attain this point you will have to make yourself as good a friend as you can be and you will have to choose your friends by the standard you set for yourself. Then your life will not be plagued by the ups and downs that others suffer.

There is also a gradient scale of how close a friend is. You will find you have friends for just conversing with when you see them because the two of you share and interest or a history. You can have fair exchange of communication with this person but that is all you have in common. That is okay it will be a good friendship on that basis as neither overshadows the other.

You may have a friend who does similar work to you and the two of you will get together to assist in solving problems for each other but don’t really hang out otherwise. This is still an excellent exchange between the two of you and so an excellent friendship.

This solution may sound simple but it will not be easy.

Your viewpoints may change and so may the viewpoints of those you have called friends. You will find that this will lessen the amount of communication between you. This would be natural as you will have trouble communicating on subjects where you disagree.

You may find yourself becoming more ethical but a friend of yours is not. This would obviously cause a problem in the friendship as once again you have a differing view of things.

The more ethical (as in 1st Dynamic) you become the more you will want those close to you be of a similar ethical standard. If you leave someone behind you do not stop caring for them and you always keep the door open for them to rise to a new standard and be close again. But you refuse to lower back to a previous standard.

If for some reason you falter and fall short of your standard you can always take responsibility for that fall, right the wrong and move up again. We all make mistakes and in the end what will matter is what you have done to correct your mistakes and how do you ensure you do not commit the same mistake again.

But Ethics is a 1st Dynamic activity so always remember that your ethics are decided by you and you then choose your friends and your group by whether they align to your standards. And you correct yourself by finding where you fell from your standard or finding that your standard has a fault and correcting it.

So maybe being a good friend and choosing one is the same. It could mean that we find the ability to love all mankind but only hold close those who feel the same and show it in their actions toward you and others. But let’s keep the door open and be understanding of everyone. And be willing to assist them to higher states of beingness.

Do not let a group’s moral code decide your ethic for that is not ethics but justice and no one that does not control their own ethics on a 1st Dynamic basis can ever be a friend. That I learned the hard way.


13 thoughts on “What is a friend?

  1. Thank you for this article. I love it when people really look at the tech and apply it with thoughtful personal knowingness. I noted a while ago that there is a kind of shorthand that has developed that says ‘greatest good’ or ‘greatest good for the greatest number’. Ron said ‘greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics’. When that last part was left out it meant that third dynamic always trumped first dynamic as it by its nature has a ‘greater number’. So this ‘shorthand’ version has squashed the first, seventh etc. Your article is a great complement to what I have been looking at.

  2. This did not really answer the deeper questions I have about what is a friend. There are people you recognize as friends the instant you meet them in this life. There are people who betray you but then make up the damage and become friends again. I know when I am a being a friend–I wish someone well and am trying to help them–easy to see in my relationship with spouse, children, etc. But who do I think will be there when I need help? Who do I trust that deeply? Am I willing to make the commitment to help someone else whether or not I believe they will return the help? ???

  3. A lot of ground covered there John. Thank you for the references.
    Clearly, this is a topic that has affected most of us deeply.

    For another view, here is a concise answer from Khalil Gibran, author of ‘The Prophet’ : “. your friend, is your needs answered.”

  4. Excellent article. Not only does it change the conditions when you are not being forced into buying some others viewpoint of what you should think but it opens up a whole new look at what we were forced to have reality on.

    I have really been looking at my non Scientology friends as we as the subject of friends in general and this really helped my answer some questions.

  5. Excellent post, J.A.W. Thank you. Since being immersed into the ethos of SO staff, it has been my jolly to witness high-toned non-Scientologists live out the truisms of the tone scale. And indeed, your statement here says just that.

    The formula for liability, for instance, describes many a common instance. Consider, I accidentally step on the cat’s tail; (liability) he wails and I reach out and stroke his back, letting him know I did not mean it and wish to remain your friend, okay?


    Yeah, it’s that basic. More to say, later. You really stirred up every-day reality for SO members. Love it!

  6. Very very interesting food for thought.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Scientologists got justice, ethics and morals badly mixed up despite clear definitions by LRH (me too). Once you begin to untangle them, you run up against how to administer justice as envisioned by the Scn justice codes. I can conceive of situations where “greatest good for the greatest number of DYNAMICS” runs smack in the face of Scn justice codes.
    I don’t have an answer there.

    BTW “situational ethics” also accounts for the ability of Miscavige devotees to justify clearly insane actions– it’s about the same as “the end justifies the means”.

  7. I’ve said this to you many times before Lana, but I wanted to let everyone know that THIS article really hit a reality factor for me.

    For a long time I knew I gave more in my friendship than I got back, and I thought, someday, these people might turn around and do the same. You know what ? It never happened, and it almost happened again.. I had a friend who I remember clearly giving a lot of my time, a lot of my energy to, and this person would not do the same, and always always wanted me to make more of an effort.

    However, I read this article and looked at this friendship from a totally clear perspective and my life’s actually been a whole lot less stressful.

    Another thing was, I was always trying to impress people in order to gain their ‘friendship’, which sounds silly and I wouldn’t do this in a flamboyant manner, it was always very subtle, and I stopped doing this as well.

    I don’t need people who I need to ‘impress’ to gain their ‘friendship’. I’ve found good people that want to help me just as much as I want to help them ! And you know what ? It’s a weird feeling because I never looked for the right people. lol

    Thanks for writing this article.

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