Does it say anything about me that I have friends who couldn’t be friends with one another? Probably not anything unique. I suspect that most of us have had the experience of organizing a party and inviting friends from two different contexts only to discover that they don’t get along very well. Last week at a conference, sitting on a veranda in the evening, sipping a Lemon Soda while almost everyone else was having an alcoholic drink of some kind, I thought, “Several of these people are friends, even good friends. Yet they would be very uncomfortable with most of my colleagues from BYU and, perhaps, vice-versa. And some friends from my ward would be shocked that I have friends like these. Nevertheless, I feel comfortable with all three groups as well as others. ”
As I said, I imagine that most people have something like that experience. It isn’t a matter of being a chameleon, of blending into whatever environment one finds oneself in. Yet it is a matter of being a different person in different contexts, while, in another sense, remaining the same. I am both many and one. I am not the same person on Times and Seasons that I am in the university classroom or with my grandchildren or with members of my Sunday School class or with the friends that Janice and I have dinner with regularly. I behave and talk differently with different sets of friends without feeling that I have done something wrong.
How do we know, however, when getting along and fitting into a context has gone too far, when we have given up our integrity? Surely it is more than switching from Lemon Soda to gin and tonic.