The great fictional character Omar Little once stressed that everyone needs a code. It’s a simple, yet deeply introspective question. My morality has always leaned more pragmatic than ideal. I don’t understand ideal morality; it’s an oxymoron disguised as sound logic. A code shouldn’t be fixated on morals. It should exist on concrete, defined terms supported by shades of gray.

Here’s an example: You have a friend who’s been there for you when no one believed in you. A friend that stuck with you during thick and thin, but especially thin and especially when you’ve done something wrong. One day, that friend did something terribly wrong too. What’s my code? Where’s my personal line? Is it: as long as no one got hurt? Is it: as long as the people who got hurt were scumbags? These things don’t test my code. This does: The friend did something wrong that hurt innocent people.

My personal code revolves around reciprocity.

Love is reciprocal, friendship is reciprocal, business is reciprocal. I’m a believer in olive branches and I lose patience for those who don’t. Reciprocity is the language of respect. The other person must understand time, support, opinions and effort are olive branches. They’re genuine communication that the other person’s worth it. If a friend didn’t bail out on me, why would I bail out on a friend? I could maybe measure it through balance: was the wrong thing I’ve done less immoral than the worst thing my friend’s done? I personally don’t think that’s a good measuring stick, but many people do. It’s why I feel betrayed whenever I was there for a friend that made a mistake, but that same friend didn’t do the same when the tables were turned. “Well, my mistake wasn’t as bad as yours.” To me, that’s not friendship and even though it looks pragmatic on the surface, it’s the least pragmatic thing one can do.

I view friendship and love as things that are stronger through forgiveness. It’s like when one works out and intentionally tear their muscles to make them tougher. We’d like to believe that most friendship disagreements come from misunderstanding, but most of them, in reality, are tests in morality. One friend does something wrong and the other has all the reason to bail with clean hands. There’re no half-measures either. Even if one friend doesn’t condone the mistake of the other friend, by association it’s saying the friendship is more important than the crime.

This is my code: I’ll stick with you. I know the risks. True friendship and love are more precious than gold. It’s even above morality. I’m not a saint, but I’m also not a compulsive sinner. I sin for practicality. If my life was perfect and things were fair, I’d never sin. My friends and my loved ones need to understand this code if they’re to involve me in their lives beyond the acquaintance level. People who believe in me are precious. People who stick with me are precious. I will give them back ten-fold. I’m a great friend to imperfect people. I will work with them as long as they’re willing to change. My code can be my blind spot.