Suppose I am walking to school. A boy named Johnny who is my friend, walks up to me, smiles and asks me:

Hey, Sam! Do you know when class starts?

I reply to him:

No, sorry Johnny. I left my timetable at home like you did.

Johnny's facial expression then transforms into one marked by a simultaneous disdain and anger towards me, because he only wanted to use me as an agent to give him information, for which I at the present could not.

The natural person, in this situation, would not consider Johnny a good friend anymore because a good friend is not someone who values you based on your ability to augment his daily life. However, in this hypothetical scenario, I would feel sympathetic for Johnny, because what if, hypothetically, Johnny was as good if not as good as me but grew up in certain conditions that fostered such a parochial outlook and hence, for factors beyond his control, is the person he is today? Then, in that case, I feel morally obliged to treat him even more kindly. Simultaneously, I am reinforcing his behaviour because I am showing him that it is okay to treat people like this.

Conversely, If I exhibit madness at him, and show clear disapproval at his behaviour, I am simultaneously telling him it is wrong whilst making his life harder because I now am a source of negativity in his life. In this sense, I reinforce the negativity in his life and may potentially contributing to a more negative individual.

In the first option, it is not sensible to treat people better for treating you badly, and this is what I am doing. On the second option, it is not sensible to treat people negatively because they treated you negatively too.

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    Why would Johnny be angry? It is his fault. Normally I would expect him to be disappointed, but not angry. – user2953 Sep 25 '15 at 17:06
  • @Keelan I mostly agree, but it seems to be somewhat contingent upon the tone with which you make that statement. If you're snarky or intentionally demeaning or condescending, he might harbor resentment because you're forcing him to accept his own failure; this is something that commonly induces anger. Of course, such a simple mistake might not even be considered an error of any real concern. – Goodies Sep 25 '15 at 17:44
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    You are aiming for potentially mutually contradictory goals; sparing Johnny's feelings and shaping his behavior. Unless you explain how you are reconciling these goals to begin with, I can't see any answer to the above, as all answers would be reasoning from a contradiction. – R. Barzell Sep 25 '15 at 19:50
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    What exactly is the philosophical question for us here? I'm not really having any luck deciphering it. I see a scenario and some things happening and then some remarks, but what question are you having about philosophy that this raises? – virmaior Sep 26 '15 at 9:36

There are some assumptions in this question that I do not necessarily agree with (e.g. perfect insight into Johnny's feelings/motivations, what defines a good friend, etc), so I'll assume the following:

You are perfectly knowledgeable and correct in your interpretation of Johnny's reaction, and the conscious/subconscious motivations behind it.

A "good" friend is one who values your well-being, and will take reasonable actions to promote it.

You wish to also be a "good" friend to Johnny.

Assuming these things, your best action would be to constructively engage Johnny to both minimize his discomfort with the situation ("I'm sorry I cannot provide the information you want..."), and set reasonable expectations regarding future interactions of this nature ("...but I don't memorize these things.").

Then, as a good friend yourself, you would provide support you feel comfortable with, and set clear boundaries for things where you and Johnny's expectations diverge. If Johnny makes a good faith effort to respect these boundaries, then he is both being a "good" friend and demonstrating that he values his relationship with you. As long as you do the same, things will work out.

Note: I take issue with one thing you said, "a good friend is not someone who values you based on your ability to augment his daily life." I would say that is actually the basis of any relationship. One's relationships are often measured in how much of an effect they have on daily life, whether emotionally or physically. Listening to a friend complain about their boyfriend, helping a sibling with their homework, reminding a co-worker to prepare for his meeting later that day... these are all actions upon which any relationship is built.

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Option (1) seems fatalist: it looks as if Johnny cannot reflect on his own character and change it for the better, and as if although you can feel sympathy for him he himself wouldn't feel any sympathy for you if you told him how his behaviour makes you feel. Then judging negatively Johnny could have no positive effect indeed. But if Johnny is capable of reflection and sympathy, even though his behaviour can be explained by his education, and even if you feel sympathetic with his situation, simply accepting his behaviour is not the right thing to do.

Telling him it is wrong won't necessarily make his life harder in the long run. It could make him a better person and change his future positively (especially if you tell him gently what you think and how you feel, so as to make him reflect on his behaviour, assuming he is capable of such reflection, rather than judging the person he is as if he couldn't change. I.e. if you attempts to minimise the immediate negativity and maximise the long run positivity).

The best way to show respect to a friend is to consider him/her as a person capable of self reflection, not as a thing completely determined by his education.

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