You know, Kobuk, I gotta say, you're likely the most stand-up admin I've seen on any part of the 'Net , and while I admit that I have little experience with forums and stuff in comparison to many others here on Furtopia (which is a rather precarious assumption I'll avoid making again), I've never seen an admin step forward and lay down the hard truth about being a staff member on a forum or any other such place on the Internet.
As many others have commented here, I've seen how a lot of people are under the impression that being a mod or higher-up staff comes with benefits or is "easy," and despite never having been a mod myself, I've never had that impression. Being part of forum staff (etc.) is about keeping the peace and ensuring the comfort of all members, but staff integrity is every bit as important, too. It doesn't mean you get to boss non-staff at your discretion, as you said; in fact, the very opposite is true - as staff, you have even more responsibility in terms of integrity...and I can certainly understand your perspective about "work before friends." It's not easy to tell your friends "no" if they ask something of you, and it's made even more painful when you have "friends" who are unwilling or unable to accept that for whatever reason.
I know this from experience, because I had to learn this, too - not for the sake of "work," but for the sake of "not neglecting self-respect in the process of respecting others." I had to learn to put my foot down about friends asking for favors when it would mean harming myself in some way, and I've told a few of my "ex-friends" to basically screw off because in the end, they didn't show me the same respect I showed to them first. I have my own personal boundaries, and I make sure to lay them down up-front - in a sense, that's similar to established rules on forums. If you don't respect my boundaries, I'm going to chew you out; if people don't respect the forum rules - "boundaries in their won right - they're going to be reprimanded. I'm kind enough to give second chances in most cases, and when I do bring down the figurative "banhammer" on someone, it's because they repeatedly disrespected my boundaries; this is just a guess, but most people who've ever been banned from Furtopia were repeat offenders, too. Some people have pulled something bad enough that I drop them right off without looking back; I can imagine that perhaps the same thing has happened here, too. You could almost say I'm acting as a "moderator," but the difference is that I am one person, while Furtopia is...well. However many members are registered, I guess. There have been times when I'd honestly like to give being a staff member on a forum a shot if offered, but to be very honest, I prefer to be outdoors and away from the Internet.
Though I'll make a separate post for this for the sake of keeping on topic, I honestly have never felt a sense of belonging anywhere in any aspect of human civilization - this includes the Internet, regardless of where it may be. My place of belong is in nature which, when you think about it, fits into the context of the "furry fandom." However, this means that if any admin here approached me with an offer for a staff promotion, I'd have to decline, because I would never as active on Furtopia as the position would demand.
My forté is mediation, not moderation, and there's a pretty distinct difference between to two roles, so I very much respect what your position entails, Kobuk, along with the other staff here. c: