What is perhaps the best way to give meaning to our lives? Connect with other people, and the best way to do that is to make friends. But who are your “friends”? In a quote popularly attributed to the Chinese philosopher Mencius, “friends are the siblings God never gave us.” Or perhaps you recognize a more popular axiom “No man is an island.” We are meant to meet other people.
Indeed, we human beings are wired to be social. All of us want to be around other people; even the most anti-social of all people have a desire, small as it may be, to meet other people.
As we grow up, we go through certain relationships, the first of which are with our parents and siblings. It is in our relationship with our family that we develop trust and love within ourselves and for other people, and the fruits of this relationship become evident as we go out into the world and connect with people outside our family. We learn to communicate – and co-exist – with people of our age, find people with similar interests or experiences, and build a network. As we mature in both age and thinking, we grow closer to a certain few, that we would later call our “friends”.
But sadly, we take our friends, our friendship for granted, just like our other relationships. A lot of us fail to take the time or make the effort to appreciate our friends. We tend to pay more attention to the “friends” that we find “useful”, whose companionship we could benefit from and take advantage of. As of the “friends” who could not provide us any sort of benefit, we discard them, belittle their worth, and minimize interaction with them.
Is it a right thing to do?
It should not come as a shock – and we should admit it – that we develop relationships according to our self-interests. Of course we are now living in an increasingly competitive society where we put our relationships, especially friendship, in the back seat. Our contemporary culture forces us to focus on the rewards we could get out of a relationship (or friendship) than to create meaningful bonds. Human relationships have become exploitative and manipulative rather than mutually beneficial.
For those who take friendships seriously and heartily, they could take the opportunity to somewhat “audit” or “assess” their relationships with their so-called “friends”. This means you recognize which friendships impact you positively, which provide you with the different things you need. You need to think of ways to improve each friendship. This is not to judge your friends or to doubt a friendship but to identify which friendship makes you become a better person or “friend”.
Good or close friends will like each other not for what they could bring into their friendship but for who they are. A true friendship comes with strong personal value; it cultivates virtues, not material or monetary rewards.
Modern society or contemporary culture offers the most opportune time to test the value of friendship as summarized in the following quotes:
“In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. They keep the young out of mischief; they comfort and aid the old in their weakness, and they incite those in the prime of life to noble deeds.” Aristotle
“Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend’s success.” Oscar Wilde
“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” Euripides
What other time there is to determine the value of friendship than now?
A true friend is a mirror of your own self. He/she is someone with whom you realize you’re not alone, even if you happen to be an autonomous or independent person. A true friend is someone who could lift some of the burden you experience in your unhappy, isolated self and bring happiness in your monotonous life. He or she helps you discover a ray of light or beacon of hope in your times of struggles.