To tell the truth, I haven’t always been the best at being a friend. I even used to think that I could get by without really having close friends at all. I enjoy time to myself, and close relationships are kind of scary, so it was easy to tell myself I could do without close friendships. But experience (and Philosophy class) has taught me otherwise. We need friends in our lives. Most people seem to know that this is true, but fewer people really understand the reason why.
Friends are there to help us become better people. They do this by helping us think clearly. The true friend knows who we are; he understands the way we think, and so he is able to help us come to conclusions we could not see on our own.
In a way, this is contrary to what a lot of people my age seem to think about friends. We think friends are there to “watch our back” or to save us from our boredom. In reality, a lot of our “friendships” do the exact opposite of helping us think clearly.
I have had my share of both good and bad friendships, so I thought I would draw from my own experience and put together a list of some of the qualities I have found to be most necessary in a true friend (and most lacking in a bad friend).
1.) The true friend talks to you about things that matter
Talking about the weather is nice, and I love a good conversation about my favorite TV shows, but these aren’t the conversations I most look forward to having with my friends. My closest friends are the people I can talk to seriously about what my goals for the future are, what I am struggling with, or go to for advice on any number of topics. We may joke around and talk about trivial things at times as well, but a real friend tends to elevate the conversation.
2.) A friend has no problem calling you out
I am the biggest baby when it comes to any type of criticism. My feelings get hurt and I may become upset and defensive with the person giving the feedback, but this doesn’t stop my closest friends from calling it like they see it. Despite how I may initially react, I am so thankful for this. The real friend isn’t worried about hurting your ego a little bit if it means you seeing the truth.
3.) Friends don’t ask or expect you to lie for their sake
Sometimes it takes losing a relationship in order to be a real friend. The true friend won’t agree to lie in order to cover for someone else, even if asked. Lying is damaging to us on so many levels. The truth always comes out eventually, and a lot of hurt can usually be avoided if it comes out sooner rather than later.
4.) Finally, the true friend is striving to be a good person himself
You can’t expect someone to be a good friend if they are not a good person. The true friend will help you become a better person, so it follows that someone who is not a good person already can’t help you to become one yourself. Friendships involve a give and take. We both learn from our friends as well as teach them. Make sure you are learning from teachers who know what they are talking about.
Getting Rid of a Bad Friend:
So what do you do if you find yourself in a friendship that is not good for you? You run.
Aristotle says that getting rid of a bad friend is like getting rid of a bad habit. And anyone who has tried knows that getting rid of a bad habit is extremely difficult. In a similar way, getting rid of a friendship, especially one that has been a part of us for so long, can feel as excruciating as cutting off an arm that has been infected with gangrene. But you really have no other option. If you don’t amputate, the infection will spread throughout the whole body and eventually will cost you your life.
Finding a Good Friend:
Also as with habits, it is not enough to simply try and get rid of the bad friendship. You have to replace it with a good friendship. Otherwise, you will fall back into the old one. We have to be picky about choosing our friends. We can’t be so naive as to think the people we spend our time with have no effect on us. So in choosing your friends, look for people who have the characteristics described above. Look for people who challenge you to be a better person.
(if this post was familiar it’s because it was originally posted on January 25, 2011)