What are Friends For: Redefining Friendships in the Current Times
Tis the privilege of friendship to talk nonsense, and to have her nonsense respected.
― Charles Lamb, The Life, Letters, and Writings of Charles Lamb
Half of our lives we spend on making and breaking up with friends without realizing the significant role that they play in our lives. According to research, we can only make a certain number of ‘real’ friends; others are just acquaintances. That is because a good friend is like a four-leaf clover; hard to find and lucky to have.
How do we Define Friendship?
Giving a single, definite meaning to this particular word can be a daunting task for anyone. This is due to the certain phases of our life that we go through during which we form different types of relationships.
Some people are lucky enough to maintain their friendship with the same people and with the same level of commitment throughout their lives, while most of us are bound to form friendships with different people in varying stages of our lives.
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Friendship is that type of relationship which is not enforced upon us since our birth, like our relationships with our relatives and families. We voluntarily engage in this relationship of friendship and hence, we tend to confide in them our darkest, deepest secrets, and even sometimes our skeletons in the closet.
This relationship always functions in a construct of give-and-take. Supporting and caring for each other’s needs is the most important part of this relationship of reciprocation. Hence, sustaining platonic friendships like these becomes an uphill task.
Besides having fun in the company of each other, the most genuine aspect of a friendship between individuals lies in the existence of mutual respect. Though many of us are close to our friends, one must know where to draw a line, so as not to go far as to disrespect each other.
Understanding the Intricacies of Friendship
Friendships are unique and dynamic. Although it includes a lot of complex characteristics, yet they are beneficial for the health and well-being of every individual.
Many factors influence our choices and reasons for making friends. One of them is the approachability and social skills of an individual. A sociable person is more prone to generating feelings of familiarity with the other person. Herein extroverts seem to be more prone to making friends and interact with new people comfortably.
Other factors include similarity with the other person. Research shows that people tend to develop friendships with people having similar personalities, which would help decrease the possibility of interpersonal conflicts.
Considering all these factors, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that many people also have friends who are opposite to their personalities. Such friends choose to help each other grow and develop in a new fashion that they wouldn’t have imagined.
How Friends Support Us
Homo sapiens are social animals and can’t function properly without social interactions. Amid these interactions, we develop various types of relationships and one of the most cherished ones is friendship. It can last longer over the life course than any other.
It is not always easy to build and maintain friendships with anyone. Any type of relationship requires the time and efforts of both parties, and so does friendship. Therefore, it is vital to understand the importance of friends and the roles that they play in our lives.
Friends help in improving our mental health. They offer companionship and support during bad times. Good friends are like good books that can only provide you with good learnings and help nurture your personality towards a brighter future.
Friends help in increasing the sense of belonging and purpose. Some individuals with an introverted personality find it difficult to place themselves in a crowd full of strangers. It is during these times that friends choose to hold on to our hands and fight against all odds.
Friends help in developing good habits. Friends indeed share their ups and downs, and sometimes indulge in bad habits. But it is also true that the same friends help you encourage you to develop healthy habits. In times like these, when most of us are working from home or having online classes, one can develop a good healthy lifestyle along with their friends. It’s never late to start practicing yoga or even go for cycling to kick-start your regime.
Friends help in coping up with unknown emotions. Anyone of us at any point in time can come across certain emotions which cannot be processed by us. At this junction of life, friends help us in providing support and advice which might help us go through those difficult times. Some prefer to stay alone to deal with certain traumas, but leaning on to someone’s shoulder can guide us through the stormy days.
Friends aid in boosting happiness and reducing stress. During happy times, one cannot imagine celebrating it all alone. Definitely family would always be there to share your happiness, but friends are like a catalyst to it and help to cherish those memories later in our lives. Similarly, we cannot share all our grief and sorrows with our families as sometimes they wouldn’t understand that aspect of our life. In times like these, it’s our close friends who can acknowledge our sufferings and help ease it in their way.
Friends help in improving self-confidence and self-worth. Life offers us good as well as bad times, and we have to deal with it in our way. There are times when certain incidents or experiences may push us down to the level that it might prove difficult to come up as a winner on our own. It is during these times that our friends pull us up from these lows and boost our self-confidence and make us recognize our self-worth.
Friendship: A Journey
Aristotle, one of the most brilliant and renowned philosophers, also wrote about friendship and saw it as one of the true joys of life. According to him, a well-lived life must include true meaningful, lasting friendships. He divided friendship into three categories.
The first one is the friendship of utility wherein both the parties benefit each other and these relationships are temporary. When the benefit ends, these relationships end too.
The second one is the accidental friendship wherein both the parties gain enjoyment through mutual interests. This kind of relationship is also short-lived and ends with the changes in the preferences and tastes of the people.
The last one is the friendship of good i.e. the friendship of virtue. This friendship is based on mutual appreciation of the virtues of the other person. These types of friendships depend on mutual growth and take time to grow and develop.
According to me, the first two types of friendships are bound to happen. But in life, we must try to develop the friendship of the good. This type of friendship is beneficial and pleasurable for all of us. We are more likely to connect with our friends with this kind of friendship as we watch each other grow and endure mutual hardships with them.
Some might lack empathy and the ability to care for others and hence unable to achieve this kind of friendship. But the beauty of this friendship lies in the fact that it includes the aspects of the first two types of friendships as well as the efforts required for the friendship of virtue.
In Aristotle’s words:
Perfect friendship is the friendship of men who are good and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing.
Humans need each other for love, support, and validation. We must nurture our friendships by being kind, trustworthy, and always be there for each other. Investing some time in making friends and strengthening friendships may pay off in better health and a brighter future.
That is why it is important to reach out and build friendships that can thrive and this is exactly the reason why we need platforms like Now&Me to flourish It’s never too late to make new friends and reconnect with our older ones. We are, and we live through, the people we spend time with. Life is just too short for shallow friendships.
Here is a quote from one of my favorite characters Winnie the Pooh, that perfectly encapsulates the essence of friendship.
If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart… I'll always be with you.