How 'NOT' to be a friend

Of all the posts I’ve written so far, none has been so hard to write as this one. I found myself lacking an angle to approach something so thoroughly discussed as Friendship. This wasn’t because I didn’t have something to say on the subject, on the contrary, I never lack something to say about anything (one of my flaws). My issue was; what could I possibly say that would add value to whoever found them self on this page. What would I say about being a friend or friendship that people haven’t heard before? Nothing. It’s all been said before, by greater more qualified minds. So, I decided on the opposite i.e. who is ‘not’ your friend? Or rather what being a friend isn’t.

How not to be a friend

As children, friendship was easy, simple. Whoever you spent your time with was a friend. Why? Because free time was precious and only those who earned it were gifted with our companionship. As we got older, our free time increased in abundance, we and the norm dictated that a larger group of friends and associates was required. And so even those who didn’t quite fit the bill were awarded the title of ‘friend.'

The unfortunate truth about friendship in the 21st century isn’t that we are surrounded by thousands of people who are willing to follow us and befriend us only as limited vocal spectators of our lives. The issue is that we convince ourselves that the validation of these secondary or tertiary characters is as important or a replacement for the meaningful exchange that goes on between genuine comrades.

"A friend is a person who will take the time not only to know us but to be with us. One of the finest presents you can give anyone is your best self."

Furthermore, we delude ourselves into thinking that fun, epic, un-complicated experiences form the foundation of a real lasting friendship. Though many of us claim to want more, we become incapable of taking the actions necessary to forge lasting relationships for the most part because friendships require hard-work, honesty, vulnerability, patience and an understanding of the other person's needs.
One of my favorite essayists, Francis Bacon, wrote in his acclaimed essay “of friendship” that any true friendship is a fruit with three crucial components. Bacon might have been a world renowned selfish opportunist; however, he got a few things right when it comes to the role of an honest friend.

The first is something even I had to learn with time i.e. a friend is supposed to help you lessen your frustrations. Sadly, many of us find ourselves frustrated by those whom we call friends. We continuously surround ourselves with people who put themselves first no matter how much we have to pay for their actions in the end. We compete with one another over everything, always aiming to get one over the other just to be socially acceptable friends and equals. Backbiting and backstabbings are now integral components that we expect from one another. We accept that eventually our friends will, or that the very least could, betray us when the price is right. Therefore we form levels and walls, all to protect ourselves from the inevitable. Our shortcomings are broadcasted and laughed upon by those who are supposed to be our confidants. When in actuality a friend is someone who shares in your burdens, doing whatever they are capable and able to do in order to lessen the dread and pain of living.

 “A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”- An Arabian proverb

The second virtue of a true friend according to Bacon is a sympathetic ear which is there to listen to your grievances and help come up with a solution. It is not a leap that the ‘wisest, brightest and meanest of mankind’ requires his friends to have the ability to solve his problems. And often people look at it like that. However, it isn’t the idea of dumping our burdens and worries on someone else that prevents most of us from speaking out rather it is the vulnerability and honesty that scares us. There is also the shame and feeling of incompetence that most of us feel when we come short in any aspect of our lives. As for the friend who we go to, the challenge is the reverse, as it is not in the opening up but rather the letting in that they are tested. Afterall, how many of us will willingly welcome in someone else’s pain and suffering, until a solution is reached.

Bacon’s third pillar of friendship has never made sense to me, after all, we live in a society that is great at inflating one’s ego naturally, needing a friend to do that too seemed redundant. Therefore it had no value to me. But then I came up with my replacement i.e. a friend should be able to make you take a step back and look at life with humility rather than boast you with compliments. They should be well adverse in the language that will allow you to swallow those bitter pills about yourself without feeling attacked. 

"A friend in the true sense is not a person who passively nods approval. A friend is a person who cares. Truly, unquestionably cares enough to make you see your faults, errors, and human imperfections."

There are numerous, varied and complex friendships that one can have in their lifetime, and what works for some might not work for others. Nonetheless, we owe it to ourselves to figure out what we want from our friends and companions rather than sitting still and playing a game that leaves us miserable and isolated. And I urge you to take a leap and try it the old-fashioned way, who knows, thunder could strike.

Happy International Friendship Day, to everyone! And don’t forget to be a friend to have a friend.

As Emerson said “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”  which in ‘our’ case means leaving a comment and clicking on the share buttons below 😊
So, let me know what you think about the post; what you think is important in a genuine lasting friendship; or what you value most in your friends. I would like to hear your stories or incidents that led you to form an important bond with anyone.

Like this post? check out A SUPERHERO DESERVES MORE THAN ‘A’ DAY


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