What is a Friend?
“No one is an island”
Everyone has heard this saying, and friendships ensure that you are not a solitary island but part of a grand archipelago.
So… what is a friend?
I know someone who is almost a celebrity; he has about 5000 friends on Facebook. Another person I know is going to hit the 1000 milestone; I guess congratulations are in order.
But despite the use of the word “friend” to describe each contact you add, most people would not consider all the contacts on Facebook friends. In fact, many of them would be acquaintances or even complete strangers. You simply cannot spread yourself that thinly and still be a good friend to all.
“A friend to all is a friend to none.” – Aristotle
What is a Friend
In pursuing the AA35 philosophy, my personal experiences over the last 30 plus years has shaped my belief that close friendships are essential to leading a full Life.
A friendship – the way I recognize it – is one of the most important privileges you will be have in your Life… that is if you are both lucky and deserve it.
First, a friend is someone who adds something positive to your Life. Be it encouragement, support, knowledge, expertise, consolation, or sometimes a wake up call. The word “friend” has been used quite loosely, so we might hear someone talk about “lousy friend”, “backstabbing friend” and other sort of negative ‘friends’. To me, those don’t merit the word “friend” at all. Maybe at most, they’re acquaintances.
Second, a friend is someone you have real live interaction and invest time with. This means face-to-face moments and shared experiences. This contrasts with online friendships, where handles and nicks become little more than avatars for real people, dehumanized to a statistic.
Thirdly, while real friendship is given without ulterior motive, there must be give and take. Two friends must contribute to each other’s lives. True friendships can never fully be enjoyed by people who take all the time without giving. Quality people simply will not survive that sort of parasitism for long.
To further understand what a friend and true friendship is, let’s see what a real friend does.
So, here are ways friendships add to your Life and make it a fuller, happier, more authentic one, and contribute to the AA35 philosophy of living.
What a Friend Does
A friend is there for you. They care about you and do what they can to help. If necessary, they will give you a kick to the butt. Some of them have been with you through the years as you went through all kinds of trials and tribulations, and have also seen the worst in you. They’ve stuck by you with no expectation of reward or benefit. They still accepted you for all your faults, don’t judge you, and do not impose their own will and concepts on you.
“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.” – Euripides
With a friend, you are free to be yourself, sharing your greatest dreams, and revealing your deepest fears. No matter how inane, idiotic, amazing, ambitious, unrealistic, crazy, or otherwise your words or ideas may be, a friend is someone you can feel free to talk to without judgement.
Everyone has different perspectives on the same thing. A friend can give you fresh, new perspectives and help you see the world in a different way, so that you don’t get into the comfort zone of assuming your way is the best and your ideas are the best.
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” – Anais Nin
When you need a sounding board your friend will give that to you. Be prepared to hear honest answers, because a true friend will put telling you what you need to hear above what you wish to hear. True friendship is willing to risk causing you offense if it’s going to ultimately benefit you.
Friends also keep you real. Sometimes when we stray it’s easy to forget our values and principles, and friends remind you of what they are. They show you when you are starting to take shortcuts and when you are starting to lose your principles because a current situation (e.g. dating the wrong person, working in toxic environment etc) has slowly changed you.
Friends also act as your conscience. I believe this is one of the most important things friends do. Since they’ve known you for a long time, they’ve seen you when things weren’t always the best for you, and before you’ve achieved great success. It’s very easy to become arrogant, even to the point of hubris, when you achieve success in one area. Friends keep you humble and remind you to have compassion and humility. Friends also realize very fast when you are starting to develop a dark side and will alert you to it, so that you have the chance of staying on the straight and narrow.
Having solid friendships will teach you Life lessons. There are so many things you can learn only on your own. By sharing experiences, you learn from each other’s’ mistakes rather than having to make your own. This is a very powerful tool for spending most of your Life living it fully, rather than wasting time fumbling around and recovering from avoidable mistakes.
“Wise men learn from others’ mistakes, fools from their own.” – Otto von Bismarck
Friends keep you focused. Chances are, you’ve shared your dreams with your closest friends, and there are times when you get distracted. A friend can act as a check to prevent you from deviating too far. For example, if you have shared with a friend your dreams for building capital for an investment portfolio by a certain date, he can advise you when you are starting to waver from your original savings goal and beginning to spend money on things that don’t contribute to that goal. A friend can also remind you of why something is important if you get discouraged, and set you on the right path again.
If you have good platonic friends of the opposite-gender, chances are your romantic relationships can become stronger. I’ve always believed that if you’re a guy, having a female perspective on relationships can help you in terms of understanding how the fairer sex thinks. You’ll make less of the common mistakes too. The same if true if you’re a lady and have a male platonic friend with pure motives and gives you objective advice from a male perspective.
Speaking of relationships reminds me of another important way friends contribute to our Lives. Friends can act as role models depending on which areas of success they have achieved. For example, I am fortunate to have role models who remind me constantly what an empowering, synergistic relationship looks like. But in fact, with all goals from building a business to getting that six pack, it’s very important to have mentors so that you can practice success modeling.
Finally, one oft-forgotten importance of having friendships: They teach us compassion and contribution to someone else other than ourselves. Very often, especially if we’re loners or in environments like politically charged workplaces, we become conditioned to being selfish and fighting to survive that we forget about other people. I don’t think that’s healthy. Having friends that you care about teaches you to think about others, do things that add to other peoples’ lives rather than just selfishly existing for yourself. This is what will give you a fuller sense of purpose and contribution, which are important aspects of the AA35 philosophy.
I started this article with a quote: “No man is an island.” Few people realize this, but it actually comes from a poem by John Donne.
Let me end off with the poem in its entirety.
No Man Is An Island
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
– John Donne