“To be without a friend is to be poor indeed.” – Tanzanian proverb
Life is such that we all go through difficult phases from time to time. During such spells you need the company of those who appreciate you for who you are, and will offer a shoulder for you to cry on. That is what friends give. They are the individuals who voluntarily grant us that sense of belonging, that we are deeply valued. They are the people who let us know ourselves as we really are, and the ones who understand us well enough to appreciate our circumstances and the swings of life we go through.
Friendships are so important life cannot but demand that you have to make the decision as to who you let into your inner space, as attested by the adage “we choose our friends, not our family”. And friendships are so delicate they ultimately shape who we become. After all, they are the ones we can count on to walk with us, intimately, through the storms and through those difficult phases. They tolerate us so deeply; they embrace our ‘frailties’, appreciate their differences, and honestly criticise us when necessary.
But friendship, like most of the wondrous things in life, is difficult to define and measure. We feel it deeply, and we need it desperately – the reason C. S. Lewis views it as “one of those things which give value to our survival”. Any person whose life has been touched by friendship will attest to this. The assurance of a hand to help, feet that walk besides you, a shoulder to cry on, the flow of laughter and presence of silence when needed, touches our lives in ways which enrich us. Friendship, as Maria Popova sums it, “lives most intimately not in the grand gestures but in the littlest things that add up, in the final calculus of life, to the bigness of any true bond”.
Sadly, too many adults are quick to blurt out “I have no friends”. My response to them is, if there was no such thing as friendship, then what would you be doing with your life? What many of us fail to grasp is that we all need the company of people we can trust in order to flourish. We are never independent beings, so how do you expect to live without the support of others, especially friends? What meaning will your life generate if you are going to remain inert as you are? How are you going to feel good about yourself if no one tells you about your efforts and contributions?
Friendship arises because it speaks to a central necessity of dependence, in its truest and most potent form. The knowledge that you can share your happiness and painful experiences with others grants us a sense of certainty to be able to take risks. It enables us, as Barack Obama so eloquently wrote, “to break across our solitude; and then, if we’re lucky, be finally transformed into something firmer”. Friends challenge us to grow, to unearth the best within ourselves, and to share who we really are. They are the ones who dare “listen to your nonsense talk and still acknowledge whatever you are saying to lighten your heart”. Can you desire anything better than this in any relationship? You can count on friends to always give you their thoughts on how to pull through the difficult times.
Many studies have revealed that the concept of friendship pushes us unconsciously to reflect who we are and who we want to be. It allows us to strive to present ourselves as charming and capable people, if we are not already such. This consciousness should also make us reflect on how we choose our friends. What qualities should we look for? Too often, too many of us base our choices on external criteria and the manner people present themselves. The impact friendships have on us means we should follow the counsel of Seneca, the Roman philosopher who argued that we should “ponder for a long time who we admit into our circle, and when we decide, should welcome that individual with all our heart and soul”.
What is most important in friendship is the heart being in the right place. Otherwise, the more intelligent and smart people are, the more they will use their ingenuity and talents to enrich themselves and serve their interests from your efforts. To choose friends requires a certain degree of courage and tenacity of affection after the novelty of people wear off. It requires us to open ourselves to the world and cultivate a mind-set that keeps our affection high for others in spite of their weaknesses and flaws. Such a stance is a sign of great inner security, for to be friendly to the unfamiliar is a mark of strength and dignity.
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and a philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true, by helping them to positively respond to that which is beautiful while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]