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The mark of a good friend

Despite the many woes that blight facebook today, there is no doubt that the platform has single-handedly changed the way we conduct our personal lives. The one arena it has affected the most is our friendships.

Good old school friends by Aman Shrivastava on Unsplash

Now as some of us contemplate about whether maintaining some of our friendships through different platforms is actually worth the constant threat of vulpine third parties eroding away our privacy, the question arises, are these people we share a social platform with our good friends? And what really constitutes a good friend? 

“The truth is everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for” said Bob Marley. But how do you find who is worth suffering for?

Taking off the mask

C.S Lewis writes of Friendship in his book The Four Loves “At home, besides being Peter or Jane, we also bear a general character; husband or wife, brother or sister, chief, colleague, or subordinate. Not among our Friends. It is an affair of disentangled, or stripped, minds. Eros will have naked bodies; friendship naked personalities.” So if you’re wondering, am I wasting my time with so and so? It might be worth asking can I be completely and unapologetically myself around this person. Of course, I don’t imagine C.S Lewis means being inconsiderate and unapologetically on instagram or snapchat while you’re in their company. I think he meant being vulnerable. Are you able to drop the mask you have on for the rest of the world and be vulnerable around this friend?

For E.M Forster being a good friend was being a loyal friend. He writes in What I Believe and Other Essays “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.” Will your friend, like E. M Forster, consider even betraying his country for you? It probably won’t come to that – maybe it might. I don’t really know what kind of things you do. But would they stand by you no matter what? Say, you decide to leave a popular social platform; would they send you a personal invite via email or over the phone – not through a group. On the other hand would you?

A friendly new world

Anaïs Nin writes in The Diary of Anaïs Nin, that, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Haven’t you found that with most friends you have different conversations? It may be intentional or it may not be. I have found that despite the similarities I share with my friends in nurture or nature each friend of mine inhabits a different world. Often one very, very different from mine.

Some are filled with joy and wonder, others with doom and gloom. And I know which world I would choose to take with me when a proverbial fork in the road does appear.

So why did so many great scholars put so much thought into the mark of a good friend? Because, as leading scholar and President of the lay Buddhist organisation the Soka Gakkai International, Daisaku Ikeda, aptly puts it “Friendship is the most beautiful, most powerful and most valuable treasure in life. It is your true wealth. No matter how much status people may gain or how rich they may become, a life without friends leads to an unbalanced, self-centered existence.”

It seems that we may actually be collectively and unwittingly slipping into such a self-centred existence. Back in 2014, George Monbiot wrote this poignant piece on entering the age of loneliness and the dangers of an self-absorbed existence. While there are many factors contributing to the coming of this age there are many things we can do the stem its onslaught. For one, we could start by identifying the friends worth suffering for, really cherishing them and being good friends ourselves.

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