When you consider that you can survive for a while without a lover or spouse, but it’s practically impossible to survive without a friend, it becomes easier to see how friendship is a bigger deal than romance. It’s not pleasant to be without romantic love in your life, but how much worse is it to be without a friend in the world?
I agree with CS Lewis: “After all—though our novels now ignore it—friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly, to me, it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, ‘sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.’”
Good friends are simply priceless, and each one has their magic. For counsel, for comfort, for healing, for sheer togetherness… good friends are gifts to us.
Of course, there ideally should be no need to qualify the word “friend” with “good”; friends ought by their very nature to be good, but the world is such that there were many we call friends who aren’t good at it. Sometimes it’s because they haven’t learnt how to, and sometimes they’re just bad people.
What about you? Are you a good friend? Would you be friends with you? Whether or not you can answer this confidently, here are a few things I’ve learnt can make us better friends:
1. Try not to use any friend, or be used by one. Real friendship is such that it’s hard to feel used, so you can imagine the level of leeching one has to experience for this to even be possible. If you’re getting a lot from a friend, they aren’t expecting you to pay back, but there’s always something you can do to reciprocate the love they show.
2. Loyalty is the backbone of friendship, in my opinion. Don’t badmouth your friends for any reason. If they offend you talk with them, not about them. Have their back always. You don’t want the kind of friend in whose presence unpleasant things can be said about you. You shouldn’t be that kind of friend either.
3. Be the friend who goes the distance. One of the reasons friendship costs time, money, and energy, is that real friends stick with you through your troubles when everyone else has done their bit and moved on. Long after the burial of your loved one, months after the sack letter, a year after the divorce, people have condoled and helped out and moved on – and you appreciate them- but friends are there.
4. Be dependable. Do what you say you will do. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be trustworthy. Your friends should know that they can count on you.
5. Laugh. With your friends, at life, at yourself when the joke is on you. Solomon was right when he said a cheerful heart does the body good, like medicine. A friend is many things, one of which is someone to have a good laugh with.
6. Apologise and forgive. When you are wrong, admit it and say sorry. When you are wronged, forgive. If anyone is deserving of your forgiveness (never mind that you’re hurting yourself by carrying a grudge) it’s a true friend. Forgive freely and keep the air clean always.
7. Be careful about money. If a loan has the potential to ruin a friendship in the event that it is not paid back, it’s good to decline. Read more on friendship and money here.