Here’s a wonderful poem on friendship I came across, written by David Leonhardt.
Choose friends wisely, the portrait they paint
Is who you are and who you ain’t.
Friendship is life’s great support
When friends are of the right sort.
For all your dreams do they make room,
Or bring you down with doom and gloom?
You will know a friendship is true
When it brings out the best in you.
I was prompted to look at this by a friend, a good friend, who told me that every year he takes a cathartic, a detergent, and expurgates negativity, including deleting friends who make his “rainbows look gray.”
You can tell a person by the company he or she keeps. Our friendships not only tell a lot about who we are – in many ways they actually make us who we are. I’ve heard it said that one’s peers create an environment in which the self develops. In the famous “Sayings of our Fathers” it teaches, “Come and learn–what is the straight [right] path to which a person should adhere? A good friend.”
Likewise we’ve been taught, “Distance oneself from a bad neighbor, and do not befriend an evil person” This notion of “peer pressure” reflects the notion that our friends influence our perceptions, choices, and actions, either consciously or otherwise–and that it is important to choose friends not simply by who we are, but by who we would like to become. Maybe my friend who takes stock every year is on to something. After all, we can’t expect much positivity in our lives if we only hang out with negative people.
The friendship poem above says it all. You will know a friendship is true when it brings out the best in you. Husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, friends of all sorts, bring out the best in each other. When you can’t be who you are or your “friend” doesn’t allow or encourage you to be who you are or want to be, it’s time to think about that friendship…and hit unfriend.
Take a look at your friends. Do they bring out the best in you? That might seem like a silly question. We all tend to think, “Of course they bring out the best in me. I wouldn’t be friends with them if they didn’t.”
But stop and think why you are friends. Here are a few common reasons why people become friends:
* Common background, sharing a comfort level, from “the same side of the tracks”.
* Common current situations, being able to discuss parenting, jobs, health, home renovations, or some other major life circumstance.
* Common interest, such as cards, bowling, hunting, technology, books, politics, etc.
* For shy people, a person who actually approached you is a candidate for friendship.
* For leaders, somebody who seems content to follow is a likely candidate.
* Somebody you spend time with anyway, such as a colleague, gym friend, or a neighbor, store clerk, or coffee mate at Starbucks often becomes a friend.
These are just a few reasons people choose friends. It is the easy way in the natural, but it is not always in our best interest. Sure, we would be wise to always want to get along with colleagues, neighbors, siblings, and anybody else. But we would be wise to choose our friends, the people we open up to, very carefully.
Even well meaning friends can be dream slashers and life-suckers. “Oh, do you really think you should go into business for yourself? I mean, what about your family’s security?” On the other hand, some friends have a way of building up your dreams. “Go for it! You could really do well. And at worst, you’ll at least have given it your best shot!” Friends will often lend a hand. “Gee, I don’t know much about fitness, but is there any way I can help you reach your goal?” Dream-slashers usually don’t. “Hey, if you insist on pursuing this crazy scheme, leave me out of it.”
As the friendship poem says, a true friendship is best when he or she:
* Encourages you to live your dream.
* Supports you toward your goals.
* Sympathizes for your losses and help you find a silver lining.
* Builds your self-esteem.
If happiness and life-satisfaction are your goals, you would be wise to choose your friends on the basis of how well they can accomplish those four goals. But don’t forget to be a good friend too. “Be a lamp for the world,” Leonhardt said, “For if you are the lamp, surely you will never live in darkness.”