Having friends is great. It’s just nice having people in your life you can talk to, spend time with, laugh with. Having people you can trust – truly trust – to be there for you when you desperately need help is one of the greatest gifts of life.
Without such individuals in your life, living your life becomes significantly more difficult. We need good friends in our life for moral support, just as much as we need them to stave away the despair that comes from being entirely alone in this world.
Only sociopaths can manage going through life without friends, but by definition, they are unhappy people. The rest of us all want to be happy and for this reason need other people in our lives.
The difficulty is deciding who makes the cut and who doesn’t. Most people – let’s be honest – aren’t very good at deciding who should and who shouldn’t be let into their lives. Yes, not all people are good people. You yourself may not be a good person.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring good people into your life. On the contrary, if you yourself aren’t such a splendid individual then you need to find great people as friends. We are whom we eat with, and if we eat with a bunch of donkeys, we become asses ourselves.
That’s the problem with how most people make and keep friends. We may initially be very selective of the people we call our friends, but over time – as we get to learn more and more about a person – most of us never bother giving a second evaluation.
Most people don’t consider removing the label of friend, but only consider when to pin it on another’s forehead. Great friends are hard to come by – so if you think you have a ton of great friends then the fact is that you’re confused.
Or in denial. People always throw around the word “loyalty.” You have to be loyal to your friends because they’re your friends and have been your friends for such a long time. Since when did longevity factor into friendship?
Since when is being loyal something people feel entitled to even when they haven’t earned it? It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been friends. The person you meet tomorrow may be a better friend than the person you met a decade ago. What you need is a better way to qualify your friendships. Here are a few factors to consider:
1. How much do you enjoy spending time with them?
This is actually a pretty loaded question. Most people only think about all the good times they’ve had together when they consider how much they enjoy spending their time with an individual.
What you need to do is factor in all the times. Are the bad times more frequent than the good? Are they less frequent, but nevertheless still too frequent? If you find yourself wishing you wouldn’t have hung out even once then you may need to rethink your friendship.
Great friends always consider how you may feel in a situation and will opt not to make you feel uncomfortable or unhappy whenever possible.
2. Do they offer you help when you need it or do you need to ask?
Personally, I’m not one to ask for much help – I’m stubborn like that. That doesn’t mean, however, that I won’t take help when help is offered.
This is what friendship is – one person offering to help and then the other accepting that help. If you have "great friends," yet somehow never have help when you need it, then you’re doing something wrong.
3. Do they accept your help when you offer?
I may be a stubborn individual who prefers doing things on his own, but I still don’t refuse help when a friend offers. You see, when people offer you help, it’s just as much for their benefit as it is for yours. Accepting help – for starters – shows that you trust them, to a certain degree.
It also puts a deposit into the favor-bank; their offering to help means, again only to a degree, that they trust you to return the favor one day. Helping one another is a spoken contract between two individuals. One that relies entirely on trust. Such agreements usually only occur between good friends.
4. Do they add to your life or only take away from it?
The truth is that every person who enters your life takes away from it in some shape or form. There are always tradeoffs and opportunity costs with everything we do in life – it’s unavoidable.
That does not mean that you should be losing. On the contrary, friendships exist so that the total happiness is higher than were the individuals on their own. A utilitarian view, yes, but a logical one. If your life is better with someone in your life than it is without them in your life, then they are friends worth having.
This can be difficult to judge, as we are biased individuals, but objectivity can be accomplished. You just have to be very honest with yourself and smart in the way you imagine life without them.
If you ever believe your life to be worse off because of someone then you need to separate yourself from that person. Otherwise you’re willingly living a lesser life.
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