Adulthood and True Friendship

“In poverty as well as in other misfortunes, people suppose that friends are their only refuge. And friendship is a help to the young, in saving them from error, just as it is also to the old, with a view to the care they require and their diminished capacity for action stemming from their weakness; it is a help also to those in their prime in performing noble actions, for ‘two going together’ are better able to think and to act

— Aristotle.

There are more than a million beautiful things said about friendship. When you think about it, you’ll realize that the best stories of triumph and love are tied to friendship. However, it’s not everyone that’s lucky enough to make true friends, especially in their childhood. And there are several people who live with the void all their lives. (Yes, in spite of their 5000 Facebook friends).

Aristotle’s writings cover many subjects, and his inputs on friendship still remain relevant in today’s discourse. He considered friendship “most necessary with a view to living. For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods”. His work on friendship is timeless, because he identifies three kinds of friendship; a categorization that would resonate with everyone. According to Aristotle, friendship can be based on either of these three: pleasure, utility, or virtue.

Friendship based on pleasure is solely tied to emotional satisfaction, and is maintained only as long as enjoyable activities abound to keep the parties involved in the relationship. This can be seen amongst students, sometimes, who are brought together by activities such as sports or the likes. Similarly, in the friendship of utility, the persons are friends only because of certain benefits they each enjoy one from the other. In both cases—pleasure and utility—we have a flimsy friendship at best. They’re the sort of friendships that end when the parties involved change, even in the slightest, their preferences, or when one ceases to find another useful.

The third kind of friendship, however, is based on the mutual virtues that each friend appreciates in the person of the other. The persons in this friendship will wish each other good, because they care more about the other person than their own immediate needs. It is on this mutual care and appreciation that the ideal friendship is based. The affection between ideal friends is outlined perfectly in the Greek word for brotherly love: philia. As Jack Zavada espoused, “philia refers to love based on mutual respect, shared devotion, joint interests, and common values. It is the love near and dear friends have for one another”. Even more special, those who manage to build this kind of friendship will also reap the fruits of pleasure and utility. Because, anyone involved will be useful and beneficial to the other. Unlike other kinds of friendship, though, this kind takes time to build; but would last a lifetime.

When we then consider how much time it takes to build an ideal friendship, you begin to see why so many adults fail to make a dependable friend (not only of others, but of themselves also). Most adults would first look for the benefits they can get from others, before considering to befriend them. If the other party fails to satisfy their emotional or material demand, they detach themselves. This is because adults seldom have the patience or the will to build mutual trust, upon which all lasting friendships rest. True friendship thrives as result of the time and trial, required to build trust. As Aristotle wrote, “such friendship requires time and familiarity; as the proverb says, men cannot know each other till they have ‘eaten salt together’; nor can they admit each other to friendship or be friends till each has been found lovable and been trusted by each”. Without trust, a friendship will only last as long as the going is smooth. But we know that life can be rough too, and it’s only real friends that will stay with you during the storm. That’s why there’s a real chance to build a good friendship right from childhood; because then, we are yet to be poisoned with the dubiousness and apathy that comes with growing up.

Nevertheless, we’ve seen friendships spring from the unlikeliest of situations. We’ve heard about sworn enemies who sheathed their swords and embraced one another in true friendship. Thus, friendship has in itself the wisdom to draw willing adults into a relationship of mutual affection. Given a proper dose of patience and goodwill, adults too can build true friendship that will never end.

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