There are friends with whom we can share everything, showing ourselves as we are. This second family helps us explore the world and overcome isolation. How to cultivate and preserve true friendship?
Among the definitions of friendship that I know, there is one that I prefer: two that walk together. It seems typical of a western or adventure film, and it has something of that, because it is a phrase of Diomedes when he was in front of Troy, according to Homer. I read it when I was hitchhiking through France with a friend. We were not yet twenty years old and it was our great adventure.
We carried a few books, because of the weight, which we devoured as if they were pure food. One was On the Road, the story of Jack Kerouac, and another was The Iliad in an old translation, a second-hand book that was losing pages as you read it.
Shortly after starting it, we stumbled upon the phrase: “When two go together, one anticipates the other in noticing what is convenient; when one is alone, even if one thinks, intelligence takes longer and resolution is more difficult.”
Read today I am surprised that such a scant phrase awakened in us a flame that we believed was inextinguishable. We were friends, we walked together, and we would walk as long as we lived.
I still regret it, although the warmth of that friendship has never left me. Because friendship, along with love, is the strongest feeling we can have; even when it ends, the embers do not cease their activity.
THE SENSE OF FRIENDSHIP
Years have passed and I have been fortunate to keep some friends afterwards and enough intelligence to continue to make them with age, when it seems increasingly difficult to open up to other people.
And I’ve learned something in all this time.
First and foremost, we think little about what friendship brings us. It is surprising to see how important it was for the great oriental masters or the Greek and Roman classics, and the contemporary silence about it, with some exceptions, such as that of the sociologist Francesco Alberoni (Friendship), or that of Pedro Laín Entralgo (On friendship).
For Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Cicero, Confucius and so many others it was the pillar of life. They held it in such high regard that Aristotle believed that bad people were incapable of it, because friendship demands “virtue,” and Cicero proclaimed that “those who suppress friendship from life seem to suppress the sun of the universe. “
Today we can even say that someone has obtained a position or a perk out of friendship, and we all know that we are not talking about a virtuous act.
But that is not why it has lost its brilliance and attractiveness: social networks are triumphing on the Internet, meeting clubs are revitalized, groups of friends are as important as ever.
In fact, the possibilities of relationship have multiplied as never before, although perhaps a certain intensity has been lost in the bonds that are established and the necessary effort to make it last.
Alberoni says that things only acquire dignity when they are intended to last, but it seems, I add, that it is difficult for us to persevere.
Friendship, like everything important, springs from the heart, but it needs the will, time and dedication to bear fruit, like living fully with others and being revealed to us who we are and sharing it.
WHAT IS TRUE FRIENDSHIP
In general, we have the impression that everything that happens to us is only ours and unrepeatable. And with that feeling we live, until the day a meeting brings us closer to our friend.
From there, everything changes, because we begin to check what we have in common.
The friend is someone similar to us, the great confidant with whom we explore life without judgments or admonitions. He does not judge us and we do not judge him.
It is not an authority that represses or conditions the desire to experience and know, feel and enjoy, but someone with whom you feel free and supported to overcome adverse circumstances or achieve goals.
With the friend you don’t get bored, things always happen, there is always something to be told, and the most incredible of all, through the friend we begin to get to know each other and we feel that we are understood, breaking the most intimate and frustrating barrier that separates us from others.: solitary confinement.
As in a game of mirrors, we mimic each other and at the same time we individualize ourselves as we access, through our friend, our own truth, without distortion.
Without it, our knowledge of reality and of ourselves would be limited and surely frustrating, and even, in some cases, pathological, since it is difficult for there to be good emotional health without the experience of friendship.
Friendship is, therefore, a key that opens many doors, some intimate and many exteriors, although it is true that it does not always open the most appropriate ones, as parents know, attentive to the friends that their adolescent child frequents.
But not even in these circumstances should we forget what Voltaire said: “friendship multiplies being”. Without it, our children and ourselves would be as limited as in a prison.
Our best actions and thoughts would wither before flourishing lacking in “space, breadth, and freedom,” as the poet Rainer M. Rilke proclaimed.
THE ETHICS OF FRIENDSHIP
It is something that we all experience: at some point, friendship brings out qualities such as generosity, courage, dedication, understanding. Although sometimes we do not notice it.
However, the great educators and thinkers of antiquity did. In the Greco-Roman world people did not believe in abstract, distant and unrealizable ideals and they were suspicious of sentimental excesses.
That is why they attached so much importance to friendship: in it there cannot be much distance between the ideal and the real.
Life often pushes us to play roles that widen that distance, but with friends we cannot. We aspire to behave with them in an exemplary way and it is something that honors us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson went so far as to say, in this sense, that friendship is a sentiment of higher ethical quality than love: “Only those who have truly understood the ethics of friendship, only he can deeply learn the lesson of friendship. life”.
That means, among other things, that we cannot ask our friends for anything or simply put them to the test.
Aristotle, for example, said that we cannot demand shameful things from them, and other classical authors remember that if we abuse the need for a friend, friendship deteriorates because it is no longer presided over by equality, frankness and camaraderie, but by interest.
Free to act promptly and generously in a serious moment, and free to absolve us and forgive us when we run over friendship without any poison left between us.
The insults between friends, says an Arabic story, you have to write them in the sand and the offerings, carve them in stone. The demands of the relationship are high because the rewards are too.
For this reason, he is not just any friend of ours. We meet many people throughout our lives, but only with a few – they can be counted on the fingers of our hand, we usually say – does the relationship achieve that strong emotional bond.
Friendship has something mysterious and more than one author has revealed the similarity with the emergence of love: in many cases it seems the result of a crush, like a revelation that arises as a result of that unique moment that is usually the “encounter”.
Today, that we have friends even on the Internet, it may seem stale. But it is evident that with some people a current of sympathy is released and with others not. What does it respond to?
REAL FRIENDSHIP IS A FOREVER BOND
Confucius affirmed that there could only be friendship between equals, and therefore it was impossible between emperor and subject, parents and children, man and woman, older brother and younger brother because there was a hierarchical relationship between them.
However, today many parents consider themselves the best friends of their children (and vice versa), although they continue to think that friendship with the boss is impossible Perhaps, for this reason, together with equality, we have to talk about affinity, although by itself it is not enough.
Voltaire considered, for example, that the “sensual” have party companions; the greedy, associates; politicians, supporters; the loafers, similar; and princes, courtiers. Relationships that cannot be said to be friendship.
Two friends can be very similar, like Achilles and Patroclus, or very different, like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but they must share at least one authenticity that unites them. The former, for example, the ethic of the warrior; the second, the complicity of those who explore life.
Something that cannot be renounced and that releases in them the qualities with which friendship is forged: “disinterest”, generosity, benevolence … Afterwards, life does the rest.
But if we have ever managed to establish that link, it is forever. We can go years without seeing each other, but only by exclaiming: “How long! How are you?”, The energy will flow again from one to the other.
At least I am sure that if I ever bump into the friend I lost in my youth, very few words will be enough to explain us and walk-through life together again.
THE ART OF FRIENDSHIP
A Chinese proverb says: “Walk the path that leads to your friend’s garden often, lest the grass grow and he does not let you see the way.”
It is something we sometimes forget, trusting in the power of feeling.
Kant, for example, had a very high, spiritual conception of friendship, but he did not neglect the details. In the evenings with friends, the number of diners was greater than that of the Graces (three) and less than that of the Muses (nine), there was no music, the conversation could not be divided into small groups and the dynamics of a sonata (three acts): tell, reason and joke.
For Kant, the enjoyment of the moment was as important as the memory. Thus, he maintained a feeling of friendship that rivaled love in intensity.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS
Friends do not improvise and there is no formula for having them. But any encounter between human beings is an opportunity to meet, share interests, and give and receive affection. Friendship grows in this area.
There is only one secret: genuinely caring for others.
The psychologist Alfred Adler (1870-1937) said that the person who does not do it is the one who has the greatest difficulties in life and the one who ends up causing, even inadvertently, the greatest hurts in others.
To do this, you can follow the guidelines for positive communication by Dale Carnegie, who was inspired by friendship to write in the 30s of the last century one of the best-selling books throughout history: How to make friends. (Ed. Edhasa).
Today, the advice that Dale Carnegie synthesized from his experience remains fully valid:
- Take a sincere interest in others. They should not be for you a means, but an end in itself.
- Be a good listener and encourage others to tell you about them. It is the best way to reach the heart of a person.
- Don’t criticize, don’t condemn, don’t complain. If we go with our sharpest weapons ahead, we will hardly find affinities to share with anyone.
- Show honest and sincere appreciation – look for the bright side in others. That does not mean being hypocritical, but making an effort to discover it and communicate it next.
- Smile: Even the most reluctant people let their guard down when we approach them with a smile.
- Show sympathy for the ideas and wishes of others, and never stop taking them into account when you talk to them.
- When you speak, repeat the name of your interlocutor, whoever they are. The name is the sweetest and most important sound for each of us in any language.
- Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely, because it has to be to you.