Ingredients of Friendship
I'm writing on a subject that has relevance to many people, regardless of their politics or their beliefs. That subject is friendship.
I used to be terrible at making and keeping friends. I am better at it now, and I would like to explain to people how it is done. A person who starts out badly at something and then gets better at it would have more meaningful things to say on the subject than would someone who has been always good at it. That is because he is conscious of what it took for him to change for the better and is therefore more able to articulate it.
First ingredient of any meaningful friendship is goodwill. Without goodwill, one's interactions are shallow, exploitative, fake, or all of the above. Goodwill seeks the next person's benefit and wants good things for the next person. If you do not have goodwill to the person, do not befriend that person, it would be a waste of time.
Another ingredient is patience. People will not always live up to our expectations, and people will not always behave the way in which we want them to behave. It takes patience to see someone through their errors and get to a better place. Without patience, something little can break the friendship; and patience makes it possible to remain friends with people even when they are not being perfect.
Also very important is self-control. Self-control stops one from doing or saying stupid things that can jeopardize or destroy the friendship. Self-control keeps one from being violent, abusive or careless with what he says and does. And its benefits do not only extend to friendships; they extend to other areas of life, such as family and work.
Tolerance is also important. People are different from one another, and it simply does not make sense to surround yourself with people who are all completely like yourself. Much can be learned, and much good can be gained, from associating with people who are different from you. This of course requires tolerance, as they may have different attitudes than you do and may act in a different manner than you would expect.
It also is important to be compassionate. Compassion in the right place can make a vast difference in people's lives; and the saying is true that the friend in need is the friend indeed. A real friend will support his friends when they are having trouble. A friend who would not do that is not a real friend.
It also pays to know when to maintain contact. Different friendships will demand different levels of contact: Some will want contact more often than will others, and there will be situations in which a friend would vanish under the radar to re-appear sometime later. It is necessary to give one's friends the latitude to do so and to make sure that one is neither imposing nor neglecting.
It is also important to put in the mental work to understand the next person and know what is important for the next person. Doing this makes it possible to interact on a meaningful level and have a friendship that is lasting and profound. The more we understand our friends, the more we can do for them. And that results in goodwill manifesting in real benefit, rather than being squandered on things that do nothing for the friend.
Honesty is important as well. Honesty builds trust, and trust is needed for a real friendship. If the person sees you as dishonest, the person will be less likely to confide in you or to involve you in things that matter to them. With honesty, it is possible to have much deeper and much better interactions, and as such it is a prerequisite for real friendship.
It is important to be fair. Fairness allows friendship to go on without resentment. If your friend has done things for you, then you should also be doing things for them. The friend will sometimes say that you're being unfair and sometimes he won't, but the more fair you are the more solid becomes the friendship.
Finally, it is important to have loyalty. Loyalty to one friend does not mean having only them as a friend; one should be loyal to all of one's friends. A loyal friend would do a lot for a friend, including helping them out in trouble situations. And as in the case of compassion, loyalty demands remaining true to a friend if the friend is in a bad way as much as when the friend is doing well.
While all this may be demanding, the results are very well worth it. Much good can be realized from friendship, and with a true friend these things are entirely worth doing. When dealing with people of decency, the goodwill extended will generate return goodwill. And much benefit can be gained from this.