My conception of friendship has changed quite a bit over the years. Friends have come and gone, memories fade, but the lessons learned are never forgotten. As a means of tracking my understanding of friendship, I will describe some of the valuable and unfavorable qualities of friendships as I currently see it, one year after graduating from college.
Can expand our perspective of the world. A deeper than surface-level relationship with another human being can really help broaden our perspective of the world we live in. Each exposure to a new, diverse set of viewpoints brings us one step closer to achieving a more accurate representation of reality as our bubble grows to accommodate all that we did not understand before. After all, everyone knows something we do not know. And when we establish strong bonds with another individual, we are granted the unique opportunity to get a glimpse of their soul, their inner being. If we can reach such a state of trust and flow with another person (like friendship), we can gain some truly valuable insight that may help us better understand ourselves and the world around us.
Can narrow our perspective of the world. Friends have the capacity to expand our perception of the world, but they also have the capacity to do just the opposite if we’re not careful. The longer we maintain the same group of friends and associate ourselves with the same “urban tribe”, the greater the possibility of limiting ourselves from experiencing all that life has to offer. Being exposed to the same set of perspectives over a long period is unreasonable and opposes our natural inclination for growth and progress along the arrow of time. In a prolonged state of comfort, we tend to become complacent.
Can make us more invested in society. Relationships ground us to the real, physical world. Without some solid connections with other people, the desire to contribute to the betterment of society may not be as present, if at all. Friends are typically our first exposure to the world outside of our home. As such, strong relationships teach us an important lesson in developing a healthy sense of altruism and empathy for others. Connecting to people unrelated to us by blood is a step towards feeling a connection to human life as a whole.
Can serve as reference points. Because of outcome bias, it is difficult for people to recall their past thought processes through an objective lens. Honest friends, however, can help us to track our own growth (or lack thereof) more objectively as we progress through the many different stages of our life.
Can create an unhealthy longing for the past. History alone is not a good enough reason to upkeep a friendship. Change is an inevitable force so as we grow, our conception of friendship must also grow with us or else we risk being stuck in the same mindset for far too long. If we expend too much energy trying to maintain what once was, we might miss the new opportunities of the present and lose out on the future. Many people will come in and out our lives in the course of our time here on Earth. If we fixate too much on the broken relationships that didn’t meet our expectations, we might miss the next one that exceeds them. Of course, this is not to say that current friendships do not have the capacity to grow with us.
Can improve our capacity to love and find love. I’m injecting my own philosophy on relationships here: your eventual life partner should ideally be your best friend. After all, if we are going to spend the rest of our lives with another human being, we’d probably want that relationship to be the best one we have. So building friendships is valuable for two reasons here: a) it gives us the practice (any good skill requires practice) we need to be the best friend and partner we can possibly be for that person when he or she enters our life b) it increases our likelihood of finding the right person for us.
Of course, there is more to be said and all of this is subject to change as I continue forward through life and accumulate new experiences. But for now, these will serve as useful reminders for myself on when to press forward and when to dial back in current and future relationships.