Friday, 18 January 2008

Friends and Friendship

There is a Chinese saying that goes, loosely translated, like this: "Drinking with a true friend, a thousand cups is not enough." And another that goes: "At home you count on your parents, outside of your home you count on your friends." Such are sayings in praise of friendship and the importance of having friends.

The more friends we have, the richer our life would be. This is a fact. However, it is also a fact that a true friend is hard to come by. And we would be very lucky indeed if we have a friend to be there for us in our ups and downs, trials and tribulations in life.

But what is this concept called friendship? When and how does one become a friend? What makes us call somebody a friend and others acquaintances? Why is it that we ‘click’ with some people and not others?

We are never sure when friendship starts. At first, we are just acquaintances. Then we discover we have common interests - the more things we have in common, the better we are able to relate to each other.

As we get to know each other better, and as we understand more about the person, a bond develops. After a period of time, when the bond strengthened and we are comfortable with each other, I guess that’s when we call each other friends.

There is also this one very important factor to be considered when it comes to human relationship. It is call chemistry. Whether we ‘click’ with another or not depends on whether this ‘chemistry’ is present. I suppose this explains how we can sometimes be firm friends with people who are very different to us.

Friendship never remains the same. It is constantly changing. Sometimes, we feel closer to our friends than before, sometimes we feel there is a gap to be bridged, a wall to break down in our friendship. And there will come a time when the friendship is tested. There will be arguments, disagreement, conflict of interests, adversities etc… How we react, and respond to the situations will determine how strong the friendship is, and whether we remain friends.

Sometimes a friendship is formed when adversity strikes. In our adversity, the person who stretches out his or her hands to lift us up proves himself or herself worthy of a friend.

When we were young, we made friends easily. Our playmates were our friends. We had fun - we were happy playing together, and that was all that matters. In our innocent years, we did not think too far ahead.

As we grew older, we have higher expectations. Having a shared interest does not automatically qualify someone as a friend anymore. We are also more set in our ways and less willing to compromise. We began to be more specific about who we want to call friends. However, we also find that it is now, not only harder to maintain old friendships, but also harder to form new ones.

In this rat race society where it is every man for himself, and what with our daily demands, concerns, and pressures from work, we hardly think of taking time to cultivate a friendship. Carving out a career, and balancing time for the family takes much of the energy out of us. By the end of the day, we are just glad to have some peace and quiet to ourselves. We do not have the time nor energy to get to know a person better. As such, although we might get along nicely with people on the surface, we are still hesitant to call them friends because we do not know enough about them.

Cynicism, scepticism, and the superficial social circle adds to the difficulty of finding a true friend. Perhaps after a few disappointment in life, as well as with people, we become more sceptical about friends and this thing call friendship. When a friendship develops too quickly or when someone gets too close too quickly, we begin to suspect he is after something from us. We will then hold back on our commitments, giving the other party the impression that we do not want to be friends. By the time we realized our mistake, we would have missed out on the chance of having a friend.

Friendship is a rare commodity nowadays. The proverbial, “He who has found a friend has truly found a treasure” couldn’t be more true. I think the computer is fast becoming most people’s best friends these days. Before we become a race of cold, aloof, unfeeling people, we should rekindle this noble human quality called Friendship.

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