Drawing some wisdom from a great sage
Looking back, if I had made the right type of friends, I would have become an infinitely wiser and effective person. As a teenager, not all parents have the foresight or intelligence to guide you. They may even give you the wrong advice.
Living in a competitive and real world, where you have to account for your results and behavior, who or what can guide you? I found wisdom when reading about Confucius and his philosophy.
Confucius (551–479BC) was a great teacher and had his teachings written down by his pupils who transcribed them and they became known as the “Analects”.
In it, among many important principles, he taught about the way of friendship. Friends are important in our lives. They influence and affect us in many ways. The old adage “Birds of a feather flock together” rings true. It is direct reflection of yourself when looking at your friends surrounding you.
What makes a good friend, worthy of making his acquaintance? Who are the bad ones whom one should avoid until they change their ways?
There is a common Chinese saying; A fence needs the support of three stakes, an able fellow needs the help of three other people. When one is dizzy with success, a good friend will serve you caution, when one is down, a good friend offers his shoulder for you to cry on.
Confucius listed three types of good friends; In short, they are straightforward, forgiving, and knowledgeable.
1 Upright /straightforward— -A friend who is upright is honest and sincere. He or she is transparent without a hint of flattery or fakeness. He will not lead you down the slippery road where there is a chance of you breaking the law and is sincerely caring about your welfare. He will advise you to take the right path and be bold because of that. The trust is mutual.
2 Forgiving — -The ability to forgive your friend’s mistakes is a powerful virtue. No amount of scolding, criticism, and punishment can turn a regrettable situation around. When you are not chided and you deserved to be, it is a mighty force that energizes you to want to do better instead of focusing on what had been done. It encourages the doer to double up and seek remedy in ways unimaginable. In other words, the feeling of ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel‘ will spur one to do better.
3 Knowledgeable — -A good friend is one in the know. He reads and has life experiences that he can impart to you when needed. Given today’s intellectual reach, there is no excuse for a person to be ignorant.
A knowledgeable friend is a joy because he can share tips and ways to unravel problems that may seem insurmountable to us. He is like a walking encyclopedia that instantly resolves some problems. He is also a role model for us to follow so that we can help others in the same way.
What makes a bad friend? Confucius also listed three characteristics of bad friends we should avoid preventing trouble.
1 Lack of temperance — -Avoid someone who is aggressive and quick to anger. We have witnessed street fights where it started because of one person. His friends joined in the assault, believing it is a form of support for their friend. In the heat of the moment, injuries result in even death. The whole group is drawn in as accomplices and subsequently punished.
This happens because team support has overwhelmed the reason of the fellow friends. A good friend would highlight the danger and caution one against blind fury. A good friend is cool and makes you stay away from trouble. This friend has wisdom besides temperance.
2 Indecisive — — An indecisive person wastes time and resources. He may be happy in his comfort zone and likes to see things in a status quo. When approached with an idea, indecisive people may shoot it down as they do not see the positivity in it. Opportunity lost may never come again.
It is better to depend on one’s own thoughts and reasoning to make decisions. At least you have tried and not leave room for regrets later.
3 Cunning — — This type of friend usually has his own interests in mind but often appears caring and kind. Confucius was wary of glib people and he believed in what people did rather than what they said.
These people are usually braggarts with no real talent or skill but they are convincing. They may even turn on you to get out of a sticky situation.
How do we find good friends?
Confucius related two qualities; benevolence and wisdom.
Being benevolent means loving people, being kind but being able to discriminate.
Having wisdom is knowing people. He did not advocate taking up with rich people but those who can perfect your moral character, increase your self-cultivation and enrich your mind.
Having the desired qualities of those good friends, the onus is on you to keep them so that it is a win-win relationship. It is not too late to start making good friends and supporting each other in life happily.
This involves communication. Speaking too much without consideration about others can be annoying. Most people are concerned about their own affairs, so when it is time for your turn, then say your piece. Otherwise, listening out may be more rewarding for a friendship to flourish.
Secondly, keeping silent when spoken to is not welcome either. Confucius calls this evasive and excludes others. It may even be construed as rude.
The third situation is speaking without being able to read people, which Confucius called ‘blind’. Without watching the reactions of others on the topics discussed, whether they have grated on some nerves and dug up some painful memories, one is bound to lose friends.
Confucius dished out a very important point; “ When giving advice, do it to the best of your ability, guide them properly but stop when there is no hope of success. Do not ask to be snubbed”.
I would like to add that one should not gripe too much in front of friends.No one likes a complaining, miserable person. Only miserable people love the company of other miserable people. Focus on the good and the wondrous world.
We all need good friends to set the tone together to move forward and achieve our individual goals. Good friends are like good food. They nourish you and make it a worthwhile life journey.