Celebrating the spirit of friendship

B L Razdan
There are three sorts of friends that are profitable, and three sorts that are harmful. Friendship with the upright, with true-to-death, and with those who have heard much is profitable. Friendship with the obsequious, with those who are good at accommodating their principles, and who are clever at talk is harmful.
Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one and enemy to none. Benjamin Franklin
Humans are the most social beings on earth: we need to relate to others, just as Abraham Maslow exposed in his Hierarchy of human needs. Our sociological needs motivate our behavior, encouraging us to make interpersonal relationships and connect with others on a deeper level. With such a huge need for human connection with people other than our significant other, it’s no wonder that we celebrate an entire holiday based on the importance of friendship.
Different countries celebrate “Friendship Day” on different dates. In India it is celebrated on the first Sunday of the month of August. That is how it falls on 1st August, 2021 this year. This day was first proposed in 1958 in Paraguay. However, it is known to have originated in 1930 from Hallmark cards, by Joyce Hall. In 1998, Nane Annan, the wife of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, declared Winnie the Pooh as the global ambassador of Friendship at the UN. And in the year 2011, at the UN’s 65th session, July 30 was designated as International Friendship Day.
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to stay at home this year, many people won’t get a chance to meet their closest friends. However, one can always reach out with the help of several social media platforms available today and let them know how special they are. After a tough year, friends have proven they have always been there for us. Let us choose Friendship Day 2021 to appreciate the connections we have in life or use this holiday to reach out to past friends and rekindle that bond of loving platonic relationships. Friendships are the purest type of human relationships. For more than a century, we have celebrated the strength of friendship, and thanks to social media, we are able to continue celebrating with our friends no matter where they are in the world.
Friendship isn’t easy. Making a good friend is almost like adding a new family member. It comes with risk and responsibility. Sometimes what a good friend needs from us is brutal honesty, not a cheerleader. A true friend is a person who would really tell you how bad you look in that bright pink spandex suit, even though you really like it. Friends may not be always forever even as the legendary friendship between Krishna and Sudama teaches us the true meaning and value of Friendship in this world. We must always learn to help our friends irrespective of their financial status. Krishna stopped Sudama and hugged him publicly. That shows the immortal example of Friendship. That is why they are remembered till now whenever we speak about Friendship. In friendship we should not Demand anything in reciprocation. In Sudama’s case, Krishna rewarded him with Wealth and Money even though Sudama did not ask for anything from him. Krishna rewarded Sudama not just because he was his childhood friend; but largely because, during his whole life, Sudama followed the trail of spirituality and taught many of us about religious duties. Krishna rewarded him simply because he was a natural person, and God wanted him to continue this pure spiritual path with more energy and enthusiasm. This was the beauty of the promise of Krishna to Sudama.
When it comes to friendships, although we may think they can sustain themselves naturally, there are still boundaries that apply. At least, there should be these to make the friendship more meaningful and lasting. Just like with any relationship, boundaries in friendships help both people keep their relationship healthy and intact. Once it feels off-balance to either person, it may unravel. Boundaries are a kind of glue that hold all relationships together and friendships are no exception. We need to respect our friend’s time, and they need to respect ours.
Wants and needs are a big part of many facets of life, including with friendships. The ability to express our needs to our friends allow these relationships to remain authentic, honest, and healthy. If the friendship is one that is important to us, determine how you can assert yourself, and advocate for our needs in a way that supports us and the relationship. We may need different types of friendships depending on what we are dealing with in our life and what stage of life we are in.
We all know that friend who only seems to contact us when they need something. A boundary that goes unchecked in many relationships is the non-reciprocal-benefits issue. Tell this person, ‘Look, I care about you and I enjoy ‘x’ about you; however, the time has come where I need to tell you that I only hear from you when you need or want something from me; this doesn’t feel good to me. If you want to remain in my life, I request that you contact me to check in on occasion, or invite me to coffee to catch up. I need for you to give of your time in ways that also enrich ‘my’ life.’
We probably have certain friends who know almost everything about us and others who don’t, and that’s perfectly okay. Some people have this idea that they need to tell their friends absolutely everything going on in their life. If you would like to do that, that is fine, but you are not obliged. You can be as open or private about matters as you would like. One aspect that makes friendships interesting is the fact that we and our friends are not usually carbon copies of each other. In that regard, it’s important to respect the differences between us. It is not our job to try and convince our friends to come over to our side, nor is it their job to convince us. Although the ability to sympathize with our friend is a great quality to have, we don’t want to get too sucked in as to lose ourself in the process. One of the main boundaries people must uphold within friendships is keeping their emotions and well-being separate from that of their friends.
We have probably had a friend decide to do something we would never do, even though we tried to talk them out of it. However, it’s their choice. We need to let your friends make decisions, and mistakes, on their own. We are not always going to agree with what your friend wants to do or who they want to date. While it may be OK to have an open conversation with them about their decisions, it is not OK to tell them what they should do. Learn the difference between being agreeable, flexible, and adaptable – which can be healthy in friendships – to being a people-pleaser. Friends need to be able to say ‘no’ to each other and respect the other’s boundary.
I would boil the eight characteristics down to: trust, self-expression, autonomy, equality, communication, respect, support, and honesty. However, this does not mean that these are the only good qualities, nor does it mean that a “good” friend has to check each box, these just constitute a good point of reference.
This Friendship Day, make sure you wish all your close friends and make them feel special!
(The author is formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.)