Friends pretty much rock our world. In fact they often are the proverbial ‘rock’.
They are the ones we share our life with, our trials and tribulations, late night philosophical discussions (when too much wine has been consumed), the laugh-out-loud moments and our deepest, darkest fears.
If, as esteemed philosopher A C Grayling claims “relationships are central to what constitutes the meaning of life”, then friendship is at the core of our existence.
As social creatures we all seek that sense of belonging and friendships offer us that security and comfort only to be found in another.
But in a ‘Facebook’ world, I wonder if the quick and easy claims to ‘Friend’ are fast blurring these lines for what constitutes this most valuable of relationships?
Has friendship lost some of its lustre, meaning and even value for us?
We can look at our own friendships over the years and readily admit that they have affected us in a multitude of ways.
“Friendfluence is the powerful and often unappreciated role that friends—past and present—play in determining our sense of self and the direction of our lives” CARLIN FLORA
The fact that we find ourselves caught in a connection with someone who was at one point a stranger, is remarkable, but a testament to the value of friends in helping us to thrive and grow.
Aristotle believed friendship to be a virtue….
‘most necessary with a view to living … for without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods’.
The Greeks extolled friendship and saw human love of another, as one of the richest and highest forms of existence.
I know times have changed since Aristotle got about in an off-the-shoulder-cloth, but his words resonate today just as clearly.
All the wealth in the world could not sustain us in the way true friendship does. The sort that is unguarded, honest and heartfelt.
“In friendship there is nothing fictitious, nothing simulated and it is in fact true and voluntary” -Cicero
Aristotle who studied and wrote profusely on the topic, presents three types of friendship: Perfect, Pleasure and Utility
- Perfect Friendship is as the names says; perfectly founded on the best of intentions for one another.These are the kinds of friends you’d do anything for and are happy to share your deepest secrets with.
- Pleasure Friendships are those we often like to have fun with, but wouldn’t necessarily share our problems with.
- Utility Friendship is based on the usefulness of the friend. The relationship lasts only as long as two people find each other useful.
So, right now you’re probably busy categorising each of your ‘friends’. But herein lies the question; surely each of these ‘types’ of friendships have their role to play in our lives and us in theirs?
Surely all our friendships should be valued?
Aristotle thought you could only have a small number of true ‘Perfect’ friends, as these were the type that took time to cultivate and develop, while ‘Pleasure’ and ‘Utility’ friends could be greater in number.
One very recent and interesting study by a social anthropologist Robin Dunbar, suggested that the average number of friends a human can sustain is around 150. This is inevitably made up of a range of different types of friends and can include members of our family.
Interestingly researchers who also analysed 3 million Twitter users, and 380 million tweets, found a corresponding number – 150 people seems to be our limit when it comes to ‘Friends’.
Numbers aside, friendship’s true value lies not in how many we have or the type, but in its power to help us thrive in a crazy world, to heal our unease about who we are and to ultimately make us better people.
The ancient Greeks revered it and today still, friendship offers us real value in our lives; emotionally, physically and mentally.
So it seems reasonable to argue that friends are not only of significant value to us, but vital to our collective existence.
Not to be taken for granted, we quite simply need each other.
For some more interesting theories on Friendship read this.
You can also find more infographics at Visualistan