“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself”—Jim Morrison, American singer and song writer
All living beings need a soul mate. Yes, besides humans, even animals and plants require some form of companionship that enables them to share their emotions and also to thrive in their lives. There are innumerable examples of withering plants responding positively to a caring individual’s whispers and wild beasts have been seen to lie timidly at the feet of loving human beings. Being alone is one thing but being in the company of friends is a blessing. We cannot choose our relatives because we have no control over our birth but we do have the option of selecting our friends, who by chance can also be our blood relations. Then as the famous saying goes, “a man is recognized by the company he keeps.” Another interesting quote is: “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” Indeed, friends reflect our personality, our style, our thinking and our choices in life.
One can have many acquaintances but those with whom we can share our secrets with, are the true friends or maybe one friend. Besides, after a mother, perhaps the next person who can bear our tantrums or idiocy without passing any judgements is a friend. There is always the need to have a confidante who can absorb our negativity and act like a strong support system against all odds to help us pass through a tumultuous phase in life. There are so many occasions when a person can break down on account of a personal tragedy, a lost employment, financial loss, terminal illness, a deceiving partner or such other incident. In these situations only a good friend comes to the rescue and helps to overcome one’s grief and hurt.
Birds of a feather flock together so at every stage in our lives we seek the friendship of our peers. As children, the company of other children is what we yearn for because it is easier for us to share the exuberant vitality that is the hallmark of childhood. Likewise, teenagers prefer moving in the circle of other teenagers, sharing the pangs of adolescence which ‘adults hardly ever seem to comprehend’ and same goes for mature men and women for whom it is difficult to comprehend the outbursts of youngsters.
The level of understanding between two friends is such that no matter how much time passes without meeting, they remain friends and connect effortlessly at the next encounter. Within a few seconds, they can bridge the gulf of sometimes months, years and even decades. There is no inkling of long periods of separation nor any complaints of losing touch—only joy and delight on revitalizing friendship. The reunion has the same element of excitement that existed before parting. This is the power of true friendship!
A sincere friend remains with you throughout your ups and downs in life, through thick and thin and prevents you from committing felony or indulging in harmful activities. Those who appear hand in hand with anyone involved in nefarious activities are clearly hypocrites and not honest buddies. This also applies to flatterers and those who seem to fan their friend’s ego with falsehood. They have vested interests, selfish objectives, are there only temporarily and disappear at the very first tragedy that hits their friend’s life.
No matter how old and tattered we get, how sickly we feel, how lethargic our movements may become, the child within always waves back at us and tickles our soul to sometimes behave and say things that befit an unassuming kid. When this happens, only close friends have the forbearance to appreciate and smile at these stupidities whereas others may frown and pass acrid comments. Many scholars, senior officers, priests, intellectuals, men of letters, professors, and serious looking persons are simply unrecognizable when they are in the company of their soul mates. The mischievous streaks, ably restrained by walls of forlorn exteriors gush out like the spillovers of strong dams.
Life is usually considered as a journey that takes us along different pathways which are sometimes smooth and sometimes bumpy. However, if one is blessed with good chums, the process of travel becomes easier even if the road is fraught with obstacles or unpleasant turns. Friends lessen the pain of tragedies which are plentiful and enhance the joy of those pleasurable moments which are of course comparatively fewer. When people shun away from you due to your failures, true friends lend you their ears to vent out your frustrations. They give you the opportunity of catharsis, which according to psychologists, is a powerful emotional discharge that aids in maintaining sanity. Thus friendship is an important medium that blocks the doors of a mental asylum from opening.
An interesting anecdote is: “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances; if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Students of science know that when two elements do not combine chemically, they remain a mixture, with each element retaining its unique qualities and easily separable. On the other hand, where elements are chemically combined, they turn into a compound with altogether new characteristics and which is difficult to break up into the original components. Friendship is that compound which transforms two individuals to a newer and better form if it is accompanied with care, love and positivity.
Of all the relations, friendship is perhaps the best and most unique as it transcends all artificial boundaries and gives both pleasure as well as hope for a lasting association even though it takes time and effort to nurture this connection but once established, there is no end to the happiness that sprouts as a result. In the words of Aristotle: “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.”
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)