Love of Friends
There certainly are undeniable benefits about friendship. But love and friends?
Let's take a look at some of the benefits of friendship, or traits of a great friend. The ideal friend, so to speak.
Lean on Me
A good friend is always there when you need them. While they may not be able to solve your problems for you – although they might do just that – you will benefit from them in more ways than one.
For one, you can always go to them when you have a problem, aren’t feeling well, or just need someone to listen to you. They don’t even need to be able to give you advice, but just the fact that you have someone who listens to you, already makes you feel better.
A Friend Doesn't Judge You – Unless it's for Your Own Good
They let you be yourself no matter how silly, weird, (un)funny or spoiled you are. They put up with your flaws, or like you because of them. It doesn't matter what you do, did, or didn't do, they always stick by you and don't judge your behavior or actions.
However, a great friend doesn't always stand idly by while you misbehave, insult, or even hurt someone else. Even though it might lead to an argument or threaten your friendship altogether, they will say or do something to challenge you. They don't do that because they want to hurt you. Quite the opposite, actually. They do that because they care about you and see that your wrongful actions and behavior not only hurt others, but eventually even yourself.
It might be painful at first when your best friend stands up to you and is this brutally honest about something you did/didn't do. But it gives you a chance to grow and not only see your own mistakes, but eventually grow from them. In other words, and even though you might feel hurt or betrayed by your friend, you get to reflect on your behavior, hopefully address it and learn your lesson.
The same goes for the other way around, of course. If you have a friend who's doing something wrong and might not be aware of it, you can make them aware. That, however, is not always easy to do. To quote Dumbledore from Harry Potter:
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
So, a good friend doesn't judge you, unless it's in your best interest.
A Friend Can Inspire You and Help You Grow
Like we have seen in the above example, you can learn something from your friend standing up to you. But there are more ways how a friend can inspire you and help you grow.
Maybe your friend is wiser than you and has more experience in certain areas. Maybe you look up to them because of what they do, how they do it, or simply because of who they are.
Or maybe they have a way of helping you grow by challenging you. At first, it might not seem as if they are helping you, but you eventually realize that they did in fact help you grow – whether you realized something you didn't see before about a situation, other person, or yourself. Those kind of people are also often described as mentors or soulmates.
A trait of such a friend is they often know to push the right button at the right time. In Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman writes: “[…] to exert the right leverage, in the right place, at the right time.“
This means they know that right now you really just need someone to listen to you and comfort you. Other times, however, they know they need to push you, kick you in the butt, so to speak. Perhaps you have self-doubt about something important coming up and are too scared to follow through with it – or even already decided not to do it. But then your friend comes along and pushes you into the deep end. Not because they're mean, but because they know it's for your own good. Can you think of a situation where you didn't want to do something, then someone pushed you to do it and in the end you were glad you did?
So a good friend (this obviously also goes for any other mentor, partner, family member or your soulmate) knows when you need comforting and guidance, or when you need to be pushed.
A Friend Can Be a Good Influence
Have you ever changed your opinion, behavior, or even beliefs about someone or something, because you were influenced by a friend?
(A quick side note: this is, of course, a double-edged sword. Your “friends” can also have a bad influence on you, manipulate you, change your mind for their own good, or make you do things you don't want to do.)
Maybe you have a friend who treats everyone else with respect. And because you spend time with them, it has changed your way of interacting with other people in a positive way.
It can sometimes be very difficult to change your beliefs, however. Perhaps you always hated a certain group of people (or a specific person), and because your friend has shed some light on the situation, you changed your mind, because you got to see it from a different perspective.
Maybe you've been living an unhealthy lifestyle, haven't been studying or working, have been using excuses not to do something, or have been mean to your family. But you have seen how your friend has treated the very same situation differently, and because of it, you have changed your own situation for the better.
A friend can influence you in many positive ways: by talking to you, by pushing you, or even simply by you observing them and then copying their actions.
And while certain opinions, behaviors, or beliefs aren't necessarily wrong, they might be worth reflecting upon. “Is that really a good belief to have, or is it perhaps affecting someone or something in a negative way? And I might not even be aware of it...”
Here are a few, potentially questionable, beliefs people have, and a response your friend might give you:
“Our way of living is better than the rest of the world's.”
“Maybe other ways of living are just different, but not necessarily better or worse than ours.”
“The other students are getting much better grades, so they are better people than me.”
“Getting better grades doesn't make them a better person. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.”
“All xyz people are idiots and bad and wrong!”
“While some xyz people certainly are, not all of them are the same. There are good and bad people in every group/country/culture.”
“Xyz is the only true religion!”
“It's great if that's the right religion for you, but it might not be the same for everyone. Different people have different beliefs, and one isn't necessarily better than the other. You don't have to like other religions, but respect other people who do, just like they respect your belief.”
“My partner left me and I hate them for it!
“Maybe xyz was the reason why they left you, which is something you can work on. Or maybe they just fell out of love with you, which is something that just happens. While I know it hurts, they are their own person and make their own decisions."
“One hand washes the other. If they can't do anything for me, I won't do anything for them.”
“While it would be nice to always have the favor returned, sometimes it's nice to do something for someone else, even if they can't do anything for you. As long as you're not being exploited.”
These are just a few examples, and some may make more sense to you than others. But the reality is that most of us hold certain beliefs that we are not even aware of. And some of those beliefs might be hurtful to others.
Having a friend help you reflect on your opinion, behavior or belief – be it by talking to you, pushing you, or you observing their behavior that makes you question your own – can, in turn, help you realize, adjust and therefore change them for the better.
You got a friend in me
What else is there to benefit from outside of having someone who listens to you when you need them, doesn’t judge you – unless it’s for your own good – has a good influence on you and might even be able to inspire you?
The fun part, of course! Simply having someone to have fun with! Whether that means playing football together, doing each other’s makeup, going to the movies, going on vacation, or just sitting outside and drinking yourselves silly.
Friendships like that – and the associated memories – can last years or even for the rest of your life and are both something to be cherished, as well as something to be pursued.
And while it’s great to have such a friend and benefit from their relationship, the same applies the other way around: YOU can be such a friend to someone else – or at least strive to be.