It is expressions of affection rather than money and power that attract real friends. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
People try all different ways to attract friends. The desire to be admired is strong within us all. This is the basis of friendship, the admiration of another.
How we go about attaining friends is a very personal choice. There are different paths to this goal, and different results based on the path taken. This quote is about two of the available paths.
The first path mentioned is affection, and the quote says that it results in real friends. The exchange of affection (non-romantic) is a solid base on which to build a friendship. Admiration is another word for this.
The other, less desirable, path is that of money and power. People with money or power are always surrounded by ‘friends.’ But these are friends of convenience and opportunity.
Their convenience, and the opportunities which being around you brings to them. They don’t care for you, other than how you make things happen for them. And that’s not a real friend, is it?
Why is true friendship important?
By being a true friend to another, you are there not just for your sake, but for theirs as well. It is a mutual advantage, where both benefit, even if at different times or in different circumstances. You are there when they need you, and are willing to do what you can to help them out.
Note that there are levels of friendship, and not everyone who you consider a very close friend considers you to be a very close friend in return. There are some friends who will fly across oceans to help you, and others who will give you a word of encouragement and little else.
Not everyone is worthy of your highest levels of friendship, unless you are an exceptional humanitarian. You should also be able to deal with the easily anticipated let-downs. People are people, and will see situations from different viewpoints, resulting in outcomes you may not have anticipated.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Well, as friendship is a two way street, you need to consider situations where you are the friend of another, and where they are a friend of yours. There are occasions where both are friends, but even then, they may be for different reasons. That’s what I’d like to consider now.
Let’s start with you as a friend of another. Have you ever asked yourself “Why am I their friend?” Pick three friends and answer this question for each one of them. Do they seem to be similar to most of the people who you seek out as friends, or is there something else? Think about it for a few moments.
Now, for each friend, answer the question “What do I gain from being their friend?” People who aren’t popular often seek out friends with better social connections. You may be truly their friend, but you are getting something else out of it as well, right? What are you getting out of the friendship that you couldn’t get on your own?
This isn’t designed to make you feel bad about yourself, or why you choose people for friends. But if you know why, you can do a better job of deciding next time, right? Knowledge is a useful tool. That said, it’s now time to consider the other direction of friendship.
Think about some of the people who chose to be your friend or have approached you with that in mind. Do you have any idea what their reasons were for wanting to be your friend? Take a moment and consider why they chose you, and not someone else. Do they all seem to be the same type of person, looking for the same thing?
Now consider what they have to gain from their being your friend. Do you make them laugh, or do you throw great parties, and they wanted to they got invites? Do you give nice gifts? Do you spend a lot of time around the popular people? Is there anything specific that they are after?
Again, this isn’t designed to make you feel all your friends are phony, who are just after your money, power, or using you to gain access to others. That’s a value judgement you will have to make. However, I ask that you be no harsher on them than you were on yourself, in the first half, right?
Now that you’ve taken some time to consider what friendship means to you, I would like you to consider this question (and the answer) “What does it take to break a friendship?” Sometimes we do stupid things, and damage our friendships. But what does it take to truly and permanently break a friendship?
Not everyone will live up to your ideals, but, in my opinion, that’s why we hold on to real friends. It can be a rough journey, but pulling a friend back after an estrangement can be a rewarding experience.