The Value of Friendship: WHY & HOW to Pick Friends Wisely

Mar 25, 2024

The Value of a Real Friend

Given how interconnected the world is these days, it’s so easy to meet people and make new friendships. 

It’s never been more convenient thanks to apps, online communities, shared interests and social circles.

At the touch of a button you can find yourself with friendly faces to hang out with — or even find your life partner with a few swipes right and left!

But how many of those people are TRUE friends, people who will be there for you through thick and thin?

Let’s be honest: Having a massive social network and lots of ‘friends’ doesn’t necessarily mean you have meaningful and positive friendships that enrich your life.

Meeting people to chat aimlessly to, go grab drinks with is relatively easy, but finding those exceptional individuals who are virtuous, trustworthy friends for life is the real challenge.

True friends — the kind who share your values, accept you unconditionally, and actually make your life BETTER — are remarkably hard to find.

It’s not an overstatement to say that they’re rare and precious gems. 

True Friendship Enriches Your Life

So, what makes a true friend? 

In Buddhism, there’s a concept called kalyāṇa-mittatā which refers to a “good friend”, “virtuous friend”, “noble friend” — someone who improves our life through embodying positive qualities like integrity, kindness and wisdom.

A real friend doesn’t drag you into negativity, but inspires and encourages you to be the best you can be.

But kalyāṇa-mittatā don’t come along every day — sometimes not even in an entire lifetime.

A Time for Reflection

If you want to be happy and enjoy authentic friendships, you need to think carefully about what and who influences you on a daily basis.

So, take some time to evaluate your friendships.

Reflect deeply on who you choose to surround yourself with and why.

Ask yourself honestly:

Do my friendships with certain people genuinely enhance my quality of life and well-being?

Or do they bring more stress, negativity, bad influences, or setbacks?

The friends who see the value in your growth, push you to be better, yet accept you unconditionally are those rare true gems that you need to keep close and cherish.

Those that do the opposite? Gently release them from your life as soon as possible.

You’ll find that there’s a certain group of people who neither add nor detract from your well-being — and that’s absolutely fine. 

There’s no need to jettison them as well, as they may well be fundamental to your well-being in different ways (for example, they may be your co-workers or people you have a more casual relationship with).

The idea is that you surround yourself with people who can help you keep stable or move forward, rather than destabilize you and force you sideways or backwards.

You may have heard the idea that the five people you spend most time with influence your life the most. 

It’s true.

So, make sure you identify who they are.

Then decide if they’re gems that help you shine, or rocks that just weight you down.

Friendships and Happiness

The impact on our well-being of having true friendships can’t be overstated.

One Harvard study found that strong relationships and social integration were the greatest predictors of health and happiness as people aged.

That comes as no surprise, right?!

After all, humans are wired to live together with other humans.

BUT that doesn’t mean that making authentic connections can be taken for granted.

It’s easy to think that meeting people is more simple now than ever before, so there’s no excuse for being friendless.

It’s not the case.

Despite being ‘more connected than ever’, the statistics for loneliness are at a depressing all time high. . . 

The Course of a Lifetime

One of life’s greatest joys is having long-term, authentic friendships with people who make you want to be the best version of yourself. 

Though it takes work to forge and nurture these bonds, the quality of your life will be exponentially better when you have even just a couple of true kalyāṇa-mittatā you can depend on through life’s ups and downs.

if you can meet just ONE throughout the course of your lifetime, you can count yourself very ‘lucky’ indeed. 

So, don’t settle for surface-level friendships — do the work to foster genuine connections with kindred spirits who share your values and brighten your world.

THOSE are the friendships worth investing your time — and heart — into.

Don’t forget: Your kalyāṇa-mittatā may already be someone in your life; someone close to you; someone you don’t even REALISE yet is your kalyāṇa-mittatā

Perhaps it’s not a friend at all — perhaps it’s even your partner. 

Whoever it is, whenever you find them, treasure them.

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