Excerpt | Who Are Your Friends

think of all the people with whom you interact during the course of a day, week, month and year... and then ask yourself who among them are your friends, your true friends. recent research indicates that only about half of perceived friendships are mutual. that is, someone you think is your friend might not be so keen on you.

..."friendship is difficult to describe," said alexander nehamas, a professor of philosophy at princeton, "it's easier to say what friendship is not, and foremost, it is not instrumental." it is not a means to obtain higher status, wangle an invitation to someone's vacation home or simply escape your own boredom. rather, mr nehamas said, friendship is more like beauty or art, which kindles something deep within us and is "appreciated for its own sake."

"treating friends like investments or commodities is anathema to the whole idea of friendship," said ronal sharp, a professor of english at vassar college, who teaches a course on the literature of friendship. "it's not about what someone can do for you, it's who and what the two of you become in each other's presence."

“the notion of doing nothing but spending time in each other’s company has, in a way, become a lost art,” replaced by volleys of texts and tweets, mr. sharp said. “people are so eager to maximize efficiency of relationships that they have lost touch with what it is to be a friend.”
by his definition, friends are people you take the time to understand and allow to understand you.

such boasting implies they have soul mates to spare in a culture where we are taught that leaning on someone is a sign of weakness and power is not letting others affect you. but friendship requires the vulnerability of caring as well as revealing things about yourself that don’t match the polished image in your facebook profile or instagram feed, said mr. nehamas at princeton. trusting that your bond will continue, and might even be strengthened, despite your shortcomings and inevitable misfortunes, he said, is a risk many aren’t willing to take. according to medical experts, playing it safe by engaging in shallow, unfulfilling or nonreciprocal relationships has physical repercussions. 

so it's worth identifying who among the many people you encounter in your life are truly friends. who makes time for you? whose company enlivens, enriches and maybe even humbles you? whom would you miss? who would miss you? while there is no easy or agreed upon definition, what friendships have in common is that they shape us and create other dimensions through which to see the world. this can be for better or worse depending on whom we choose as friends. as the saying goes, "show me your friends and i will show you who you are."


murphy, k. (2016), nytimes, do your friends actually like you?

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