- Silence is a true friend who never betrays
- A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.
- Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.
- One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
- A friend to all is a friend to none.
Of all the relationships we have, it is our friends who most directly reveal the kind of person we are.
If you want to really understand someone, have a look at their circle of friends, this will tell you what their values and priorities are- after all, as is often shown, birds of a feather flock together.
However, friends are divided into good and bad. The right sort of friend can help you a lot, but the bad sort can bring you a great deal of trouble, and many even lead you down the wrong pathway in your life. Having the ability to choose your friends wisely is a great skill and will stand you in good stead.
So what kind of friend is a good friend? And what kind of friend is a bad friend? And how can we make sure we make good friends?
If we take a look at Confucianism we can see that Confucius attached a great deal of importance to friendship and what effects friends had on a persons development. Confucius also taught his students how to make good friends, and avoid the bad ones.
Confucius said there are three types of friends in this world who can help us.
The first are straight friends (and, he did not mean heterosexual) J Straight here means upright, honest and fair-minded.
A straight friend is sincere, has a good heart, they have a bright, cheery and openness about them, without a trace of flattery. Their character will have a good influence on your own. They give you courage when you are timid and decisiveness and resolution when you are wavering.
The second are friends who remain loyal and trustworthy. These friends are honest and sincere in their dealings with others and they are never fake. Association with this kind of friend makes us feel calm, at ease and safe, they purify and raise our spirits.
The third type of friend is the well-informed friend, they possess a great deal of knowledge about a great many things, they love to read and have usually seen a lot of the world. When you find yourself dithering over a problem, unable to come to a decision, you would be well advised to see your well-informed friend. That friends wide ranging knowledge and experience will help you with your choice.
Having a well-informed friend is like owning a huge volume of encyclopedia; we can learn many valuable lessons from their knowledge and experience.
Confucius also said there are three types of bad friends, the ingratiating in action, the pleasant in appearance and the plausible in speech, and that to have these three types of friends is ‘to lose’. So how can we tell what kind of people they are?
By the ingratiating in action, Confucius meant flatterers, fawners, and shameless sycophants.
We often find these sort of people in our lives, they will always say things like ‘ That’s so brilliant’, whatever you do they will always say ‘ That’s amazing’, they will never say ‘No’ to you. On the contrary they will follow you and take their tone from yours, praising you and paying you compliments.
This type of friend has the great talent of weighing your words and watching your expressions. They change their direction depending on the way the wind is blowing. Making sure they never do anything to displease you.
They are the direct opposite to the straight friend. The hearts of these people are neither straightforward nor honest, and they have no sense of right or wrong. Their aim is to make you happy, but only so that they get something out of it.
As Confucius says, making friends with this type of person is dangerous!
After being told all the things you want to hear, and flattered into a state of contentment, it will start to go to your head, your ego will grow uncontrollably and you will become blindly self-centered and self-important, caring for nobody but yourself. You will loose the capacity for self-awareness and it will not take long for you to bring disaster down upon your own head.
This kind of friend is slow poison for your soul.
The second kind of bad friend is the one Confucius called ‘the pleasant in appearance’, or two-faced. They will be all smiles and sweetness to your face, positively beaming as they dish out the compliments and flattery. But behind your back they will spread rumors and malicious slander.
We often hear of people complaining ‘That friend of mine seemed so kind and loving, their speech was so gentle, their behavior so thoughtful, I believed they were my dearest, closest and most intimate friend’. I was so committed to them, I poured out my heart to them, told them my deepest secrets. But they betrayed me, abused my trust for their own benefit, started rumors about me, spread my secrets and destroyed my character. And when I confronted them, they had the shame to deny it to my face and put on a show of injured innocence for all to see.’
This kind of person is false and hypocritical, the exact opposite of the frankness and honesty of the loyal and trustworthy friend.
People like this are the true ‘pretty people’ p petty and with darkness in their hearts. However, these types of people often wear a mask of goodness. Because they have an ulterior motive, they will be very friendly towards you, they might even be ten tomes nicer to you than somebody with no hidden agenda. So if you are not careful and let yourself get used by this person, you will find you have fitted restraints to your own wrists, this friend will not let you go unless you pay a heavy price. This is a test of our judgment, and of our understanding of people and the ways of this world.
The third kind of bad friend is the one Confucius called ‘the plausible in speech’, referring to the people who brag all the time and exaggerate. Most people would now call them ‘Fast Talkers’.
There is nothing this type of person doesn’t know, and no argument they don’t understand. These people talk continuously, dragging you along with their momentum until you can’t help believing them. But apart for this gift of the gab, they have nothing else to offer.
There is a clear difference between this type of person and the ‘well informed’, which is that this kind of person has no real talent or knowledge. A person who is plausible in speech has a glib tongue, but nothing inside to back it up.
Confucius was always suspicious of glib people and their sweet words. They should speak less and do more. Confucius believed that it is not what a person says but what they do that matters.
Of course, in our modern society there has been a change in attitudes and values: if people with real talent and true scholarship cannot communicate effectively and do not get their meaning across, it will obstruct their careers and their lives.
However, if someone can only talk, and has no real skill, it is far more harmful.
If you want to make good friends, and avoid making bad, you need two things: the first is the desire to make good friends, the second is the ability to do so.
We know how important ‘benevolence’ and ‘wisdom’ are and they are key if we wish to make good friends. The desire to make good friends comes from benevolence and the ability to make them from wisdom.
Fan Chi one of Confucius’s students asked, “What did he mean by benevolence, Confucius answered with only two words: ’Loving People’.
Fan Chi then asked then what is this thing called Wisdom?
Confucius replied, again with just two words: ‘Knowing People’. To understand people is to be wise.
If we want to make good friends, we must first have a kind, benevolent heart, be willing to get close to people, and have the desire to make friends; second, we must have the ability to discriminate. Only in this way can one make friends of real value. Once you have this basic standard, you will be well on your way to making friends of the very best kind.
In a sense, making a good friend is the beginning of a beautiful new chapter in our lives. Our friends are like a mirror: by watching them, we can see where we ourselves fall short.
Make friends who are happy, and can take pleasure in their lives the way they are right now!
Almost everyone in China knows Tao Yuanming, one of the first recluses who would never compromise on his ideals, and who became the founder of the pastoral school of poetry. Tao Yuanming lived in rather straitened circumstances, but he had a very happy life. The Southern Histories tell us that Tao Yuanming had no knowledge of music, but he owned a zither. This zither was just a big length of wood; it did not even have any strings. Every time he invited his friends to his house, he would stroke this piece of wood, saying he was playing the zither, and he would pour his heart into his playing, sometimes playing for hours until he was weeping audibly. And every time he did this, those friends who really understood music were also visibly moved. Tao Yuanming would play out the music of his soul on his string less zither, while his friends drank wine and talked happily amongst themselves. Afterwards, he would say: ‘I am drunk and I want to sleep, you may go.’ The friends left without making a fuss, and continued to meet on similar occasions in the future.
Friends like this are true friends, because your souls share an unspoken understanding. And this kind of life is truly happy.