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YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS - Keep your friends close.
Bernie Comaskey / 2010-12-30 10:09:08
The old saying that “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your relations”, has a lot of truth in it and also indicates the value of having friends.
We are born with relations, but we have to make our friends as we travel along the pathway of life. “Not to have a friend in the world” has to be the worst place to be on this earth. The person who cannot hold a friend becomes sour and withered, because emotionally we need to feel connected to other people. I read somewhere that if a monkey is isolated and prevented from having physical contact with another monkey he will die. Some people have the personality to make friends easier than others, but we all need friends and there is no more important relationship than that of an old friend. We learn from our friend’s experience as well as our own and the experiences are fun to share. That being said, people who expect a friendship to be always fun and free of pain or the odd argument are deluding themselves. As in life, friendship is a balance of both good and bad times. As well as a need, it is the most natural thing in the world for humans to create friendships from the earliest age. Children in play-school will gravitate towards another child they like and friendships are made even at that young age. Take the other extreme of institutions, an old folks home and you will again find that each newcomer will soon make a special friend out of a resident they have most in common with. One expression I do not agree with is that; “Your friend is your pocket”, because no money can buy real friendship.
There are different levels of friendship – all of which come under the umbrella of “friends.” Often we tell a story or the like which involved “a friend of mine”, when that friend could be better described as an acquaintance. People are real lucky if they have the same number of close friends as fingers. Of course it goes without saying that to have a good friend; you must also be a good friend. Another telling old saying is the one which goes; “You can always judge a man by the company he keeps” and by and large you will find this to be true.
When kids go off to college or working away and anxious parents are worrying as to what they might be getting up to, encourage them to take their friends home at the week-end and then you will know how they behave away!
None of us are perfect, so we must give our friends the right to be wrong sometimes too. It is unrealistic to expect our friends to be perfect: We all have faults – they are just different from one another. Yet another old saying on friends tells us about “a friend in need being a friend indeed” and this is especially true. When someone is going through a bad patch, needing a bit of emotional support and understanding, real friends don’t drop that person because “they have become too depressing” or so on. Equally sad is to see a friend dropped by someone because they disagree with a certain view or topic. This is in fact denying your friend’s individuality – or the aforementioned “right to be wrong.” I was taken to task recently by my brother Fechin, who reminded me of this column’s “Don’t Forget” which read; “Never judge a man on his worst deed” and a smart brother waited for an opening to tell me that “I don’t practice what I preach.”!
If you drop friends constantly because of a few incidents of behaviour you don’t like, then you are going to finish up friendless and lonely in your old age. There is no friend like an old friend and how can you have old friends if you keep shedding them? An old friend will be with you down all the years, sticks with you in both good and bad times and between you, you have developed that easy, comfortable closeness that can only come with time. No, friends are not entitlements – we have to work for them and if we drop them lightly, as though they are dispensable, the day will come when the friendship well runs dry. The only kind of friend you can have is the kind you are willing to be. Anyone can stick around for the good times, but sometimes it takes the bad times to show who our real friends are. I remember listening to an interview given by Ireland’s first supermarket king, Pat Quinn, just after he had the misfortune to go bankrupt. Pat said; “The most important lesson I learned from all this is that I was wrong about half my friends: Half the ones I thought would stand by me didn’t and half the ones I thought would turn their backs are still helping me out.”
Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts, because as is often said; “You have nothing if you don’t have a friend.” As we get older there are fewer opportunities to meet people – and of course when you get old it is mathematically impossible to make new friends who will become old life-long friends, so the best advice is to hold onto the friends you have. It is far better to have had a dozen close enduring friendships in a lifetime that hundreds of “hail-fellow-well-met” acquaintances who come and go. And if you are still not convinced that you need friends in this life, just remember that in the finish up, we carry one another’s coffins.
No matter how useless a man is, his friendship is worth more than his hatred.