12th May 2022
‘Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart’
HOM: Finding humour
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme for 2022 was ‘Loneliness’. One in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time. There’s no single cause and there’s no one solution, after all we are all different! But the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems. And some people are at higher risk of feeling lonely than others. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to help alleviate loneliness and seeking connectedness with others is the most important.
The philosopher Aristotle placed great value on the virtue of friendship and in his book Nicomachean Ethics he identified three types of friendship. Firstly, there is pleasure friendship, which is based on simply those people you like to ‘hang out’ with, but with whom you may not share much else. Such friends are of the moment and rarely last beyond a particular time period in our lives. However, that is not to say such friendships are not important, but perhaps not the most important. Then there are friendships of utility, useful within a certain context. They are the people we work with or who help us, positive but rarely long-lasting when we move on.
Finally, there is the true friend. Philosopher Alain de Botton writes:
Not someone who’s just like you, but someone who isn’t you, but about whom you care as much as you care about yourself. The sorrows of a true friend are your sorrows. Their joys are yours. It makes you more vulnerable, should anything befall this person. But it’s hugely strengthening too. You’re relieved from the too small orbit of your own thoughts and worries. You expand into the life of another, together you become larger, cleverer, more resilient, more fair-minded. You share virtues and cancel out each other’s defects. Friendship teaches us what we ought to be: it is, quite literally, the best part of life.
Friendships of this kind are lifelong and will only ever be counted on the fingers of one hand. And I’m not sure if we even choose such friends in any sort or calculated or conscious way. However, true friendships are to be treasured and nurtured. They are the ones which will still be around through the good, bad and ugly times in our life. And to make such friends we must be sure to act towards them, as the friend that we wish to have ourselves.
Real friendships require thought, time and commitment and are an antidote to loneliness. Some of us will not always find this so easy but on a day to day basis, simply acknowledging and engaging with those around us can help. It will be those small moments of connectedness during our day that can sustain us through the more difficult times.