‘Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together’. (Woodrow Wilson 1856 – 24)
‘Treasure your relationships, not your possessions’’.
HOM: Listening with Understanding and Empathy
At the beginning of a school year, establishing friendships is often the highest priority. Having people to depend on can help us hold ourselves and our world together.
Friendship was considered the highest of virtues by the philosopher Aristotle. However, he understood that not all friendships are of equal value or quality. In fact, Aristotle distinguished between three types of friendships.
First of all there are friendships of ‘utility’. In this kind of friendship, the two individuals are not in it for the affection of one another but because they can help each other with a particular task, such as working on a school project or working in a team to achieve a particular target. Each helps the other to a mutual benefit. It’s not permanent in nature, and whenever the benefit ends, so might the relationship that brought the individuals together.
The second kind of friendship is one based on pleasure. It’s usually based on a common interest or things people enjoy together such as playing a sport, liking the same music or simply finding pleasure from the same things. Once that enjoyment or interest changes, however, the friendship is unlikely to last.
According to Aristotle, most of the friendships that many of us have fall into these two categories and whilst Aristotle didn’t necessarily see them as negative, he did feel that their depth limited their quality.
The final form of friendship that Aristotle outlined is the most precious out of the three. It is the friendship of the ‘Good’ and it’s this type of friendship that forms the cement that has the potential to hold both our personal world and the wider world together.
Rather than utility or pleasure, this kind of friendship is based around liking an individual for themselves, ‘warts and all’! In fact, it is the ability to be open and vulnerable to one another that makes such friendships so special and rather than being short lived, these friendships last. These are the people we can turn to in times of trouble as well as times of celebration, and who will also feel able to turn to us. Such friendships are the most precious. They also take time and trust to build and are about commitment. In reality they will be numbered, at the most, on one hand.
So, at this time in the term as pupils are still forming, negotiating and sometimes breaking friendships, we do well to reflect on this most important virtue which contrasts with the hastily gathered ‘friends’ on social network sites. Such ‘friendships’ often require little more than a click of a button to be secured and all too frequently can be as hastily withdrawn. Friends are made over time with commitment and will form the cement that holds not only the world together but ourselves.