EDITORIAL:Friendships critical to life


This Sunday, the first Sunday in August, will be recognised by the United Nations as the International Day of Friendship. According to the UN, one of the reasons for establishing this Day is “based on the recognition of the relevance and importance of friendship as a noble and valuable sentiment in the lives of human beings around the world”.
Friendship is indeed an essential part of human civilisation. Humans are naturally gregarious creatures – they crave companionship, community and a sense of belonging. In fact, identified among the widely esteemed list of universal human rights are concepts that speak to this issue of establishing a connection with our fellow man – namely the right to marriage and the right to a family, among others. There are many different types of relationships, but one of the most fundamental is a simple friendship – although there are times when it can be far from simple, and both classic and contemporary literature and film have focused on the diverse dynamics of friendship, from the ‘frenemy’ to the ‘bromance’.
Nonetheless, friendship is a demanding pursuit. It requires us to give of ourselves and our time to others and to be considerate of them and their feelings. In a good friendship, these actions are returned, and we are rewarded with feelings of affinity; that we are not alone in the world, which can seem very large and hard to comprehend. Finding someone of like mind and values validates our own world view and gives us confidence in ourselves. However, because of the complexities of the human personality, forming a true friendship in the purest sense and enjoying its benefits can be quite the task. Many do not see friendship as a give and take relationship, but rather are more interested in seeing what advantages the relationship can bring to them, without consideration for whether the other party is benefiting equally.
Indeed, colliding with the icebergs and other dangers hidden in the depths of these uncertain waters can cause a friendship to spring more than a few leaks. And this is merely at the interpersonal level. There are higher levels at which ‘friendships’ are sought after or cultivated. In those cases, however, there is often a clearer acceptance that the purpose of establishing a relationship is to advance each party’s agenda, rather from any psychological need for companionship. Particularly in the international relations arena, it is common to speak of fellow states and nations as ‘friends’ and these alliances serve to strengthen positions at negotiating tables and in the public eye, as there continues to be strength in numbers.
Whatever the level of friendship, it requires its participants to be able to appreciate the point of view of the other. Disagreements are inevitable in human interactions, but if we approach our relationships – be they with our next-door neighbour or the country on the other side of the ocean – with a genuine desire to understand each other, our societies and civilisation on a whole can be further advanced.
Other tenets of a successful friendship include mutual respect, open communication, tolerance for social and cultural differences and promotion of non-violent resolution to conflict – principles that can be applied at both the interpersonal and international levels. In fact, given that the smallest unit of human civilisation is the human being, perhaps by taking responsibility as individuals to forge greater understanding with each other, we can do a lot more to advance peace throughout the world than any treaty or ceasefire ever could. After all, ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step’.

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