As the title tells you, it takes work to get and keep a friend. The idea of needing to work on social skills existed well before the invention of Social Workers.
So why is a friend so important and what does it take to acquire and keep a friend?
Life is about balance in all things. I think that perhaps it is for this reason there are many contradictions to life. One of these dichotomies is the human need for the comfort of predictability, while at the same time a need for novelty. Predictability is so important that research shows it is the love of the familiar that keeps a person in an abusive relationship, for the familiar terrible is still better than the fearful unknown. On the other hand, research also shows that the brain gets bored easily. This is why new exercise routines are constantly being created and sound therapy must be randomized, it is also why people love the shuffle feature on their I-pods.
So, what people really like is a comfortable amount of challenge to keep things interesting. That is what a good friend is for. You just learned something interesting you chew it over with your friend. This way you do not let your own biases cloud your judgment in either rejecting this new idea out of hand or impulsively embracing something flawed and potentially harmful. For this you need a good friend. Someone who is honest and loyal. A “yes” man is not a good friend, he doesn’t challenge you and thus does not help you grow. A loyal friend is one who knows you and always has your back because he believes in who you are.
There is a story of a young man and his father have one of those father-son life moment philosophical kinds of talk. You know the kind, where dad is trying to share an important truth and know-it-all young man is dismissive. Dad is discussing the importance of have a good friend and the son answers he is good in that department as he has lots of good friends. Dad is trying to explain to his son that in fact he has no friends, just buddies whose company he enjoys. With son still unconvinced the dad and the son decide to conduct an experiment. They take the bloody head of a sheep and put it in a sack and the son runs to one friend’s house in the middle of the night, pounding “please let me in, they want me for murder”. His friend refuses to open the door, “sorry buddy I want no part of this.” He tries his next pal, “sorry I don’t need this mess my friend,” answers his pal. He tries a third friend, same response. Finally, he goes to his father’s friend. He knocks on the door, at this point it’s around midnight, and he says “I’m your friend’s son, they want me for murder please hide me.” His father’s friend opens the door, no questions asked. The son asks his savior, how could you just let me in? I am a stranger to you and none of my own friends would let me in? The gentleman answers, “I know your father and I know his son could never be guilty of murder. So of course for your father’s sake I helped protect you until we can get this straightened out.”
Of course, I am not suggesting you help a suspected criminal thwart the law. This story is from a different day and age when execution of justice worked very differently, without judge and jury. However, the point about loyalty still stands the test of time and that is the hallmark of loyalty no matter which direction your life takes a true friend honestly has your back, always.
As the title of this post says, “acquire” think about getting a friend as you would any other major purchase: What features do you need? How much are you willing to spend? How much time are you willing to invest in maintenance? The best way to acquire a good friend is to first think about, what character traits make up a good friend and who do you know that you respect for those qualities? Once you have found such a person build a relationship with them. One of the currencies you have to be willing to pay is trust, do you trust him not to ridicule you for your ideas or questions? Another is time, do you take the time to hear what he has to say or do you shout down his opinions? (New phrase coined here ;-D a combo of “out shout” and “shut down”.)
A good friend is so important there are those who say life is not worth living without one. There is a story told of R’ Yochanan who said he wanted to die after he lost his study partner, Reish Lakish. They asked him, why when he had a new study partner who was brilliant? He responded, “yes but all he does is prove I am right with 24 proofs. I don’t grow from that, I need someone who can show me where I might be wrong in my thinking.” The definition of life is growth. When deciding whether a plant is alive or needs to be removed you look for growth.
Do you have a good friend? I hope so, but if not the time is ripe to acquire one.