Friendship comprises of many human values such as sympathy, mutual understanding and compassion, but above all it is about honesty, trust and love with a degree of intimacy. Friendship is undoubtedly a central part of our lives, due to the concerns we have for our friends and also because our friends can shape who we are as a person. Most of the times we need friends for companionship, conversations and laughter, but the real virtue of friendship lies in the support that we get from our friends, and the concern that they show.
The value of friendship is something that not many people take time to ponder over and appreciate, and it may be said that we often take our friends for granted. Often we only realise the value of friendship when we find ourselves in need of a friend: when we are confined with problems and need a shoulder to rely on and to get advice for our complicated issues. If we find ourselves to have lost a close friend we understand what we have truly lost, and understand the importance of friendship in our lives. We have many people entering our lives, some for a short time, others longer, each on a varying scale of personal relationships from associations to intimate love and marriage. We form a bond of true friendship with only a select few, those that move with us through the stages of our lives.
Philosophers argue that friendship is a “source of personal happiness”, but surely we cannot consider a person a friend if we do not value them for their own sake? Epicurus distinguishes the different motivations for getting into a friendship and maintaining a friendship. The latter is certainly a concern for the friend for the friend’s sake, with our happiness being secondary to the friendship. But because friendship brings us happiness, it is a good reason to indulge oneself into a friendship initially. Once the friendship is established, we acquire new concerns, which were absent; we will then respond to goods that are internal of the friendship.
Some held the theological view that friendship is like any other good, and like all goods it is only to be promoted. Therefore someone who values friendship will believe that she has reason to maintain her current friendships and to cultivate new ones; she may also try to encourage friendships among other people. Someone who values friendship “will take herself to have reasons, first and foremost, to do those things that are involved in being a good friend: to be loyal, to be concerned with her friends’ interests, to try to stay in touch, to spend time with friends, and so on.” It is argued that this takes priority when there is a conflict between the two concepts: ‘We would not say that it showed how much a person valued friendship if he betrayed a friend in order to make several new ones, or in order to bring it about that other people had more friends.’
The value of friendship really first dawned upon me when I moved to the United Kingdom at the age of 10, never again to have any contact with my childhood friends. Many people have entered my life since, but only a few do I consider true friends, those who desire the best for me and provides total support. There have not been many close friends that I lost, but the one that I did lose less than a year ago has somewhat left a mark.
Losing such a friend can make you doubt your character and personality, and makes you ask, “If only I had not done this or said that…” but also you find yourself wondering “If only I didn’t care so much about this person…” This is because we do not just value the friend but also the friendship that we share with the friend. What is it that we value in friendship? There are many things we value about friendship; aspects that can be seen from the outside such as spending time together and doing activities together. But the values in friendship, the intrinsic values, are what make friendships a core part of an individual and his personality.