“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is slow-ripening fruit.”Aristotle, Greek Philosopher
Many of my friends tease me that I should run for mayor. They’re always amused that I seem to bump into other friends whenever we hang out. To be honest, I don’t socialize much and I prefer to be by myself most of the time. Although I’m introverted, I make myself open and accepting of people who will come my way. Being an extroverted introvert, I can socialize well in comfortable situations.
I love my friends and I’m very supportive of them. I try to journey with them in the capacity that we’re able to give and receive. Though I have many friends, there are select few whom I’ve let into my deepest levels. An inner circle that I can come home to.
These days, meaningful friendships are hard to come by. We have several friends on Facebook but I bet you only ever connect with a few of them in real life. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggested that there is a limit to the number of maintainable social relationships we can have, and that is 150. If this is so, how can we make sense of our circles?
Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, said that friendships can be classified into three. Let’s have a look!
The 3 Types of Friendships
Friendships of Utility
This is the kind of friendship that you might have with officemates, business partners, and study groups to name a few. Friendships like these are formed when both people in the relationship can benefit from each other. In the office setting, for example, one would befriend a person from another department because you can share valuable information to have leverage at work. Friendships like these end quickly, especially if the use of one person ends or doesn’t bring value anymore.
Friendly or user friendly? Friendships of utility are not necessarily bad. They just don’t have much quality and depth.
Friendships of Pleasure
This friendship satisfies our pursuit of enjoyment. We experience this kind of friendship in joining groups with shared interests or hanging out with a go-to person doing hobbies you both enjoy at the moment. School clubs, shopping buddies, and gym buddies are some examples that come to mind. These friendships can be short-lived as one’s interests and priorities may change and the connection would be lost.
For the first two kinds of friendship, the motivations to remain friends is not enough for it to last. They mainly focus on the benefit and pleasure the friendship brings. However, these two kinds have the potential to be nurtured and turn into the best kind of friendship we can have, which brings us to…
Friendship of the Good (Virtue)
True friendship. Also called the friendship of virtue is the most important and preferred kind of friendship to have of the three. It often lasts a long time, even until the end.
Friendships like these are between people who help each other in pursuit of the same goal of the good life and becoming better versions of themselves. It is a friendship where you value the person instead of what you can gain from them, and genuinely care for them. These are friends who does not let us fall into ruin by correcting us, and telling what we need to hear even if it stings. There is respect, and a strong desire for each other to grow more in virtue and goodness.
This shared “goodness” in friendship satisfies both affections received in friendships of utility and pleasure. Friendships like these are rare so if you happen to be in one, water it, nurture it, and take care of it.
This is the kind of friendship we should prefer, seek, and strive for.
Strive For Good Friendships
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”Proverbs 18:24
True friendships are not simply born by clicking a “Friend Request” button. Friendship, like all relationships, needs the commitment to grow deeper. For us to have good friends, we must be a good friend ourselves.
You might ask, “But I only have friendships of pleasure. Is there hope for me to have better friends?” Yes! I think it’s fine to only have friendships of pleasure or utility or both. Only having these types of friendships isn’t necessarily bad. Deep virtuous friendships can start from here if both risks being vulnerable with each other and work on the relationship for it to grow. Honor the friendship someone can give, trust but still be discerning of who you let into your inner circle.
Pure gold is tested by fire. Friendships are tested by shared challenges, conflict, and adversity. I’ve had my fair share of this and some of the friendships I’ve held close fell apart and some endured the test and blossomed. The ones who stick with you after being tried, you should keep forever!
Good relationships bear good fruit. For plants to bear good fruit, it needs to be watered, given enough sunlight, fed enough fertilizer, and sometimes go through needed pruning. In friendships, you get to experience life with another person, loving them for who they are, supporting them, and desiring the best for them. When you have good friends they’ll also want the same things for you. Friendships are one of the best gifts life can offer.
Comment what you think of Aristotle’s three kinds of friendships below! Do you struggle in growing your friendships? Are your friendships adding goodness to your life? What kind of friendships do you mostly have in your life right now?
Link to first: Navigating Relationships: Level Up Your Communication
Fr Michael Schmitz, “Don’t Have Any Friends?”
Zat Rana, Aristotle’s Philosophy of Friendship Still Matters Today
Ian Tang, 3 Kinds of Friends You Meet In Life