What Makes a Good Friend?

I'm a pretty introverted person who doesn't have many close friends, but I hope that I can be a good friend to those that I'm close with. Growing up, I always thought that people who share similar interests and hobbies make good friends because it's easy for you to talk and do stuff together. But now I realize there's a big hole in that logic. The purpose of friendship isn't to talk and do stuff together. That's just avoiding boredom. The purpose of friendship should be to support each other along the journey of life.

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Recently, I learned about the Buddha's standards for being a good friend from this talk by Venerable Jing Kong, and I find these standards to be highly logical and useful. The talk is in Chinese, so I'll translate it here.


The Buddha gave five responsibilities that friends ought to fulfill:


1: Friends should advise each other to correct faults and bad habits.

If we see a friend do something bad and we don't say anything, then we have not acted as a true friend. However, we must advise them with good etiquette. For example, we should advise them in private, not in front of others. We can advise them on the same fault up to three times, no more. Otherwise they may resent you.

2: If our friend encounters difficulty or illness, we ought to help in any way we can.

For example, we can help them find a good doctor or fix unhealthy habits if they want to.

3: Friends should not gossip, expose private shame, or speak ill words of each other towards other people.

If our friends have bad behavior, we can advise them privately, but we should not speak of their faults to others.

4: Friends should have mutual respect, keep consistent communication, and let go of any resentment.

Remember each other's gratitude, not wrongdoings. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when younger and immature. They didn't know any better. We should often think of their gratitude and let go of any resentment.

5: If wealth levels differ, friends should help each other, not resent or slander each other.

Friends with more wealth should help, not look down on, friends with less wealth when they are in need. Friends with less wealth should not resent or be jealous of friends with more wealth.


Self-Reflection:

Upon learning these five responsibilities, I realized I have quite some improvements to make, such as

  • Advising friends on correcting bad habits: When I saw a friend started smoking, I didn't say anything.

  • Not gossiping: I shouldn't talk about people's personal lives when they are not there.

  • Keeping consistent communication: I've gone months without messaging my friends. Oops.

I didn't know any better before, but thankfully now I know and can improve. Hopefully this information will help you create better friendships too!

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