Naledi Eugenia Yawa
Father John Culkin, in describing Marshall McLuhan’s thinking about technology, wrote: “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”
The same can be said about the effects that friends have on our characters. We make our friends, and then our friends shape us.
In chapter four of The Graduate, the author magnifies the importance of choosing our friends wisely.
Personal benefits, circumstantial convenience, and contingent necessity are unfortunately the usual motives behind shallow friendships. Ideally, though, and at its core, friendships should be about trust and genuine care for each other’s welfare. And although this does not guarantee that friendships will last forever or that they will be pain-free; it certainly does make friendships something worth pursuing. After all, like the poet, John Donne wrote: “no man is an island.”
However, the possibilities and joys of friendships sometimes distract us from the real effects of friendships – a distraction we should consciously learn to avoid. This does not mean that we should ignore the possibilities or the potential that a new friend might have in terms of their influence. Neither does it mean that friendships should be boring. It just means that we have to be honest about what type of influence our friends actually have on our lives, amidst all the joy and laughter. We must come to terms with the fact that the people we befriend, influence us more than we would like to believe, and in ways, we might not be aware of.
Focusing then on the real effects of friendship, we should ask the question: how can we distinguish between right friends or wrong friends? (Take note that the question is not: “how can we distinguish between good friends and bad friends, or even loyal friends and disloyal friends? And the reason is that even good friends or loyal friends can be wrong friends when they exert a wrong influence). Right friends wield positive and/or meaningful influences on your life, while wrong friends wield negative and/or meaningless influences on your life.
In addition to that, we can ask questions like: Can I be myself around them? Do they offer me negative or positive criticism? Do they motivate or discourage me? Do they support and challenge me to be a better person? Do they share or at least respect my principles and values? Do they share or at least respect my aspirations and dreams? How many of us make a conscious effort to assess what type of influence our friendships have on us? It is imperative that we choose our friends carefully because the right friends shape us right and if we think about it, the friends we make in high school are the very friends who shape us.