An old saying goes like this, tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are. I still remember when my former English teacher in high school told us to write an essay explaining the importance of who we’re friends.
It was difficult for my 12-year-old brain to comprehend how my friends could reveal who I was. She then explains that who we’re friends with will most likely reveal how we think. They will also probably share the same interests, activities, and even dreams as ours. I never forgot that lesson.
Growing up, we are more likely to be surrounded by our friends than our family. Therefore, they contribute more to our development years. Relating to the long-withstanding nature vs. nurture debate, I notice that friends and social circles greatly influence us and the trajectory of our future.
Bad company corrupts good character.
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”1 Corinthians 15:33 NIV
Similar to how rotten fruits, when placed beside fresh fruits, will certainly spread and rot the good bunch. That is why we need to be in the right social circles. Suppose we continue to associate with people with bad habits. In that case, a time will come when bad behavior is normalized to a point where we will also do what they do.
For example, if you continuously spend time associating with people with bad financial habits like those who love going through every sale, buying the latest gadgets and clothes, never saving or investing. Then surely, you will also adapt their behavior and money habits.
Also, there is the danger of peer pressure, especially for the youth. Many young people started vices like smoking and drinking because of their friends, so they would not be left out.
Peer pressure is also prevalent in the workplace, like employees deep in loans, buying the latest trends even if they can’t afford them, and spending on vices.
As iron sharpens iron.
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.Proverbs 27:17 NLT
While there is the great danger of adapting the negative behavior from bad company, there is also the great privilege of adapting positive behavior from a good company of friends and colleagues.
Similar to how peer pressure affects young people to take on vices, it can also affect them to do good in academics. When my sister was still in high school, she and most of her friends were also at the top of their class. That is called positive competition where people compete healthily, bringing out the best in each other.
We also need friends who will be honest with us and hold us accountable when we do wrong. Many people are afraid to speak their minds about what bothers them about their friends for fear of offending the other party.
As in the proverb, iron sharpens iron as a friend sharpens a friend.
We are the average of our closest friends.
I once read a tweet that summarizes this saying by Rohn,
- If you hang around five confident people, you will be the sixth.
- If you hang around five millionaires, you will be the sixth.
- If you hang around five broke people, you will be the sixth.
Think about the five closest people to you. It may not be physically, but even virtual through online communications. What do you commonly talk about? What are your common interests, goals, and aspirations?
Indeed, the people you will spend time with will contribute to your character. In turn, you will also contribute to their character.
After I learned this lesson, I became cautious with who I hang out with because bad company corrupts good character.
The sad statistic of people with no close friends.
I remember reading this article when I was starting my career. It showed a statistic that in the UK, one in ten doesn’t have a close friend, and 42% don’t have friends at work which I think is terrible.
In my journey through quarter-life crisis, I am very privileged to have multiple small groups of friends that helped me through it all. It is also important that your values and aspirations are aligned.
So, if you have a healthy and loving friendship, make sure to treasure it because a percentage of the population is desperate to have what you have.
‘Love and belongingness’ is the third level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It tells us that we need social interactions through family and friends. We need someone to talk to and be open with, especially our hopes and aspirations, fears and frustration, or just someone to tell us that we are not alone.
While we need this kind of relationship, it is also important to reiterate to be very careful with who we associate ourselves with. Like how we have specific criteria and non-negotiables in choosing a life partner, we also need to have standards for choosing our friends.
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