By Upendra Mishra
After writing my column on the five most potent enemies last week, it was a logical step to write about the five best friends also. Ever since we become a bit cognizant say from kindergarten onwards, we start making friends or start spending time with people.
It is only much later in life we realize that our journey is greatly shaped by the people with whom we spend time with, people we listen to, people we idealize, people who help us, encourage us, discourage us, correct us, or people who genuinely love us.
It is, therefore, utmost important that we pick the right people in our life. It is probably one of the most important decisions we would make, and it must be a serious affair.
The Palace of Illusions (Anchor Books/Random House, 2008), which award-winning novelist and author Chitra Banerjee wrote as an imagined historical memoir by Draupadi, the famous Mahabharata character who had married five brothers—all at the same time, is sprinkled with lots of wisdom, especially from Draupadi’s point of view. After all she co-lived with five husbands.
One of her sentences in the book has remained stuck in my mind and it talks about the influence of people who live around us: “The force of a person’s believing seeps into those around him—into the very earth and air and water—until there is nothing else.” So, be careful who you chose as friend.
The 21st century social thinker and psychologist Jordan Peterson (12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Random House Canada, 2018), puts his advice on friends bluntly: “Make friends with people who want the best for you.” He says it is a good thing to choose people who are good for you.
Peterson adds: “It is appropriate and praiseworthy to associate with people whose lives would be improved if they saw your life improve. If you surround yourself with people who support your upward aim, they will not tolerate your cynicism and destructiveness. They will instead encourage you when you do good for yourself and others and punish you carefully when you do not.”
Peterson says that people who are not aiming up for you will do the opposite. “They will offer a former smoker a cigarette and former alcoholic a beer. They will become jealous when you succeed, or do something pristine. They will withdraw their presence or support, or actively punish you for it. They will over-ride your accomplishment with a past action, real or imaginary, of their own…But mostly they are dragging you because your new improvement cast their faults in an even dimmer light.”
Besides the above theories of friends, I have developed my own criteria for friends. Here are my five best friends and they should be yours too.
You are your own best friend—under all circumstances. If you become your true friend, listen to your inner self and be completely honest with yourself, the entire world will become your friend because anything you will do you will do for your pure inner joy. You will not have to prove anything to anyone.
You will not disrespect anyone. You will not dislike anyone. Honesty will overflow everywhere from you. You will take things as they are. You will not pretend to be someone else. You will not judge anyone, and most importantly your inner strength will empower you to deal with any situation in life.
An innate confidence in your own ability to remove your doubts and fear is the second best friend. If we live in a fear of something or keep doubting our own ideas and imaginations, we will remain stuck in one place.
Most of the time, we are fearful of imagined things that never happen. If we spend the same time in dealing with a certain issue that needs resolution, we will either succeed or learn from this. Confidence is like a seed. You plant it in your mind, let it grow, nurture it and very soon you will see its fruits. But you have to build your own confidence constantly. Only you can do it. Loved ones, of course, can help but you have to be ready to accept it. Most importantly, never let anyone break your confidence in anything you do or want to do. Never.
Many of us become very impatient with little or big things. But patience is truly a virtue and a great friend. Everything happens at its own time just like every season approaches at its own time and everything in nature happens at its own time.
We cannot expedite nature and results. Once we have done our job or duty with our clean heart, full devotion and dedication, all we can do is wait and move on to next big thing. Thus, making patience our best friend is a great thing.
I truly believe the mistakes we have made in our life have a genuine reason, and that they are the stepping stones for a grand success, provided we accept our mistakes, we don’t fight them and learn from them. No one has ever succeeded in life without making mistakes.
There is no friend like love. Unfortunately, we always seek love from others. We want to be loved by people, but we often ignore the fact that it is equally important and invigorating to love someone else.
Before we want love from others, we must learn to love first. Once we truly love someone, love becomes an endless source of energy that makes our imaginations soar, dreams fly, instills a new desire and aspiration to enjoy life and get inspired to do great things.
“Love strikes like lightning, and disappears the same way. If you are lucky, it strikes you right. If not, you will spend your life yearning for a man you cannot have,” says Banerjee in Palace of Illusions.
(Mr. Mishra is managing partner of the Waltham, MA-based integrated inbound marketing and PR firm The Mishra Group. He writes about his three passions: marketing, scriptures and gardening.)