Monday, August 30, 2010

Choosing your friends

How to choose the set of people around you whom you call your friends and who are the most dear to you? Honestly, friendship is not a matter of pure rational choice, but a matter of the heart. But, sometimes, your emotions mislead you to disappointments too. So, firstly you can choose the set of people you wish to be friends with intuitively. But, at the same time, there is one important thing that can be taken care of to ensure you so not end up disappointed.

The most important thing to take care of while choosing your friends is your personal value system. Some people, who introspect, start developing their value systems and basic philosophy in life which they wish to adhere to. Personal value systems are above people - its one's closest set of personal beliefs which one attempts to follow, irrespective of circumstances and people around. Any person whom you call your friend MUST respect your deepest beliefs and value systems.

I would classify people into 3 categories - people who follow similar beliefs as yours, people who have different belief systems yet are respectful of yours, and people who disrespect your belief system. The first set of people cause synergy. It is a great experience to be around such people as they help you get a better understanding of your own system of thinking. The second set of people are very important to keep around you. They may disagree with your belief systems and help you rectify your course of action with their viewpoints. But, this set of people are not imposing. They acknowledge the fact that although the personal value systems of two people are different, each of them deserves respect and not mockery or criticism because one personally does not believe in the other.

The third category of people who criticize your value systems because of their disagreement with it tend to superimpose their expectations on you - expectations which infringe on your basic values which you hold dear. This third category of people should not be made close friends with because it would lead to a lose-lose situation where both parties are unhappy - one because his or her own value system is not given due respect and the other, because he/she does not find his/her expectations satisfied from the other individual.

Also, an important point to note here is the implementation of one's belief systems. Each individual's belief systems are marred by a number of constraints. For example, I do not like to eat in a place where veg and non-veg food are cooked together, but I dont have an option other than eating in my college mess which cooks both meals together. So, what does one do in this case? Each person who tries to follow his/her value systems strictly might also need to accommodate for such situations irrespective of his/her personal wishes. A friend would be able to understand that the implementation of the belief system is not ideal and may help you to improve on it or will understand the situation instead of making a fuss about it. But, the third set of people would call you a hypocrite because you cannot perfectly implement your belief system.

It is my personal belief that a hypocrite is one who has a belief system which contradicts itself and one who manipulates his philosophy to suit different situations. On the other hand, someone with a consistent value system who finds it difficult to implement his philosophy under all circumstances is not a hypocrite, but is in a sense, constrained by the environment.

If friends start imposing such constraints on you or expect that you adapt your belief systems for them like you adapt them for other environmental constraints, then they are no good. It is good to keep such people as part of the environment instead of keeping them in the close set of people around you. Friends should help you realize any inconsistencies in your basic philosophical premise, if any, and also understand the problems encountered in its implementation.

Your friends will understand and respect your belief systems and will also attempt to understand the difficulties you face in implementing them fully, even if they follow a different value system than your own. Friends need not be similar - but they should be able to respect the differences!

PS: A word of hope - People do change and hence, it is a good idea to not close yourself from anyone. But, you can maintain adequate distance from people till they start respecting your viewpoints and values.

A special thanks to Ramana Krishnan for the enlightening discussion which led to this blog post.