“Without friends, no one would choose to live, though he possessed all the other goods.”
One of the biggest and toughest social activities we encounter in life is making friends. Our friends give us support, pleasure, and a feeling of community.
But our friendships are also a symbol of our social status. Just as the car we drive and the clothes we wear show the world what we value, so do friendships.
You may not believe me, but…
Imagine what it would be like to be friends with your favorite celebrity. What does your social life look like being able to call them anytime you want or being seen in photos with them?
Better yet, picture them commenting on your pics saying, “Dope pic! We missed you this weekend.”
One friendship can lift you out of obscurity and make you more popular, giving you more influence, and make it easier for you to make more friends.
The more friends you have the higher the demand for your time and presence. When there is no demand for your friendship, you need to set a lower price to get more friends.
So having a celebrity friend can have its perks. But our current friendships also come with perks.
Aristotle could see that not all friendships are created equal. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes about friendship. Aristotle believed there were three types of friendships: ones based on utility, on pleasure, and virtue.
Of these friendships, which one should we strive for?
Friendship of Utility
The first type of friendship Aristotle wrote about is called, “Friendships of Utility.” These types of relationships develop because someone is useful to you and you are useful to them.
Friendships of utility can be your relationship with your co-workers or neighbors. You can think of them as proximity relationships. You rely on each other’s willingness to help out with small tasks and things that aren’t demanding.
Conversation between these people can be shallow, and small talk might be all that they can manage.
While this may be true for many of our friendships, it doesn’t mean they are fake friendships.
Don’t expect these friendships to last long. Friendships of utility end when the other person doesn’t find you useful or if you don’t find them useful.
Friendship of Pleasure
The “Friendship of Pleasure” is the second type of friendship. In friendships of pleasure, you both enjoy each other. It doesn’t need to be romantic. You might drink and go to parties with your friends when the relationship is based on pleasure.
It’s the friend you call when you want to have fun or go to a sports game or museum with. Your pleasure isn’t directed right at them but the pleasure they bring.
Friendships of pleasure are like friendships of utility, they don’t last long. The friendship ends when someone finds the other no longer useful or pleasant to be around.
Friendship of Virtue
Friendships of virtue are the third type are friendships according to Aristotle. He also calls these friendships, friendships of the Good. This friendship is the highest and most valuable friendship we can have with someone.
A virtue friend is someone who cares about just for you being who you are. They inspire each other to be better people. Virtue friendships are built on admiration and encouragement.
Suzanne Degges-White Ph.D., says, “In a friendship of the good, you value who that friend actually is, strengths and weaknesses alike, and there is sufficient trust between the two that the relationship’s quality and depth outshine those of other types of friendship,” in Psychology Today.
She also goes on to say that these friendships can still go on without communication for months or years because both friends have a deep appreciation for each other.
Friendships of virtue are rare and don’t happen easily. Aristotle believed that if you always strived to be the best friend you can be, you had a better chance of developing true friendships with people.
Not All Friendships are Created Equal
No one friendship is better than the other. Even though utility friendships and pleasure are temporary. We can make it a habit to cultivate more virtue friendships although they are rare to find.
And what Aristotle fails to mention in Nicomachean Ethics is our relationships can evolve with time. A friendship that starts off as utility can turn into one of virtue. The opposite is also true. A virtue friendship can turn into one of pleasure or utility if you stop striving to be the best friend you can be.
At the end of the day, making and keeping friends is difficult. We need to cherish all of our friendships no matter how they fit into our life.