YOUR REAL FRIENDS
Ambet Antonio was a resident philosopher while serving time in the Penitentiary. He was the fountain of wisdom for those fortunate enough to stay around during those nights when he could not find sleep. Like National Artist Amado V. Hernandez and former Senator Benigno Aquino who were also incarcerated sometime past, Ambet was the constant figure for restraint and profound thoughts whenever engaged by his peers.
I had an occasion to listen to one of his discourses on friendship. He’d ask how one knows if he has a real friend. His response was easy. “Knock at the house of someone close to you, at the dead of nighttime, and as soon as the door opens, greet your fellow nervously and whisper that you have a decapitated head in the sack you are holding and you intend to bury it in his backyard. If he consents, then he must be your friend!”
Friends, it has been said, are everywhere one goes. They appear in every form. Some are neat, others in sheep’s clothing. Some are simply there because of adversity, others because there is none. Some would attend to you for your sake, others for their own sake. Some are brought through accidents, others through sheer boredom. Some serious relationships started as friends until serious incidents would wreck their affiliations. There are shallow friendships that end in treachery. In some other instances, friendship leads to betrayal and murder.
Egyptian Anwar Sadat knew so well that his soldiers were his friends. During a victory parade, he was gunned down by one of them. Mahatma Ghandi was waving to a friendly crowd after a prayer with his family and surrounded by his followers and friends when three gunshots were fired. He died instantly. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was a well-loved monarch and his reign achieved popular adulation. He was however shot dead by his friends led by his nephew. Some historical events that linked friendship on the fate of a person.
It is the affinity, the personal proximity that encourages trust. Trust advances towards respect. Respect is everything what friendship stands for. It is not sympathy nor concern, comfort and admiration that define friendship, it is more than that. It is the way, the respectful way, by which understanding is shown.
In my estimation though, friends are those whom you have personally known since your formative years up to early adulthood. Those you would know later in life are no longer categorized as friends but mere acquaintances already. They may be long-time or short-time acquaintances but never friends in the real sense. They are there to fill up personal or social gaps. Friends as a matter of course are part of your system, more family than your family, more private than what your privacy demands. They are your exact replica, your silhouette, your other self. They serve as the mirror of your soul. A sage once expressed an adage, “birds of a feather, flock together.” There is also a Confucian passage, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.”
It should be impressed however that one need not look for a genuine friend, it is better to be one.
All of these indicate that unpretentious friendship is the highest form of relationship, stronger in bond, greater in spirit. In John 15:12-15, Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends.”