Genuine friendship can only be based on trust and affection, which can only arise when there is a mutual sense of concern and respect. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
Can you call someone “my friend” if you don’t trust them? Do you really want to call someone “my friend” if you don’t have some affection for them? That’s what the first half of the quote is talking about. The quote defines a genuine friend in terms of trust and affection.
While I’m sure it’s not the only way to define friendship, it’s as good as any and better than most of the ones I’ve heard.
The quote finishes with a statement that trust and affection grow from a mutual sense of concern and respect. I think it would be hard to trust someone you didn’t respect, or if you thought they had no concern for you. I think it also would be hard to have affection towards someone you don’t have any concern for, or if you thought they didn’t respect you.
Why is friendship important?
Friendship, at least by my definition, includes the more specific terms of fraternal and familial love, as well as romantic love. That is, I think it’s safe to call someone a friend if you also call them someone you love. There are probably plenty of people who you call friends through the course of your life.
Friends are useful for dividing sorrows, thereby lessening the pain. They are also useful for multiplying joys, thereby increasing the pleasure for all involved. Friends are useful for helping you get things done, by making the load lighter. Friends are there when you need them, and leave you alone when you need solitude. And a truly great friend can tell the difference between the two.
Where can I apply this in my life?
If you want to take existing friendships and make them greater (more genuine), you must (according to the quote) increase the trust and the affection felt between the two of you. This springs from your feelings of concern and respect for each other.
Usually, for something to be increased, someone has to make the first move. If the other person hasn’t already, that means it’s up to you to start. Grab some paper and write down the names of a few people you might want to make stronger friendships with, and leave room to put some notes after each person.
Let’s start with concern for another. How do you show concern for someone? Some of the details will depend on the present relationship, but should show some amount of interest in their well being. This could be physical, social, spiritual, psychological, financial or any other way of measuring wellness.
Do they have a health problem they are working on, perhaps their weight or blood pressure? Encouraging words are probably the most useful, but it will depend on the relationship already in place. I have some friends who would look at me funny if I were to provide anything less than sarcasm.
Once you have opened the door, it is up to them to walk through. They might not be that interested in a closer or tighter friendship. Also, it will probably be better to go more slowly than you think is prudent, rather than push too hard. They might find it a little creepy.
Showing respect for another is the other method mentioned in the quote. How do you do that? Again, it will depend on the existing state of the relationship, but complimenting them on things that they do well is one way of starting that conversation. It could be something they do at work, with their family, or a hobby; simply mention that you think that’s a great thing to do (or a great idea or…).
Another method you might want to try is to ask them for some help with something that they are good at. It would be best if you have a genuine need which that they can provide you a little help. Just make sure they don’t feel you are taking advantage of them in the process.
Again, you can only open the door. They will have to want it as well, if your friendship is to move forward. Now, go back and look at your list of people and add ways to show concern and respect towards each of them. Now figure out which person with whom you want to start working.