The Ten Commandments of Friendship

No matter where we are or what age we’re in, we all have friends. Some have few, some have many. Some friends are closer than others. Some we just met a while back, and some we’ve known our whole lives.

Unlike family, we can choose them, and unlike a significant other, we can have more than one. But like with any other loved one, we can also have fights and misunderstandings with them.

Though certainly not exhaustive nor definitive, here are ten friend commandments we should keep in mind.

I - Thou shall give thy friends love and support.

If there’s a simple answer to the rhetorical question "what are friends for?”, then this would be it. We do whatever we can to help our friends succeed and be happy, and we count on them to do the same. It may be as simple as giving them a ride or as major as helping them move on from a bitter breakup.

Understand, however, that there may be times when your help is not needed, like when a friend feels lonely but would rather spend time alone than be consoled by you. Don’t feel hurt. It doesn’t mean you’re not appreciated. It just means your friend prefers another way of coping with their problem. It has nothing to do with you.

You should also keep in mind that what works for you may not necessarily work for them. You may like talking about your troubles but your friend may prefer to process their problems introspectively. Knowing your friend well helps you to be a better friend.

II - Thou shall have many friends.

When it comes to friends, you can have as many or as few as you like. Unlike buying shirts, we really don’t consciously decide to make friends. Friendships just happen.

It’s up to you to decide when to spend time with which friends, but circumstances will always have a say. You will be spending the most time with school friends while you’re studying, with neighborhood friends on summer breaks, and eventually, office friends when you start working.

III - Thou shall give your friends space.

We’ve all been clingy to our friends at one time or another, and that’s good because it shows how much we lean on them and value them. But we should also know our limits.

Don’t do to your friend what you don’t want done to you. An occasional 3:00 AM phone call about a nagging problem would be alright, but not if it’s every night. Don’t guilt trip them if they prefer to do something other than to spend time with you.

That old expression is true, about how familiarity breeds contempt. Spending a lot of time with someone, no matter how close you are to them (yes, even your spouse and relatives), somehow gives us the impression that we can let them see our worst attributes and we stop acting on our best behavior, and so do they.

That’s why it’s important for us to maintain some space from our loved ones—our spouses, relatives, and most especially our friends. It’s only when we do this that we find out that the other old expression is also true, about how absence makes the heart grow fonder.

IV - Thou shall not demand reciprocity.

We all know that just because we bought lunch for our friend today doesn’t mean they have to buy us lunch tomorrow, right? So why do we expect them to do something for us just because we did something for them?

If we love somebody, we do things for them without expecting anything in return, and vice versa. We say “I owe you” but we don’t really mean it in the literal sense (unless it’s about money, of course). Rather, it means “I appreciate this kindness that you’re doing for me, and I’m looking forward to do something nice for you, too.”

But while it’s true that we shouldn’t be keeping tabs on unreciprocated favors, we should still be sensitive enough to recognize when someone is taking advantage of our kindness or when we’re already being used.

V - Thou shall not get involved in conflicts between your friends.

When your friends fight amongst each other, it’s often wise to stay out of it, especially if you’re not really directly involved. You’d sometimes be pressed to choose sides and even if it’s crystal clear who’s at fault, you better just stay away and let them work it out amongst themselves.

It’s a different story, of course, if you’re directly involved in the spat. Hard as it may seem sometimes, swallowing your pride is proven to be mostly effective in resolving conflicts. And remember, apologizing doesn’t always mean you’re admitting to your fault. It can also mean that you’re sorry about what has happened.

VI - Thou shall be with your friends for better or for worse.

You should stand by your friends even when they’re going through tough times. Even more so, actually, because that’s when they need you more. You wouldn’t really care much for a fair-weather friend yourself, would you?

Most of the time, you would only need to listen to them vent and blow off steam, what some would call tea and sympathy. Other times, you’d need to offer advice, opinion, or generally just a fresh new perspective on their dilemma.

The best part about friendship is that when it’s your turn to be down in the dumps, your friends will be there for you, too.

VII - Thou shall not covet thy friend’s spouse.

You shouldn’t, in general, snatch anyone’s spouse, but most especially someone who belongs to your friend. It is perhaps one of the worst ways you can betray someone. How would you like it if your friend makes a move on your significant other?

You can be attracted to a friend’s spouse, sure. We don’t control our feelings, after all. But you shouldn’t act on it. Whether they’re married or not, it’s off limits as long as they’re in a committed relationship.

It all changes, of course, when they’re not anymore, and that’s the only time you can consider making a move. It would still be a nice gesture if you let your friend know about your intentions and perhaps get their blessing.

VIII - Thou shall not let money ruin thy friendship.

A loan not paid on time. A wager not honored. A debt that became one too many. These are just a few of the numerous financial squabbles you can have with a friend, and the big ones can certainly end friendships.

It’s impossible to avoid dealing with money matters with friends. You’d have to split the bill when you dine in restaurants, you’d have to pitch in when you share an Uber, and you just can’t turn down a cash strapped friend dealing with an emergency.

The solution? Use your intuition. Learn to see the red flags when a friend starts mooching off of you. And you, no matter how generous and well-off your friend is, should never ever take advantage of them, even if they seem like they want you to. You’ve got your pride, don’t you?

IX - Thou shall not pressure thy friends to reveal their secrets.

It’s very obvious but it’s always worth stating that we’re all different people. So just because you share your deepest, darkest secrets to your friend doesn’t mean they’re required to do the same. Don’t be offended if they’re not sharing their secrets with you.

It’s actually better that, even if we share a lot about us to our friends, we’d keep some details just to ourselves. And don’t go wishing that you know everything about your friend. There may be some truths about them that you may find too heavy to bear and prefer not to know.

X - Thou shall not end friendships with absolute finality.

We all have lost friends at one time or another, either because we got separated, grew apart, or had a falling out.

Sometimes, we see an old friend, catch up, and feel like no time has passed and have seen them only days before. Other times, we talk to an old friend and discover they changed so much, we don’t recognize them anymore.

The most touching stories are about friends who’ve had a falling out and then later reconnect, forgive, and become friends again. That’s when they discover that friendships, like love, can also be lovelier the second time around.

Photo by Bahaa A. Shawqi from Pexels