Recently a friend posed an interesting question: How do you identify your true friends from the numerous people you consider as friends? She went on to answer her question by saying that true friends are those who stand by you in your difficult times. She shared some examples of her own friends who had supported her in moments of tremendous stress and difficulty, sometimes sacrificing their own comfort and convenience to do so. She further said that the people with whom you have parties and share good times are not necessarily your true friends.
Most people would agree with my friend's observations without any hesitation. We do indeed need friends to support us in our bad times. I certainly value every one of those people who stood by me during the rough times of my life. These are the people I trust the most and I am extremely grateful for their integrity and the loyalty that they have shown me.
However, is it wise to completely discount the people who were there with us during the good times? There is a colloquial expression for a person who is there with you only during your good times. We call them 'fair-weather friends'. These are the people who are only present when things are going well, but disappear or are less available when challenges arise. The implication is that they are unreliable and do not deserve to be called our friends.
I agree that we should not rely on 'fair-weather friends' to provide us with necessary support and assistance during 'foul-weather' conditions. Doing so would be sheer naivety. However, does that mean that 'fair-weather friends' are useless? Not necessarily. While we may not turn to them for support during difficult times, they often provide us with useful companionship and levity in moments of joy and contentment. We may or may not decide to call them "our true friends," but they still do enrich our lives by providing us with many memorable positive experiences in life.
Friends are like our car tires. They both provide support and help us move forward through our life's journeys. And there are many types of tires as there are many types of friends. All of them have their own unique roles to play. For example, there are Summer tires - let's use them as a metaphor for fair-weather friends - which are primarily designed for high-performance vehicles and provide optimized dry and wet performance levels in a temperate environment. Rather than being useless, these tires serve the great purpose of giving us a wonderful ride and experience on warm and sunny days.
Then we have the Winter tires - the metaphor for our dependable foul-weather friends. We depend on these tires to smoothly traverse through the slippery and icy road conditions of the Winter. While the Winter tires work great in snowy and icy conditions, they are not ideal for the Summer months. When used in the Summer, they tend to wear out faster, reduce fuel efficiency, and make your car less responsive and grippy, especially at high speeds. In other words, these tires just don't provide the same joyous experience as the Summer tires do during the metaphorical 'sunny times' of our lives.
So, we do need both fair- and foul-weather friends in our lives. Some people - for example, those high on the extraversion personality dimension - make for excellent company during the good times, while others - for example, those high on the agreeableness and conscientiousness personality dimensions - make for highly dependable friends during bad times.
We may wish that all our friends were like all-season tires, that supposedly provide the best of both worlds - reliable performance in all weather conditions and great comfort. However, any tire expert will tell you that all-season tires are more of a compromise than an ideal solution for varying driving conditions. The same goes for our friends too. Our all-weather friends may stay with us through thick and thin, but what they offer may not be optimal in all situations. And that may not be because of their lack of loyalty or commitment. Instead, they may simply lack the unique capabilities and temperament that made somebody else a perfect fit for a certain life-situation.
In conclusion, true friendship goes beyond being there during our difficulties. We need both fair-weather and foul-weather friends. They both have important roles to play in our lives. Rather than looking down upon our fair-weather friends, let us appreciate them for magnifying the joyous experiences of our life. Needless to say, let us also thank our foul-weather friends for being a pillar of strength and support during our storms. Both of them enrich our lives in their own unique ways.
Photo credit: Clem Onojeghuo @Unsplash.com