Letters from the dorm: true friendships shouldn't cause you pain

Cyril Ip

Not long ago, I thought I didn't need any friends. But now I understand that it was fear of betrayal that was holding me back

Cyril Ip |

Latest Articles

Meet Magawa, a seven-year-old rat who’s a real-life hero

How can I tell the difference between the flu and Covid-19?

Teenage climate change activist stages environmental protest on Arctic ice floe

Number of forced marriages in Hong Kong's ethnic minority community increases due to Covid-19

True friends should support each other and enjoy each other's company.

Not long ago, I was a self-assured, self-reliant person with an egotistic attitude. I believed friendships were often superficial, boring, and well, for ordinary people. During that time, I didn’t seem to want or need a close friend.

I was also learning about ethical egoism in theology, and came across Ayn Rand who said: “The achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.” All of this added to my personal theorisation that being alone may be a better, and indeed, a more rational choice.

But not long after, I admitted my theory was incorrect and incompatible with my lifestyle – I want and need real friends. I crave socialisation in almost every context; I love interacting with people. In his work Politics, Aristotle said: “Man is by nature a social animal.” I take comfort knowing that my need for friendship proves that I am just like everyone else; I enjoy human communication.

I tried to trace the origin of my old self-centred thoughts, and discovered that it was fear – fear to trust someone unconditionally. This was partly a result of my insecurity, and partly a haunting side-effect from being betrayed by a friend – I just refused to think that friendships are truly worthy.

Then I came across Wendy Williams saying “Friendships should be effortless” on her show, which made me wonder if I had misunderstood what friends were meant to be.

If a friendship causes pain, it probably isn’t a valuable friendship. This is just my (and Wendy’s) opinion. Some people think that you are meant to go through hurt in a true, dynamic friendship; but I think that life is already too much. If something that is supposed to bring joy and comfort causes me stress, I might as well make a swift exit. 

Consequently, I started being very careful when referring to a person as a friend; I had a standard for myself. You, too, should have certain criteria for happiness which allows you to find your true friends.

“True friends” to me do not mean being able to talk about anything and having everything in common. It simply means that both parties mean well, support each other, and enjoy each other’s company.

Selecting friends with this criteria is simple and effective, it makes my life exciting, and it makes me more open and approachable. I’ve made some “true friends” who I can completely trust, but other people are not of any less importance, because they add meaning to it in other ways.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge