(The principal of a large school in Bombay gave us a list of frequently asked questions by 13 year old children in her school and asked us whether we can prepare answers in the light of a spiritual perspective. When we looked at the question we found that they are not mere “kid-stuff.” Most of them are either fundamental and existential questions related to world and God or psychological problems faced by most of us. This series is an attempt to answer these questions from the children’s perspective in the light of a spiritual vision of life. We don’t know how far we have succeeded in communicating to the children. Nevertheless, we hope these answer may be of some help to teachers and parents who have to deal with children. There are around thirty questions with answers given in the light of a spiritual vision of life. We will post these questions at regular intervals.)
Why do we have fight with our closest friends?
Do you frequently fight with your closest friend? Why do you feel like fighting with your friends? Probably because you feel more intimate with your close friend than with others. With your close friend you can disagree, argue, debate, express frankly what you feel and his intimacy leads also to frequent quarrels. However, if you truly and deeply feel close to your best friend and love him you may not fight at all. This brings us to some fundamental questions on the meaning of friendship. What is true friendship? When you say “close friend” what do those words mean? What do you mean by “close”? What is the difference you feel between a “close” friend and someone not so close? As I indicated earlier does it mean a greater intimacy or an attraction? You are more attracted to him (or her) happy to be with him, want to talk to him, share your thoughts and feelings with him, free and frank with him. When these impulses or feelings of intimacy or attraction are mutual, then it leads to what you call as “close” friendship. Am I right? But as you say if such closeness leads to more quarrels and fights then your relationship with your friend is not perfect. There is something lacking in this closeness or friendship? Don’t you feel instinctively or intuitively that true friendship must lead to greater harmony and mot more fights and quarrels? I think you feel it because your question expresses consciously or half consciously the intuition that friendship must lead to greater harmony but why it is the opposite? So what is lacking? Perhaps Understanding and Love, which are the two characteristics of true friendship which leads to a deep harmony between two people. Let us now examine briefly what do these words, “Understanding” and “Love” means.
Understanding a person means knowing him (or her) as he is, his character, temperament, interests, capacities, talents, habits, weaknesses, strengths and viewpoints, behaviour and many others. But to understand a person in this way, as he is, you must not judge him as good or bad. You may have your own conceptions of who is a good friend or a good person. But you should not impose your own conceptions on the other persona and try to judge him based on your ideals. To understand a person you must try to observe and know the person as a scientist tries to understand an object or a material, without any personal bias or preferences, likes and dislikes.
Labeling a person as good or bad is not helpful to this understanding. In this world very few are entirely good or entirely bad. Most of us are mixed stuff of good and bad. A very great help in this understanding of others is to understand our own self. When we observe our self carefully, our impulses, feelings, thoughts, action, behaviour and know how they are mixed with good and bad, you understand others are also like you, a mixed bag of good and bad. As we progress in this self-knowledge into deeper levels, we may see that what we perceive as negative in others is a reflections of a similar negativity in us. Similarly, when we grow in goodness we will see more and more goodness in others. In Nature, we can see even some of the most beautiful flowers have thorns. If you focus too much on the thorn, you cannot appreciate the beauty of the flower. It is the same with people if you focus too much on the defects of others you cannot see the beauty and goodness in them.
When we try to understand our friend and also others around us in this way, we will begin to accept them as they are and know why they are behaving the way they do. This will bring sympathy and charity to our relationship. When you try to understand your friend in this way, you will no longer quarrel with him. You will not be too much upset or disturbed by his negative behaviour, because you understand that such a behaviour comes from some weak spot in his nature, and you will tackle them with calm, charity and sympathy.
The other aspect of true friendship is Love which is one of the most misunderstood words in the English language. The highest love of the saint, which is pure, selfless, self-giving may not be within our reach in our present condition. However we can grow towards it through progressive steps and stages. The first step is to have a positive feeling for the person, looking at the best part of him with a genuine appreciation of his or her good qualities, virtues, capacities, talents and express this appreciation generously in words, gestures and action. The other act of love is what is called as “goodwill” which means a sincere and ardent wish, will or desire for the happiness and wellbeing of the other person and feel happy when the other person is happy. The third aspects of love are the urge to serve or to be as much helpful to the other person as possible or try to understand his or needs and fulfill them.
In the initial stages of our growth these feelings or acts of love are more or less mixed with a desire for return or response from the person we love. We want the other person to respond to our love. We want him or her to reciprocate our love with gratitude or other similar warm gestures of appreciations or affection. If such response is not coming we feel disappointed unhappy or even angry. We must note here t hat our very judgement that the other person is not responding may be wrong. He or she may be responding silently in his or her thoughts and feeling but not in outer gestures. However we must understand this seeking for response is an obstacle to our progress towards true love. When we understand and consciously renounce this seeking for response from the person we love, then we progress further towards the higher stages of love. In the following passage, Mother describes the four stages of love:
“At first, one loves only when one is loved.
Next, one loves spontaneously but one wants to be loved in return.
Next, one loves even if one is not loved, but one still wants one’s love to be accepted.
And finally one loves purely and simply without any other need or joy than that of loving.”
So, if you are able to understand and love your friends on the lines we have discussed so far, then you will not fight with your friends. But this path towards higher understanding and love is not easy but may be very difficult in the beginning. For example this urge for response or return for our love is very strong in our emotional and vital nature. But in this world nothing great can be achieved without conquering difficulties and oppositions. And realizing true love is one of the greatest of achievements.