Friends are important! It is said that if one gains one true friend in life, he can die with no regrets.

There are many kinds of friends. There are friends with whom we fight against hardships, practice our religion, and debate. They point out our mistakes without hesitation. There are also friends who are sincere, kind, close, and as loyal as our family members. Some friends learn together, share in the path of the Dharma, assist one another, or belong to the same club, association, or political party.

True friends are those who tell us when we are wrong. Conversely, there are friends who let us down, lead us astray, or take advantage of us. These friends only stay with us when they can gain from us. They follow the tide of our fortune and leave us when we are down in life. They view their friends as what the Bei Sutra describes as “friends like flowers.” They wear us on their heads when we are in bloom, but discard us when our colors fade.

Friends who follow us like bees after honey and base their friendship on gain and loss are not worthy of being our friends. On the other hand, there are friends who help us succeed. We feel like they are family, for we can be honest and open with them. Friends like these last for a lifetime.

It is easier to make lifelong friends when we are young. When we grow up and leave our parents’ homes, we become busy with our responsibilities, such as taking care of ourselves, families, and work. When we gain more experience in life regarding relationships, we tend to become more skeptical about people. Therefore, when we are older, we find it harder to create lasting friendships.

According to Chinese tradition, “Friendships between the wise are as plain as water. Those between the unscrupulous are sweet as honey.” However, being plain as water is not necessarily good, and being sweet as honey is not necessarily bad. The most important thing about friendship is to have mutual understanding, helpfulness, forgiveness, and willingness to learn from each other. True friends should be direct, sympathetic, and knowledgeable. If individuals are calculating, only interested in profit, not ethics, then their friendships will not last.

Though it is said that birds of a feather flock together, there are always exceptions. Cats and dogs, so can mice and cats, lions and tigers, and crows and magpies can all be friends. Liu Bei, a ruler during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China, treasured friends more than his wives. He once said, “Friends are like arms and legs; wives are like clothes. Clothes can be mended when torn, but our limbs cannot be reattached when they are separated.”

It is best for friends to avoid matters concerning money and profit. Friendship should be based on morals and knowledge. There must be mutual understanding for a friendship to deepen. We should seek common ground with those who have different interests or ethics. When developing a friendship, we should be prepared to bend to their ways, rather than forcing your beliefs onto them. That is the key to long-lasting relationships.