Alma, a new mother, spends more of her time at home caring for her newborn baby.
Maria, a neighbour, noticed Alma was often alone caring for her son and took to dropping in frequently to check she was okay.
She would drop in for a chat or to have a cup of coffee with Alma.
Maria was a friendly, pleasant lady in her late sixties. She became a bit of a mother-figure, helping Alma whose parents were unable to visit frequently due to distance.
Alma appreciated the help. But Maria was…a bit of a gossip.
She was tremendously knowledgeable and interested in the activities and private lives of the other neighbours.
Extra-marital affairs, drugs, money problems…whatever the topic, Maria had no hesitation in divulging all the latest gossip whenever she came over…which was quite often.
At first, Alma found it distasteful and boring.
But after constant exposure she became more and more accustomed to these conversations.
Gradually, she herself started actively participating in the gossip.
Fortunately, one day, she achieved a soul-saving burst of awareness when she suddenly heard herself repeating to her husband the day’s topics of gossip.
Is this what I’m becoming? she thought, horrified.
Wisely, she began to see less of Maria.
She started to politely decline Maria’s invitations.
She needed time to herself, away from this deadening influence, to rethink her values and to raise herself up out of the slough of useless gossip into which she had sunk.
This young woman had discovered an unpleasant truth—that sometimes one must be ruthless in ridding oneself of non-productive and destructive influences.
Real friendship is a beautiful thing.
Those who are blessed with it have their lives enhanced and enriched to an immeasurable degree.
A friend can accomplish the miracle of taking one out of oneself and helping one become more oneself at the same time.
Friendship enlarges and illumines experience.
A rung lower on the ladder of constructive relationships stands pleasant companions.
Many of the people with whom we spend our time are not our devoted friends.
True friendship is not necessarily a prerequisite for spending a pleasant time with someone.
Companionship, in its own way, also brings joy and completeness to life. Interesting conversation and the sharing of happy activities provide many fulfilling moments.
Those with whom we spend our time exert an influence far beyond the information we share or the good times we share.
Nothing in the Cosmos is static. Everything moves in a state of perpetual flux and change, including our own selves.
You are never the identical person today that you were yesterday. Everything that has happened in the last twenty-four hours has made its mark, imperceptible though that might be.
The very cells of our bodies are continuously developing, growing, dying, and replenishing themselves.
The universe changes, the earth changes, and so does each individual.
One of the agents of change is other people.
It is important, therefore, to be discriminating in the selection of those who may be factors in the determination of our own spiritual and intellectual growth or decline.
We cannot always choose all the people with whom we will associate all the time.
Family obligations, business pressures, and social amenities require us to spend a certain amount of our time with various types of individuals, some of whom may be good for us, others not so good.
Our friends and social companions, however, we choose for ourselves. Or at least we should.
There may be times when we passively let ourselves be chosen and then face the danger of slipping gradually into the habit of spending too much time with people who are really not good for us.
How do we judge if someone is good for us or bad for us? It is quite simple, really!
Our own intuition will relay the information if we only stop to listen.
Those who drag us down, make us feel lesser or dull and apathetic, or influence us to do and think those things that diminish us—these companions are bad for us.
The more time we spend with such people, the more we are inhibited in our spiritual growth.
Conversely, companions who make us feel really good, make us happier and more alive, inspire us to think and do those things that exalt us spiritually and intellectually—these people are good for us.
“Let there be no purpose in friendship
…save the deepening of the spirit . . .
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.”
– Kahlil Gibran
All our hours are meant to be lived.
Much of this living takes the form of interaction with others. These others should, as far as possible, be carefully chosen so that the hours spent together are truly hours which have been lived and not killed.
Too many hours passed in the wrong company can easily kill or retard one’s own spiritual and mental growth. Solitude or the companionship of a good book is infinitely preferable to such activity.
However, exposure to real friends or to spiritually or mentally stimulating acquaintances brings growth and enlargement and the joy that comes from being uplifted.
Circumstances may sometimes conspire, as was the case with the young mother mentioned above, to lead us gradually and insidiously into relationships which seem comfortable but are really destructive.
At such times, it is necessary to make a special effort of will to break the pattern and to deliberately limit the amount of time spent with the spiritually barren.
This is not always easy to do. We may be made to feel guilty or even snobbish. But this is not true.
It is sheer foolishness to waste one’s time in a soul-deadening environment when there are so many rich and life-enhancing experiences awaiting us in other directions.
“A man can be judged by the company he keeps” is an old and saying.
As with much folk wisdom, however, it contains a basic element of truth: A person can be judged by the companions he or she chooses because, to a large extent, he or she is formed by them.
A person tends to become like those with whom he or she spends his time.
It is a good idea, therefore, to take a look at one’s associates from time to time and ask oneself:
“Do I want to be like these people?”
If the answer is no, then it is most certainly time for a change.
True friends and interesting companions are important influences in one’s life.
With them, we can discover ourselves and bring forth that which is highest in our own natures.
This, then, equips us to give something worthwhile in return.
Constructive and joyful relationships are among the highlights of our journey through life.
It is vital to our spiritual development that we do not waste this gift.