Understanding What Makes A Friend Worth Keeping


I remember the times in primary and secondary school where almost everyone I talked to was considered a “friend”.

After all, our supposed social worth in school was determined by how many “friends” we have and how many people would wave or say hi to us when we walked past them.

It’s like if many other schoolmates (whom I don’t even know) call me by my name or knows my existence, I was “popular”.

In my case, not many knew who I was, other than the people whom I spoke to often.

And for the longest time, I thought I was doing something wrong back then. Not until in my twenties did I realise it was perfectly fine to not be “popular” in school.

Friends worth keeping

As anyone who is no longer in their teens know, the quality of friends is underrated when there was an abundance of new people in school.

As we age, the number of new people we meet on a weekly or even monthly basis is almost nil.

Day in and day out, we don’t even speak with everyone at our workplace, let alone meeting new people.

And how often do we even speak with strangers? The janitor you always pass by in the corridor, the Grab driver who drove you home safely, or even the hawker stall owner who sometimes give you that bit of extra food because he or she recognises you?

Then that’s the time we start pondering about the friends (or lack of) that are always there, ready to help you when you’re in need, thinking of the next meal you’ll share together, and so on.

How valuable and important each and every one of these friends is to us as we grow older.

But the sad truth is that most of us only realise that choosing the right friends and maintaining those friendships are important for both our maturity and growth very late.

Myself included.

Keep an open mind

I wished I put in much more effort into knowing more people in my teens.

“Knowing” as in spending time to talk to them and understand what makes them tick.

While most people think that chemistry right from the get-go is important in making the friendship or relationship work, I realised that even the most different people can be friends or even lovers.

It’s just a matter of whether you want to make it work. I personally have friends who are quite different than me in many aspects but we still can hang out together.

In fact, some of my friends are people whom I never imagined I could get along with. You probably know what I mean if you have such friends.

It can be surprising how someone whom you probably hate at first sight can be a very close friend you feel very comfortable confiding in – that’s the beauty of human interaction and understanding.

Honesty and forthrightness

For me, I’m attracted to people who aren’t afraid to tell me I’m wrong when it matters – they know me well enough to tell me where my fault lies in a way that I can accept.

In short, they’re honest about what I need to do to become better.

Of course, that’s not to say I like being told I’m wrong all the time. I like knowing when I did well too, everyone does.

But the hard part isn’t telling someone he or she has done a good job, it’s giving feedback for improvement.

The people who constantly surround themselves with people who tell them pretty lies to feel better would eventually realise that it’s not sustainable and those relationships tend to be built on a weak foundation.

As the saying goes, only your (closest) family will tell you that you fucked up in a blunt but true manner because they want the best for you.

The same can be said for friends who are worth keeping.

Sacrifices of all sizes

I like to always say that the sacrifices you’re willing to make for a person show how much you care and love him or her, regardless whether it’s a friend, family member, or lover.

Talk is cheap, action speaks louder than anything else.

And when I can see that a friend is willing to go the extra mile for me, I’ll be more than glad to return the favour when the need arises.

Undoubtedly, the motivation behind the sacrifice is important as well – if it’s more for his or her benefit or leverage later on, then it’s a different case.

But the truth is that not many people are scheming that way to put so much effort unless you’re really someone with a lot of influence. Also, time will eventually reveal his or her true colours.

Any sacrifice – doing an activity that you love but not so much his or her thing, shifting his or her schedule to accommodate a time to meet up with you, or even taking a flight to attend your wedding banquet despite a busy schedule – is worth remembering and being grateful for.

A friend today, a soulmate for life

As cheesy as it sounds, it can be a reality.

Family is definitely everyone’s top priority. But that’s not to say there can’t be other priorities.

There’s so much time in our lives to be spent with a handful of different people who are not related to us in any way.

Their experiences can inform our decisions and give us different perspectives on life, which are priceless.

Even if you don’t have anyone right now, regardless of your age, finding a friend is not hard. You just have to let go of your baggage, the baggage of fear of being judged.

There are many people who are more than glad to be friends with us, only if we put ourselves out there.

About the author

Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.

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by Vance Wong


Vance Wong

Brain-picker. Cinephile. Koreaboo.