Perhaps the most important thing, the thing we hold dear to us after God and our family are our friends, and the influence our friends have on us is not something negligible. There is a lot to consider when we choose our friends as this article will briefly convey.
Humans are naturally social creatures and we tend to try and find other people, groups to belong to – usually people who we share some interests, have things in common or can communicate easily with. This is why lasting friendships tend to lie within racial, cultural, social and religious boundaries, though it is not rare for people to have really good friends who don’t belong to their own community.
When we hear about peer pressure we don’t like to admit that we have been affected because we believe we are not so easily influenced, but our friends have a great impact on how we turn out as we get older. Sometimes it’s a bad influence and sometimes it’s very good but do we pay attention to these things growing up?
If you remember back to your days in school, the people who were friends with “the smokers”, for example, and hung around with them, more than likely ended up becoming smokers themselves. As young people, we yearn for acceptance and being liked so we end up doing things that aren’t right or good – the feeling of belonging is sometimes stronger than knowing that something is wrong and we tend to forget our stances if all our friends’ hold different opinions to us.
This is why, when choosing a friend, it is important to gauge the values of that person before you get sucked into their circle of friends and get negatively influenced and/or hurt. There a number of things to remember when first choosing a friend – what are their values? Are they trustworthy and truthful? do they flaunt the rules, lie, cheat, commit many sins, disrespect their parents, bully or mock other people, backbite, have bad manners and use foul language? Do they respect you and your beliefs and values?
It might seem strange but a lot of people are friends with people who do not respect them or their values and mistreat them. You cannot be true friends with someone who treats you badly and disrespects you so you must break off the friendship. Choose friends who like you for who you are and don’t cause you trouble.
More than just being normal friends, a good friend can make you a better person and inspire you to do good things. You can tell a good person had good friends growing up because they do good things and are well mannered. Choose friends who are not only kind to you, but who inspire you to do good things like getting involved with charity, improving your community, increasing your knowledge, remind you of God and pray, and improve your future prospects in this life and the next.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) defines a good friend in these words:
“He is the one whose very sight makes you remember God, whose conversation increases your knowledge and whose deeds remind you of the world in the Hereafter.” (Behar al-Anwar, v15 p51)
A good friend can enter you into the kingdom of heaven and a bad friend can lead you into the fires of hell, so choose your friends wisely.