Maggie: You previously said that friends can help me develop virtues, that they can help me become good. Can you explain this?
John: Wow, this is actually a very big question. To best answer it I need to unpack it into smaller more discrete issues. Afterwards, we will bring all the new information together into a full and complete answer.
So, this week, let’s address the following question: Are there different types of friendships?
The answer is yes. There are three different categories of friendships.
(i) Utility Friendship: The first type of friendship is utility friendship. These are the folks who provide you with a service, assistance, recommendations, or something else that is helpful and useful to you. Most of the friends you make will be in this category, such as your work and business contacts, your teachers, your doctors and dentists, the girl at Starbucks that greets you each morning, and the people you occasionally pair up with for various projects.
Even though you like these people chiefly for your own sake, and not for theirs, this type of friendship should not be undervalued. Indeed, these types of friends should be cultivated because they are necessary for your education, health, welfare, success at school, success at work, and success in business.
(ii) Pleasure Friendship: The second type of friendship is pleasure friendship. These are the folks you hang around with because they make you laugh, they provide you comfort, and they make you feel good about yourself. Like utility friends, these friends are liked chiefly for your own sake, because they bring you pleasure and are enjoyable to be around. We all need a few pleasure friends to have an enjoyable life.
(iii) Complete/Virtue Friendship: The third type of friendship is complete friendship, or virtue friendship. This is the best type of friendship. Aristotle calls this person “another self,” because this is a person with whom you share everything: your joys, your sorrows, your successes, and your failures. This person knows you almost as well as you know yourself.
There are three fundamental conditions to forming this kind of friendship. First, you must like this person and wish her good for her sake, and not just for your own. Second, your friend must reciprocate, by liking you and wishing you good for your sake, and not just her own. Lastly, each of you must be aware and trust that the other person wishes you good.
Because these three conditions promote goodwill between friends, complete friends are usually long-lasting. But they are also rare, because they take a long time to develop. And you can only have a few such friends, because they require a large expenditure of time, energy, and emotional resources.
Although it is challenging in this modern mobile society, my hope and prayer for you is that you find one or two of these types of friends during the course of your life. They help you become a better person and truly make life easier.