There is a saying, ‘In prosperity your friends know you and in adversity you know your friends’. It means that the attitudes of our so-called friends change when we are in trouble. All of us experience this reality some time or the other. If we analyse this in detail, we can prepare ourselves to face the situation in a dignified manner, without getting shocked when it happens. We have to accept the fact that one cannot pick a friend, or purchase a friend, or compel anyone to be a friend. A true friend has to be discovered. In our good times there is no dearth of superficial friends, while true friends may get distanced or even lost. In our ignorance we fail to distinguish between them and consider the former as true friends. The mistake is realised when we face trouble. By that time it may be too late and our true friends may not return to us. The purpose of this analysis is to avoid such a situation.
Friends can be divided into four categories and the distinction is visible only during trouble. In good times it may not be possible to realise the distinction. Conversely, a false friend may appear more dear. We shall now describe these categories of friends. The first category of friends can be called ‘Rejoicers’. They not only rejoice or, rather, exploit our good days but also silently rejoice at our bad days. Outwardly they may show false grief in our trouble and if it persists and they see no early possibility of its going, they leave us like rats on a sinking ship. It would be no surprise if they also mutter the words, “Good, it happened to you”. This is the worst category of friends and in a sense, they are worse than an enemy. We must be careful about such friends right from the beginning as they often prove to be harmful.
The second category of friends are called ‘Sympathisers’. They are better than the first category. Such friends show sympathy in our trouble but do nothing beyond that. Secretly, they feel relieved, thinking, “Thank God, it did not happen to us.” If the trouble persists, they gradually distance themselves and disappear in due course. We may at best call them harmless friends. We need not be unduly concerned or upset about them and should accept their attitude as the way of the world.
The third category of friends can be called ‘Helpers’. In practical life this is the best category of friends and they may be called friends in the true sense. They are truly pained by our trouble and try to help us. They genuinely ask the question, “Why did it happen to you?” This is the category of friends we discover during our bad days. We can share our problems with them and also ask for their help, if required. Of course, we should not expect too much from them and only reasonable help should be asked for. It is also seen that many of such friends are those whom we do not consider so close during our good days.
The last category of friends is very rare. We may call this category the ‘Sacrificers’. They are prepared to make any sacrifice for a friend in trouble. They ask the question, “Why did it not happen to us?” ‘ Such persons can either be a relation like a mother, father, wife, daughter or someone falling in the category of ‘Mahapurusha’. The sacrifice of a close relation is generally out of attachment while the sacrifice of a ‘Mahapurusha’ is out of compassion. History has produced such great men from time to
time. Persons like Gautama Buddha, Dadhichi, Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Guru Gobind Singh, Hazrat Mohammad, Jesus etc., all fall in this category. Their sacrifices were for the whole of humanity and in a way, they were universal friends. We should not expect sacrifices from our friends to help us in our personal troubles. Therefore, friendship should be restricted to the ‘Helpers’ and we should be happy if we have some friends falling under this category. The first category is rather worse than an enemy while the second category is no better than acquaintances, and we should accept them that way. Only the third category are true friends and we ourselves should also fall in the same category.
Thus, troubles help us to discover our true friends. Troubles are sent by God for some purpose and this is one of them. With the help of true friends we are not only able to face failures, sorrow, anxiety or other problems gracefully but it also eases the trouble. The famous poet ‘Rahim’ has rightly said:
It is good to have trouble for short time. It gives us an opportunity to know who is our well-wishes and who is not. Why not start to discover a friend right now, instead of waiting for troubles to come first?