TWO KINDS of common friendships are more accidental than intentional.

The first is a friendship of UTILITY:

In this kind of relationship, the two parties are not in it for the affection of one another, but more because each party receives a benefit in exchange. This friendship is not permanent in nature, and whenever the benefit ends, so does the relationship which brought the parties together.

An example of this would be a business or a work relationship, where we may enjoy the time spend together, but once the situation changes, so does the nature of the connection.

The second is one based on PLEASURE:

This kind of relationship is frequently seen among college friends or people who participate on the same sports team. The source of such a friendship is more emotional, and it’s often the most short-lived of the relationships. It’s fine for as long as the two parties gain enjoyment through a mutual interest in something external, but it ends as soon as either tastes or preferences change.

Many young people go through different phases in their views on enjoyment, and quite often the people in their lives tend to change as the phase they are in recalibrates over time. Most of the friendships that many of us have, fall into these two categories, and while not necessarily bad, their depth limits their quality.

It’s fine - even necessary - to have accidental friendships, but there is far more out there.

The Friendship of the GOOD:

Rather than utility or pleasure, this kind of relationship is based on a mutual appreciation of the virtues which the other party holds dear. It’s the people themselves and the qualities they represent, which provides the incentive for the two parties to be in each other’s lives. Rather than being short-lived, such a relationship often lasts forever and there is generally a base level of goodness required in each person for it to exist in the first place.

People who lack empathy or care for others, seldom develop these kinds of relationships, because more often than not, their preference is to look for pleasure or utility. Moreover, friendships of virtue take time and trust to build, and they depend on mutual growth.

We’re much more likely to connect at this level with someone when we’ve seen them at their worst and watched them grow from that, or if we’ve both endured mutual hardship together. Beyond their depth and intimacy, the beauty of such relationships is they automatically include the rewards of the other two kinds of friendship. They’re both pleasurable and beneficial.

When we respect a person and care for them, we gain joy from being with them. If they are a good enough person to warrant such a relationship to begin with, then there is utility as well. These relationships require time and intention, but when these friendships blossom, they do so with trust, admiration, and awe, and they bring with them some of the sweeter joys life has to offer.

All You Need to Know

While there is value in accidental friendships based on pleasure and utility, their impermanence diminishes their potential. They lack depth and a solid foundation compared to the cultivation of virtuous friendships built with intention, and based on a mutual appreciation of character and goodness, rather than on some transactional value.

"Friendships of the good" usually strengthen over time, and if they thrive, those friendships will last for life. Few things came close to the value of such a relationship.

At the end of the day, the bonds we forge with those close to us directly shape the quality of our lives. We are, and we live through, the people we spend time with. Friendships are good things. Understanding their basis more fully can help us avoid surprises or disappointments.