Do you know what really matters in life? It is a question that many have asked, and many have answered. The answers offered to this question have been varied and variegated, but there are a few that consistently bubble to the surface. Two of those are “friends” and “family.” With so many people offering those two answers time and again, it would be unwise to discount them outright. However, what most people mean when they say “friends” or “family” may not be the definition that carries the most significant meaning.
How Important Are Friends and Family?
Family is important, to be sure – and by family, I don't necessarily mean the group of people with whom you share the greatest genetic similarity. I mean that core group of people who really help define and frame who you are. Those that see you, warts and all, and accept you and care for you and act in your best interest (sometimes even in spite of yourself) and help you when you need it. Those people who know what you are capable of, and do what they can to nurture the best in you. Those people who really do want you to be the best you that you possibly can.
Friends are equally important – and by friends, I don't mean people with whom you are on a first name basis, the people with whom you are cordial with and with whom you don't experience great personal or professional conflict, the people with whom you will eat pizza and drink beer. I mean the people who, while not actively trying to nurture and care for you and think of you and grieve with you and celebrate with you, generally add more happiness to your life than they cause sorrow. I mean people who take the edge off of the hard times by reminding you that there are good people out there, and even though you are not an integral part of their lives, nor they a part of yours, you can make the world just a little more pleasant with your interactions.
Family and friends. Certainly two very important pieces of a happy life.
I propose adding a third category, one that is never directly addressed, but one that is talked about indirectly and has a profound impact on a person’s personal happiness. Self-integrity. The ability to look in the mirror at any time during the day and not be ashamed to meet your own gaze. The ability to sleep well at night because there is no guilt, no pangs of regret. The ability to know that, at all times, you were you, and that was good enough, and you didn't compromise your values as a human being for love or money or respect or acceptance. You were honest and consistent with everyone with whom you came into contact, and never once took action and had to hide that action from others out of fear of retribution or judgment. The ability to hold your head high and be proud of who you are, and the impact you have on those around you.
So, how Important Are Friends and Family? Vitally important. Along with self-integrity, these are the three things that are absolutely required in order to live a self-fulfilled and happy life.
Family, friends, and self-integrity. These are the things that really matter, in the long run.
You know what doesn't really matter in the long run?