The Ideal Friend

by Marshall Brain

We all have friends. We meet people in our neighborhoods, at our jobs, while at school, during our travels, online and so on, and they become our friends. We know them and they know us, and the more time we spend together, the more our knowledge grows. We make friends when we spend time together with people, and when we share experiences together.

So let's try something. For a moment, I'd ask you to think about all the friends you have, and think about the best features of these different friendships. Let's put these best things together and imagine the best friend that you could possibly have. We might call this person the ideal friend, or the perfect friend. Nobody is perfect - that's an axiom of human existence. But we can still try to imagine the perfect friend. What would be some of the characteristics of the ideal friend?


Certainly at the top of the list would go trust. You would be able to trust an ideal friend implicitly. For example, you would be able to invite him/her to stay in your home alone for the weekend and know - really know without the slightest doubt - that he/she would take care of the place. Everything would be where it belonged when you got home. He/she wouldn't steal anything, obviously. He/she would also keep the place clean and neat. There wouldn't be dishes piled up in the sink or a mess in the bathroom. Your friend would take care of your home the same way you would take care of your home. You would trust him/her to do that, and you wouldn't have the slightest worry that anything would go wrong.

That's one simple and obvious example, but it's a big one. You wouldn't let just anyone stay alone at your house for the weekend. You would only let someone you really trusted do that.

Trust has many facets, and your friend would be completely trustworthy in all of them. You could tell him/her personal things and know that your friend would keep them private. You could loan him/her your car and know it would come back in good shape and with the right amount of gas. If your friend told you he/she would do something, you would trust that it would happen. When your friend said that he/she would meet you somewhere, you could trust that he/she would arrive there on time.

If you have kids, you would be able to entrust your children to his/her care, and know that things would go well. S/he would not do anything inappropriate with your kids. S/he would keep them safe at all times, and you would not have to worry about anything while they are in your friend's care.

If you have a boy/girlfriend or a spouse, you would be able to trust that your friend could stop by without putting the moves on your significant other.

Think how simple the friendship would be, and how comfortable it would be, if you and your friend shared this level of trust. With that kind of trust in place and no reason to ever doubt it, things would go very smoothly.

With trust comes honesty. Trust and honesty always walk hand in hand. Your friend would be honest and straightforward with you. Obviously s/he would not lie to you or tell you lies - you would not be able to trust your friend if s/he did. His word would be his bond, her handshake would have meaning. If you asked your friend a question, s/he would give you a straight answer.

S/he would respect the things that you share in your friendship. For example, you would know that s/he wouldn't be talking about you behind your back or spreading gossip about you. Actually, you would notice that your friend wouldn't be spreading gossip or talking behind the back of anyone, because s/he would apply that policy across the board to all of his/her friends. S/he would not be the kind of person to insult people or take cheap shots either, either behind their backs or to their faces.

S/he would be an ethical, law-abiding citizen, of the highest integrity. This is a direct offshoot of honesty and trustworthiness. It's impossible to imagine someone who is completely honest and who you would implicitly trust with your life, your home and your children, who would also be robbing liquor stores or murdering people. The two ideas are mutually exclusive. S/he would do no evil, intend no harm on anyone.

You may have heard that in marriage and dating you need to avoid the three As: Abuse, Addiction and Adultery. An honest and trustworthy person would avoid such things naturally. S/he would not abuse people either physically, verbally or emotionally, S/he would be free of addictions (it would be hard to trust him/her otherwise), and, if s/he is your spouse, s/he would honor your marriage vows.


Your friend would be a person who treats everyone well. Your friend would be kind to people:, helpful, respectful, polite, cheerful, generous, neighborly, considerate. S/he would be tolerant of other points of view, other cultures, other perspectives. S/he would not offend other people. Therefore, you would be completely comfortable introducing him/her to your other friends, or to your parents, because you would know your friend would be cool and completely comfortable in a situation like that. S/he would not embarrass you. Instead, S/he would make you look good.

S/he would not be a blow hard, or a cocky jerk. As a general rule s/he would be happy, optimistic and grateful. The thought of sexism, ageism, racism, homophobia, etc. would never cross his/her mind. What if you are black and he is white, or vice versa? What if you are a Christian and s/he is not? What if you are old and s/he is young? It would be a non-issue with the ideal friend. S/he would be helpful, and happy to help. People would feel comfortable coming to him/her for help when they need it.

S/he would not be the type of person who would blow up at you in anger - s/he would not have a short fuse or a hair-trigger temper. S/he would be patient, not easily offended. Able to laugh most things off with a good sense of humor. On the other hand, no one likes to be teased, and if necessary s/he would tell you that in a nice way.

S/he would tend to be disciplined and calm in every part of his/her life. Your friend would be strong, confident and independent. He would have his/her own life that is vibrant and interesting. S/he would have other friends, many of whom you would get a chance to know. Therefore s/he would not be clingy or needy. Nor would s/he take advantage of you or your kindness.

Your friend is at peace with him/herself and others. S/he knows who s/he is, knows what s/he is about, and is happy in that. S/he is not a braggart and there is no arrogance. In fact, s/he is humble. Not artificially humble, like a person who calls attention to him/herself with weird deprecation or an inferiority complex. Instead s/he is fully able to appreciate and respect others without feeling threatened by them. S/he understands his/her own success without feeling any need to trumpet it. This humility is refreshing.

S/he is able to teach you new things, and not make you feel stupid. S/he is also happy to be learning new things and trying new experiences. S/he is open to new ideas, but would also be immune to stupidity. "Hey, Try this new thing - it's called heroin. You just inject it in your vein like this..." or "Hey, if you worship this alien spaceship on the other side of the sun in this certain way, the aliens will make you rich!" - Your friend would have no problem saying, "no thanks" to stuff like that.

When you need him/her, s/he would be there for you and ready to help. Your friend would be a good listener. S/he would be able to empathize and understand. S/he would be compassionate.

Your friend would be involved in the community, and in community organizations that make a difference. Doing this would be an simple and natural extension of his/her helpfulness, friendliness and kindness. S/he would be able to love and be loved. Based on all of the other characteristics listed above, you might expect him/her to be one of the most loving and lovable people you have met, and you would be right.

That's an important point - if you have a friend whom you can trust implicitly, who is completely honest with you, who is friendly, kind, patient and so on, there are many things that would be side effects of those inherent qualities. For example:

When you are with this kind of friend, you would feel better about yourself, happier. You would be able to talk about anything, or nothing. It would be very comfortable to have him/her around.

S/he would be a really special person in your life.

What it means

Think about how great it would be to have a friend like this. It is easy to imagine that s/he might change your life. A friend like this would definitely make your life better.

Now imagine what it would be like to know a whole community of people like that in your local area. And you actually are a part of the community yourself. And there are thousands of these communities across the country, all communicating with each other and working with each other. If you live in Austin, TX and you travel to Portland, OR, you can find a community of people in Portland who are all just this trustworthy, honest, friendly, etc. and who welcome you with open arms because you are a part of the community. It would be amazing, wouldn't it? One reason why it would be amazing is because most people only meet one or two really special friends like this in a lifetime, if they are lucky. Here you would be in a community with thousands of people who you can completely trust.

But when you stop to think about it, you realize there is only one way to be a part of this community. The way to be involved in friendships at that level is to make yourself into that kind of person - the kind of person who is honest, trustworthy, kind, generous, forgiving, happy, fun, interesting, reliable, in-control, self-disciplined, involved, loving, helpful, tolerant, charitable, friendly, patient, joyous, gentle... If you are like that, and all your friends are like that, it would be an amazing place to be, wouldn't it?

This is what DecidingToBeBetter is all about. It is about people who are deciding to be better themselves, and who are helping each other to be better too. DecidingToBeBetter is a place filled with friends who are striving to improve - to reach the highest ideals as human beings - and who are striving to make the world a better place in the process. DecidingToBeBetter is about better individuals, better communities, better nations and a better world for everyone on the planet.

Nobody is perfect. We all know that. Therefore we can all can be better. We know that too. DecidingToBeBetter is a community of people where members work together to be the best people they can imagine. They also look outward, helping to make the world a better place through their optimistic vision of the future.