The One Question We Should Ask Our Friends

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” 

— Albert Camus

Saturday night I went to a party. The party was at a gigantic house, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. As time went on and more drinks had been had, I decided to step out back and catch some air. While I was outside checking my phone and finding some fresh air, one of my schoolmates approached me. Currently, I’m on a sabbatical from drinking so I was sober and completely clear headed. To my surprise, many of the other attendees of the party were not.

“Chris, how are you, brother?” The guy said to me.
“I’m well sir, you having a good time?,” I replied.
The guy was visibly drunk but seemed to be having an enjoyable time.

As the conversation continued, he expressed to me that he was dealing with a lot of stress. He revealed that he was stressed because for the first time in his collegiate career he was failing a class. After he had told me what had been going on, I did my best to provide some brotherly advice. I told him how school is tough and how grades shouldn’t define him. The conversation ended with him feeling seemingly better as he walked back into the party. I continued to stay out back and scroll Twitter until another brother approached me shortly after.
The conversation was similar to the one I previously held with the other gentleman. This guy was contemplating breaking up with his girlfriend. This interaction was shorter but caused me to reflect. I wondered how many other people were here at this party going through things and needed someone to talk to. I think it’s unfortunate that these brothers only felt comfortable to approach me and express themselves while drunk at a party.
After talking with both brothers, I knew that there were probably 50 more people at the function, that were dealing with issues that they were masking as well. I wondered how many of them were drinking just to numb the pain of life.
In reality, we all have problems that we encounter on a regular basis that we conceal as soon as we step out into the world. These issues can easily be medicated with effective communication and heartfelt friendship. Good friends that you can talk to about problems are rare. It’s sad to say that many of us don’t experience genuine friendship.
In Nicomachean Ethics, the philosopher Aristotle explains what he calls, the three types of friendship. The first is friendship based on utility, where both people derive some benefit from each other. The second is friendship based on pleasure, where both people are drawn to the other’s wit, good looks, or other pleasant qualities. The third is friendship based on goodness, where both people admire the other’s goodness and help one another strive for goodness.
We all should strive to be friends of goodness. Ones that are there to help each other solve life’s problems. An exemplary way to be a friend of goodness is to check in with one another as friends. I think the most important question you can ask your friend is,

“How are you doing?”

Now, of course, this question is a conventional way that we engage with others when we first see them; I get that. What I would like us all to do is to ask this question with the intent of genuinely concerning ourselves with the well-being of our friends. You’d be surprised how individuals will open up to you when you provide an open ear. I plan to do my best to become a friend of goodness to everyone I meet. I pray you entertain this idea and join me. We must love and support each other because we never know what people are going through. Practicing this notion of genuinely asking our friends how are they doing is a great way to start.