Coffee Break

300 – The Importance of Friendship from a Stoic Perspective

Do you have close friends? Are you a good friend? In this episode I talk about the importance of friendship and how Stoicism can help you be a better friend.

"Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve."

Check out this great video of Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman interviewing each other. It's fantastic!


 Hello friends and welcome to the Stoic Coffee Break. My name is Eric Cloward. The Stoic Coffee Break is a weekly podcast where I take aspects of Stoicism and do my best to break them down to their most important points. I talk about my experiences, both my successes and my failure, and share my thoughts on Stoicism in the hopes that you can learn something new.

All within the space of a coffee break. Now this week's episode is called The Importance of Friendship From a Stoic Perspective. Now before I get into that, I just want to kind of give you an update on how things have been going for me. I finally got an apartment. It's been nice to be settling in. Things are still a little bit messy, but I'm getting there. It's a pretty nice place in the south of Amsterdam and It's nice to be settled. So thanks for everybody for your comments on my previous episode where I talked about how I got scammed and what I, how challenging that was for me.

And this week's episode is episode number 300, which is pretty exciting. And when I started this podcast, I never thought that I would reach Episode 300, I started the podcast as something to practice making a podcast. And I just happened to talk about stoicism because it was what I was studying at the time. And because so many people listened and wrote in and talked about how much it helped them, that gave me the courage to continue with this process and to really delve into stoicism and make it part of my life.

And I find that the times that I took a break from the podcast, And then coming back to it, I found that doing that really helped me to integrate these principles into my life in a very deep and meaningful way because I was studying them on a weekly and daily basis. So thanks so much for supporting me and thanks for listening to the podcast.

I guess some other news, I've had a, kind of a rough start getting into my apartment. I ended up slicing up my finger, my thumb, and I have four stitches in there, so now they're healing. But, I kind of had to laugh about it because something good that came from that, which is part of what Stoicism teaches, is that, I have been playing guitar, which you can see in the back here, if you're watching the video and was writing a song and there was a chord structure that I couldn't get.

And because I couldn't use my index finger, I had to be creative with how I was practicing guitar and finally figured out the missing chord in the song that I was working on. So sometimes when things don't seem good. They have a blessing in disguise. Anyway, onto this week's episode. So like I said, this week's episode is about the importance of friendship from a stoic perspective.

And part of the reason why I wanted to do this was there were two things that happened recently that I really was impacted by and one of them is I was watching a video and I'm sure plenty of you have seen this. And if not, I will have a link to it down in the, in the show notes on this. But it was an interview of Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds, and they were interviewing each other and they have a very close friendship.

They've been friends for about 20 years now. And for me, what was just. Amazing to watch this video is here are these two superstars. I mean, and watching them talk and help and support each other and the way that they talked about each other and how much fun they have with each other. And they have so much, but they also have their struggles in life.

And they talk about the importance of friendship and why their friendship It means so much to them and how it's enhanced their lives and the things they've learned from each other. And they were also incredibly vulnerable with each other. They tell each other that they love each other and they care. I mean, and these are two guys who are considered, you know, fairly macho and whatnot, but they're not afraid to express their emotions and they're very open about a lot of those things.

And to see how encouraging they were. So, one instance, Ryan talks about how when he first got on the X Men set, and it was the first time he met Hugh, and Hugh ran up to him and gave him this big hug and said, Hey Ryan, it's so good to see you here. And Ryan was just like, you actually know my name. And he talked about how Hugh was such a great example of how to be on a film set, and how to care for not just the people who are going to help your career, but for everybody who is helping to make the film.

And then Hugh talked about how impressed he was with Ryan about talking about his struggles with anxiety and how much support he's given to his fans in dealing with that anxiety. And this is the kind of friendship that I think we all strive for. I mean, we're all not going to be hanging out with superstars like that.

Maybe some of us will, but more than anything, it was really neat to see just two decent human beings and how much they cared about each other and were so supportive of each other. So this week's episode, I want to, like I said, I want to talk about why friendships are important and what we can do to build up some of our friendships using stoic values.

Oh, and I, I forgot the second thing that happened recently. That really made me want to do this episode is I had a friend who is struggling with some things in life and You know said hey, I want to run some things by why don't you swing by my place? And so I went over there the other night, and we just had this really great conversation talking about the things he's struggling with.

And for me, it was really, it was very touching, the fact that he reached out to me, hoping that I would be able to shed some light on some difficult situations where he was trying to wrap his head around, and wasn't being the kind of person he wanted to be. And the fact that he would reach out to me to help him with these struggles meant, meant the world to me.

Because that means that I have somebody who trusts me that much that they can be that vulnerable. And this is somebody that I admire. They have, to me, he seems like he has so much going on and has everything together, but to hear him talk about his struggles and just be that open and honest, just, yeah, it was really touching to me.

And then I got some in return. He was able to help me kind of focus on some of the things that That I struggle with, I'm not the most organized person and I have so many creative ideas and trying to stay focused while I'm trying to, you know, work on becoming a coach and, you know, and writing a book and working on the podcast and some other ideas and things that I'm working on.

And he really kind of helped me break some of those things down because that's where his strength lies. And I think that these two things just really wanted me to dive into this a little bit deeper. So first I want to talk about the idea of. Stoicism and friendship and what it means. So Marcus Aurelius talks about, you know, people exist for the sake of one another, teach them then or bear with them.

And the Stoics were very, very keen on teaching us that connections with other humans and friendship were all very, very important. And they're part of the human condition because we're social animals. We do more, we do better when we work together, when we are together. And it's those connections. with other people that really make life that important.

And the Stoics have this theory of social development. And I learned about this while I was working on my book. And the early, and it's called oikiosis. And the earliest stage of oikiosis is self preservation. And this is something that all living animals have. They have an inclination towards self care and preserving themselves.

And this is the basis of more complex forms of social affection. The next step that they, they defined was rational self interest. And as human beings mature, they begin to use reason to understand their needs more. And start to recognize that their well being is tied to their moral character and their rational choices.

And not merely just to external conditions. They see that they can actually take actions in this world to get their needs met. And the third step in the Stoic's oikiosis is what they call social affection. And this involves extending care beyond just yourself to those who are close to you, such as your family and your friends.

And you recognize that they also have desires for happiness and that you can work together to get your needs met. And that's something that's really important for all of us. And then the next step is what they call moral awareness and universal concern. And this is, it, it's part of the stoic idea of cosmopolitanism, which is rather than just thinking of yourself As part of a family or part of a tribe or maybe part of a city or a country that you are a citizen of the world and that all humans are part of your extended family and that you need to make sure that you step out of yourself and just those around you, and find ways to do good in the world in a much larger way. Again, in that this is part of our human nature to do so.

So the Stoics viewed friendship as an essential component of having a good life. And friendship is a way for us to practice virtue. It's a way for us to practice kindness. It's a way for us to practice courage of being vulnerable and practicing radical candor with our friends and being honest with them about our struggles and being honest with them about some of the things that they're struggling with.

And, the Stoics pulled a lot from the Epicureans, and I like this quote from Epicurus, where he says, It is not so much our friend's help that helps us, as the confident knowledge that they will help us. Sometimes just knowing that you have people supporting you, even if they don't do anything, you know, directly to help you, really just enhances your life.

When you think about all the people around you, and having a good social net and a good social community is just incredibly important to living a good life. So what do the Stoics have for qualities of friendship? What makes a good friendship? Well, obviously, honesty. And I like to, I like to dig a little deeper and put that as candor.

And the idea behind candor is that everything you say is honest. But it is also vulnerable and revealing of some of the things behind what you say. And there's also mutual respect, and of course living in accordance to virtue. And when we are close to people who care for us and who help build us up, then we're able to grow into something better.

And when we return those same things and we try to help them and support them and help build them up as well, then that makes us a better person because we We learn wisdom, we learn, we improve our justice. And again, the idea behind the Stoic virtue of justice is, how do we treat other people? That's incredibly important to the Stoics, which is why it's one of the four cardinal virtues of Stoicism.

And we can see this in the friendship between Seneca and his nephew, Lucilius. They had an ongoing correspondence. And we have those letters today, and they're called the letters of Lucilius. And they talked a lot about philosophy. They just talked a lot about basic things in life. They're very affectionate and intimate with each other in a very kind and generous way.

And we also see this when we look at Marcus Aurelius. Because Marcus Aurelius had a friend named Fronto, one of his mentors. And they wrote back and forth to each other all the time. And even though Fronto didn't really like that Marcus Aurelius was big into philosophy, they were still incredibly close.

And at one point Marcus wrote to him and said, My dear Fronto, I miss you so much. I miss, you know, and I love you as much as I love myself. Because that's how deep their bond was. And this was the emperor of Rome. I mean, he had people around him all the time, but he chose particular people who made him better even if they disagreed with him on a lot of things.

But having friends who can be very different than you and still loving and caring and supporting them is a big part of what makes a good friendship. So as we've talked about before, there are just a lot of practical benefits to friendship. I mean, you have emotional support. You have people who will help you to be resilient when things are hard.

You learn a lot of things from them, such as, you know, maybe where your values are out of alignment. They can point things out when you kind of screw up and you do things that, that maybe aren't the best, but they can do so in a way that you will actually listen and they can help give you advice and guide you into becoming the type of person that you want to be.

And this is another quote from Epictetus I really liked. He said, “He who seeks friendship for favorable occasion strips it of all its nobility,” meaning that if we only have friends when things are good, then we're missing out on the true part of friendship and that reaching out to our friends when things are hard and supporting our friends when things are hard for them, is a big part of what makes a good life. And that we shouldn't just have fair weather friends, but friends who will stick by us through thick and thin.

Another thing to think about is that Marcus Aurelius, in the opening of Meditations, lists off all the people who have been a big influence on his life. And a lot of them are close friends, and people that, Not only who were mentors that he respected, but were people who taught him great things in his life to become the kind of person he wanted to be because he knew he was going to be emperor of Rome and he knew that he needed to develop the character in himself so that he wasn't corrupted by that position.

And he had a lot of people, like I mentioned Fronto before, Rusticus, who was one of his teachers who guided him into Stoic philosophy, but through that you can see that Marcus Aurelius, at the very beginning of meditations, is listing off all the people who helped him and supported him and who he respected – friendship is the first section within meditations. Because it was, it's really that important. And human connection is that important.

So how do we use stoicism to help us cultivate better friendships? I think a lot of things that really help is that you, you seek out people who are trying to help you to be better people. As Seneca said, make sure that you associate with people who will make you better. And that was something that the Stoics found very important, is that we learn through being around other people. We can't just develop virtue in a vacuum. We can't just become a virtuous person by studying these things. We actually have to go out and practice those things.

And one of the best ways is associate with other people and to find friendship. And some of the best things about cultivating good friendships is that you have to practice accepting others for exactly who they are. And that's part of what the Stoics teach us is that we can't control other people. We can be friends with people and care about people who disagree with us.

In fact, they should, at times they should disagree with us because we don't know everything. And so oftentimes having that friend who disagrees with you on something helps to open up your eyes so that you can see things in a new way. You can learn things that you didn't learn before.

The other thing is then you have other people who will accept you for who you are, and that you are allowed to be authentically you. And that's something that is incredibly important because the Stoics talk about How you need to live a life of integrity and be the kind of person that you want to be no matter what and when you can find friends who appreciate that and accept that and support you in that, then it helps you to become a much better person as well.

They can also be there to point out your good qualities when you're having a hard time remembering them. And they can also, like I said, help you find direction when you're not living according to your value.

So I want you to take some time this week and think about how the friendships that you have and think about what kind of friend you're being. Are you being the type of friend who is encouraging others to live a good life and to practice stoic virtues, even if they're not stoics? But that you encourage them to practice, courage, wisdom, justice, and self discipline to help them to become the best people that they can. And finding friends who will help you to do the same because you can't go it alone. We all need other people in this world.

And one of the things that I'm so grateful for since I've moved to Amsterdam are the number of great friends that I've met and people that I know that I can rely on the fact when I was had to go to the hospital to get stitches in my hand the other day, it asked for a family contact or an emergency contact. And since I don't have any family here, they wanted somebody local and my friend who helped me move into my apartment. I was able to put his name down and then I sent him a text saying, Hey, by the way, I put you down as my emergency contact. And he, you know, gave that a big thumbs up and was like, yeah, that's great, man.

And its small things like that just warm my heart because it means that I have a support network here. I have people who care about me and who are looking out for my best interest. And I think that's what we all need in this world, because world's a hard place and having people that, you know, have your back is something that we can all really use in this life.

And that's the end of this week's Stoic Coffee Break. As always, be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and thanks for listening. I also wanted to say, if you aren't following me on social media, please do so. You can find me at Instagram and threads at, and you can find me on TikTok and Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook and YouTube at StoicCoffee.

Thanks again for listening!

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