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“Don’t associate with bad friends. Don’t associate with the low. Associate with admirable friends. Associate with the best.”
– Dhammapada 78, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
This post is dedicated to a dear friend with whom I’ve been writing back and forth today. She knows just what it means, and we both know more than one life which has been ruined by associating with the wrong people.
My mother used to tell me, “You are who you hang out with.” Although I liked to argue with her about this, in the end, I have to say that she is right, and as she has passed away, I can’t even tell her face to face.
If you want to determine someone’s character; examine their friends. How do their friends behave? What do they do? What do they fail to do? Do they lie? Do they cheat? Are they responsible for the consequences of their own actions? Do they volunteer in their communities? Are they misogynists? Do they make racist comments? Are they mean? Do they help others? Do they make fun of people? If a person‘s friends have negative character traits, if they lie, if they cheat, if they make racist or homophobic comments, then that person is the same. Any given person is no better than his or her friends, for each person chooses his or her friends based on his or her own individual integrity, or lack thereof.
This is because people who are referred to in this quote as ‘the low’ will display their lowness through meanness, dishonesty, mysogyny, homophobia, racism, entitlement, defensiveness, aggressiveness, selfishness, irresponsibility, etc. People who are like this are barely any better than animals; they live for their pleasure alone. They don’t have self awareness or self reflection and cannot or will not pursue any path to self improvement.You will not find a decent person hanging out with a bunch of low people because a decent person cannot tolerate low behavior in others . The low people will tease and make fun of the decent person because his or her values threaten the social mores of the scumbag group.
Conversely, when you find a group of people who are devoted to goodness, kindness, self reflection, personal growth, honesty and integrity, you will not find a scumbag in their midst. Scumbags chooses associate with other scumbags in order to reinforce their own lack of morality. If a scumbag finds himself in a group decent people she will quickly leave the ‘goody two shoes’ to find a group of scumbags with whom to gloat in scumbaggery.
It’s just this simple. If you want to find out what kind of a person someone is, examine their friends, and find out how they treat other people, how they talk about other people, and exactly what types of activities they do in their spare time. It doesn’t matter who you are inside that counts, it’s how you spend your time.