Companionship is one of the greatest needs of the human race. Regardless of the variations in type, practically all individuals, civilized or uncivilized, desire companionship to a greater or lesser extent. Practically no human being is satisfied without some other human companionship. In fact, the need for companionship is so great that our worst enemies would be acceptable if no other company was available. This, of course, would not be true if it applied to a very limited period of time as a man would rather be alone for a short time than to fraternize with an enemy. But if two who were enemies were cast away upon a desert island, in most cases they would welcome any companionship whatever and previous enmities could easily be forgotten, at least for the period of their involuntary association. Loneliness is a bitter pill for any human being to swallow and the lack of companionship of some nature practically excludes the hope of happiness from an individual’s life.
Inasmuch as practically every individual is either consciously or unconsciously striving to attain happiness, it can readily be seen that companionship is absolutely necessary in order to obtain this objective. Companionship not only brings in its train an enormous number of personal benefits, such as where groups of people are gathered together in cities, towns and villages, but it is sought after and needed even where such benefits are not manifest. Vagabonds gather together for mutual association and the lone wolves of the criminal world seek companionship when they are not plying their trade.
It must be evident, therefore, that if we can avail ourselves of good companionship that we will have made a long step upon the road to happiness. It must be also evident that if we ourselves are not good companions that we are fulfilling very little of our obligation to humanity. There is an old saying that evil communications corrupt good manners.” It should be also just as clearly understood that honorable associations help to improve the character as well as the manners of all of the individuals concerned.
In selecting companionship we should not only select the best that is available to us but we should be particularly careful to see that we ourselves measure up to the quality of our own selection. We should also be willing to forego companionship for necessary intervals rather than to associate with those that are not fit companions for ourselves or those that we love. One of our major duties, however, is to be continually on the search for the proper and helpful companionship, especially the kind that brings out the best that is in us and helps to minimize our unworthy and selfish motives and activities. It is our duty to do this for ourselves and others that we love, but especially is this true in the case of our children or of younger members of the family.
A child is always imperatively in need of companionship and especially that of children or young people of their own approximate age. A child may practically worship an older brother or sister, their mother and father may be regular pals to the child, but this in no way detracts from the necessity of the child having playmates of approximately his or her own age. To deny this to children is to distort and magnify their views about life, for children, especially small children, are so essentially capable of seeing through the character of their associates and comparing everybody else with those that they particularly like or respect. If they have parents who on occasion are children with them they will naturally expect other older people to act in the same manner and resent it if they fail to do so. They will also expect other children to have the same poise and sincerity as their parents, the same good judgment and the same sense of fair play. This would also apply to older brothers and sisters and to other older members of the family. If they have companionship of their own age, however, they will see these other children making the same mistakes and committing the same transgressions as themselves, even if they do not receive the same punishment. When they select certain children as those whom they like and respect this selection would almost inevitably be made upon the basis of merit, and this is as it should be.
It must be realized, however, that children and also young men and women need a lot of companionship. It is not a question of this being advisable but of it being absolutely necessary. It is so necessary, that children will not deny themselves this companionship and if they fail to find good companions they will cheerfully adopt those that are bad and sometimes those that are vicious. It is the imperative duty of parents to see that their children have sufficient good associates, and this sufficiency is not to be regulated by the parents, but by the child. This bears the same relation to the parents’ good judgment as that of feeding children. Some children can eat more food than either one of their parents without any apparent ill effects, while other children eat very small amounts; especially at certain age periods. The need for companionship is much more evident in some children than others, but the extent of this need is always evidenced by the child’s sincere attitude. It is a mistake for parents to believe that children do not know what they actually need along some lines, especially that of companionship. A child who does not have sufficient companionship for his or her needs is like a child that is being deprived of sufficient food. This is an urge that cannot be satisfied by any substitute. Children are usually fairly well satisfied with the amount of food they get, the clothing that they wear, and the shelter that is furnished them, regardless of their parents’ financial condition. They eat everything in sight but they do take what their parents are able to afford. Probably the only rebellion or envy in their little hearts is about candy, cake or ice cream. But one thing they will have and will fight for and that is companionship. They will even go to the extent of deceiving their parents in order to have this companionship and it should be absolutely recognized that if their parents do not see that they have sufficient good companionship that they will inevitably, as soon as the opportunity affords, turn to bad companions. A child may be kept at home and not allowed to mingle with other children in the neighborhood but as soon as he is allowed to go to school he will certainly find companionship and as he gets older will drift further and further away from good companionship, connected with home associations, simply because he has not learned to connect home with companionship.
It is also important to realize that many parents, especially mothers, are sometimes literally starved for good companionship of people of their own age. Individually there seems little that they can do to provide this companionship but if such people would consistently seek for others of kindred spirit, intelligence and character they could without great difficulty be drawn together. The fact that they would be faced with the same limitations as to time, financial condition, and facilities for pleasant associations would be an extra incentive to the necessary arrangements for proper and sufficient companionship.
In the business world there is the same crying need for good companionship. It is a hopeless attitude for anyone to take, to conclude that business associations cannot be made pleasant and companionable. It is not necessary to use the time of the firm or corporation in order to indulge in conversation or activities that detract from your own usefulness to your employers, hut a pleasant greeting, a few words of cheer and comfort, a little bit of praise where it is deserved, and a smile for those in whom you are especially interested, does not detract from the efficiency of a working unit but actually helps it to become more efficient. It is important, however, that a smile, a greeting, or a word of praise, be sincere. In fact, sincerity is one of the necessary qualities for good companionship. It is not necessary for the type of person who is quiet and sedate to bubble over with joy or enthusiasm, neither is it necessary for those who are joyous and enthusiastic to restrain themselves by exhibiting no emotion whatever. Practically all individuals have their own particular way of showing sincerity, and with due allowances this is the way that they should use.
Hypocrisy, on the other hand, is a destructive force arrayed against good companionship. We should no more pretend to enjoy the society of individuals whom we detest than we should pretend to dislike those who are our real friends. However, if unwelcome companionship, from the standpoint of personal preference, is forced upon us, as it so often may be in social or business life, then we should endeavor to use this time to our advantage regardless of the unpleasant association. Almost every individual has a personal knowledge, gained from experience or study, about some one or two subjects and these people are almost always willing to talk upon such subjects, with the consequent betterment of the knowledge of the individual to whom their conversation is addressed. If these subjects are not known they can almost always be ascertained by a few intelligent questions and the conversation directed in the proper channels. There is one danger, however, connected with this intelligent way of making use of what would be called misfortune, and that is that the other person might conceive a passable friendship for anyone to whom they could talk so freely and intelligently about themselves and their own pet hobbies or achievements. We would not recommend this course of procedure to two young men who happen to be violently in love with the same young lady, for naturally their thoughts might concentrate upon her to the exclusion of other and safer topics of conversation.
It can be understood, therefore, that if we proceed from ordinarily good companionship to companionship that is care fully selected and tested that we are well on the way to happiness. For some strange reason such companionship alone tends greatly to encourage and help us in our daily vocations and in our ambitions and would eventually lead us to moderate success and independence. Such associations arouse ambitions for worth while things that have been lying dormant, they furnish an extra supply of courage where courage is needed, they continually strengthen us morally as well as mentally and they provide pleasant and wholesome recreation, amusement and entertainment as well as companionship. Above all they serve to weed out and eliminate bad companionship that would drag us down to a lower level.
Companionship therefore entails responsibility. We have to become more responsible for our own speech and actions and the acceptance of such responsibility automatically builds up our own character and self-respect, without making us egotistical. The same responsibility makes us more tolerant of other reasonably worth while individuals, as to their minor shortcomings and faults, at the same time interposing a barrier between our own selected companionship and the companionship of those who are vile, vicious, cruel or degraded.
It must be recognized that happiness cannot be attained unless we accept responsibility. If we are therefore willing to accept responsibility we can automatically use this to enable us to become worth while companions. Companionship is necessary. It is inevitable. The only real question is our choice of companionship. Our real responsibility lies first in selecting worth while companions, and second, but more important, to keep up our own standards so that any group of worth while individuals would be glad to have us as companions and to freely offer us their own companionship.
H. B. MONJAR – June, 1936