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The Power of Association: How Friends Can Lift You Up Or Drag You Down

Updated on October 23, 2013
Best Friends
Best Friends | Source

Friends can help you or harm you

It is great to have friends. They are our confidants, our rocks our support and they define us. The importance of friends can never be over emphasized but can it be that we place too much store on friendships even to our own detriment. When friends work to lift us up and support us, there is no greater a relationship; when they constantly deride us and prevent us from achieving our dreams they can become a noose around the neck, choking your creativity and free will.

Colin Powell wrote an insightful piece on the Power of Association:

“As you grow, your associates will change. Some of your friends will not want you to go on. They will want you to stay where they are. Friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl. Your friends will stretch your vision or choke your dream. Those that don’t increase you will eventually decrease you”

If the power of association is so strong then it is more likely than not that we are inclined to listen to the advice of our close associates, our friends, emulate them in certain ways and share our most intimate secrets with them. The bonds of friendships are sometimes stronger than some marriages and like some marriages they can be either negative or positive. A friend, who criticizes you constantly, takes you for granted or takes advantage of your friendship, can create a very unequal relationship which can be damaging to one’s self esteem and ability to grow.

On a recent cruise, we were seated with a couple of ladies who said they were friends for 35 years and they were celebrating their 35 years as friends by taking a cruise. One was widowed and the other left her husband behind since he was not into the cruise experience. For the 11 nights we had dinner together, I observed a true bond, one that was positive and uplifting. They supported each other, got along great and had so much fun together. For them, it was clear to see why their friendship lasted that long and why they appeared to be the happiest couple on board.

How often have you been in the department store and overheard one friend discouraging another from buying a dress or pair of shoes that looked entirely smashing as far as you were concerned? And how often have you heard one friend belittling another and passing it off as a joke? Would such a friend actually encourage you to fulfill your dreams, support you wholeheartedly and give you the best advice? I think not.

I always wondered what a sweet, talented girl like Whitney Houston, in her early days of fame, had in common with Bobby Brown but I immediately assumed that because they were together, they had to have a lot in common and so we found out years later that they did. Perhaps Whitney was not as sweet as we thought and was attracted to someone who shared her likes and dislikes to some extent. On the other hand, she could have been sweet and innocent and became someone else by association with the wrong crowd. We will never know for sure but one thing is certain, according to Colin Powell, “friends that don’t help you climb will want you to crawl”

It is very important that we screen our friends, and review and assess our relationships with friends from time to time. Yes, as social beings we all have the need to be liked and to “have” someone in our corner that we can call “friend”. However, we need to be very picky about who we choose to be our friends. I am in no way advocating snobbery but you must understand that you are important too and if your friend enjoys a criminal lifestyle, you probably will too eventually.


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 13 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Joan,

      Tremendous writing. Loved it. And friend, you hit the nail on the head about how much power we give to our friends.

      I have two DEAR FRIENDS, both female. They are as different as daylight and dark, but both add something to my life and both do not tear me down about anything.

      Both are college-educated with teaching degrees and yet, they never speak to how less intelligent I am because I never had the chance to attend college.

      These two women are prime examples of NEEDFUL friends.

    • Joan King profile image

      Joan King 5 years ago

      Glen Stok it took a lot of courage to give up a friend that you new for so long. In the end even though you stop associating with toxic friends, it doesn't mean that yu don't still love them and wish them the best, but you don't need to go down the slippery slope with them. Thanks for your comments.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      You are so right about this. As you said, we need to "review and assess our relationships with friends from time to time." I recently stopped being friends with someone I knew since we were five years old. He became very toxic to everyone in his life. He didn't treat his wife or daughter well at all. And he asked me to lie to his wife and to his daughter. That's when I realized I needed to stop associating with him.

      It's unfortunate that we run into these types of people. Your article is very useful since many people don't pay attention and continue to associate with toxic friends who will pull them down.

    • Joan King profile image

      Joan King 5 years ago

      Yes it is a tough step to take with someone you consider your friend but necessary for your best interest.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 5 years ago

      Very insightful and true.Some friends that don't help you grow have to be put at a distance so they don't affect your future.Even though there are many good reasons why you have remained friends for so long.

    • profile image

      niza 5 years ago

      like the saying goes show me your friends ill tell you who you are.

    • Joan King profile image

      Joan King 5 years ago

      It can be a very wonderful experience to have friends who are a positive influence in your life and it is a relationship that should be cherished. Thanks for visiting.

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      Very nice hub. I have always had few friends who I also categorize. All my friends have been positive instruments in my life.

    • ekstrom002 profile image

      ekstrom002 5 years ago

      Thanks Joan.

    • Joan King profile image

      Joan King 5 years ago

      ekstrom002 So true about the power of individuality. Hopefully you like yourself enough

      Jaggedfrost that is a great idea categorizing your friends, then you know which ones inspire you and which ones you need to inspire.

    • Jaggedfrost profile image

      Jaggedfrost 5 years ago

      Very thoughtful article. I usually divide my friends into two categories. The ones I let inspire me and the ones I endeavor to inspire. I never cross those lines unless someone in either group shows signs of changing nature.

    • ekstrom002 profile image

      ekstrom002 5 years ago

      This is very true, your friends can sometimes make you do things you otherwise wouldn't have. They can also have an effect on the way others perceive you. It's always important to try to stay true to yourself, though. The power of individuality is stronger than any exterior influence.

    • Joan King profile image

      Joan King 5 years ago

      Yes we do begin to behave like the people we associated with to the point that we may not even notice we are adapting their behaviour and attitudes. thanks for the comment.

    • Rosalinem profile image

      Rosalinem 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      I so agree with you, it funny after spending time with people we actually start behaving like them including the way they talk. Voted up and useful