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Characteristics of a Good Friend
By Joe Ely Carrales III

When people think of a good friendship, what images come to mind? Do they envision the guys at the office that joke around at the water-cooler, or do they remember the guy that was with the at Omaha Beach and was killed before the company could establish a beachhead? While these individuals can be described as a friend, what are the characteristics that determine what a 'good' friend is? This essay will discuss the three major test areas that characterize good friendship; true closeness, respectful sarcasm and sacrifice.


In order to be someone's friend, one must establish some form of closeness. True closeness is the first, great step in a good friendship. There are two ways to develop true closeness, ordeal and competition.

Ordeal can best be defined as the experience that one endures with a friend. The guys at the office are good friends because they understand all the hand work and networking that each one of them had to go through. By comparing their pasts, the office workers can relate, and thus establish a basic good friendship with the others.

The soldiers, on the other hand, train together for weeks at a time and experience something slightly different. Both soldiers have been 'pulled out' of their usual environments by means of some military draft, so they share only that as an experience. The rest evolves out of working together and knowing that each will have the other's life in his hands some day. As training continues and time passes, their good friendship is cemented by the common fear of death, as D-day approaches, as well as with the bridging of their pasts, through stories of pre-war life. As a result, both soldiers become each other's 'buddy', a synonym for good friend.

Ordeal is only one way to bring friends together, the other way is through competition. Both the office worker and the soldier use competition as a way to advance and promote themselves. Competition, by fueling such advancement, draws members of groups together to beat whatever odds that they must beat. For instance, the office workers must compete against other departments that must in turn, together, compete against other companies; while the soldiers must compete against other platoons that, again together, must compete against the enemy. This perpetuates closeness.


From what I have written on closeness, one can determine that it is and important building block of good friendship; however, while closeness is key, it is important to develop respect and some form of judgment in respect to sarcasm. This is the test that we often fail because we, or our friend, misjudge what the other says. The term respectful sarcasm is the oxymoronic name that I use to describe this characteristic of good friendship.

When you mix with the guys at the office, or anyone else, sarcasm tends to arise in the forms of wise cracks and cruel jokes. A good friend will understand that such behavior is ment as a jest or an ice-breaker; however, people that you have not bonded with will not understand the situation in that way. These people will take the remark personally and the result will be that the pending friendship will collapse, or develop into an unstable one.

Soldiers, unlike co-workers, are forced to live and die with each other. Respectful sarcasm becomes a necessity between men of similar rank, due to the fact that the sergeant, or officers, will inflict real sarcasm as a method to increase performance. When closeness and respectful sarcasm are fully developed, the road to becoming a good friend is nearly over.


The last test of a good friendship is the ability to handle the costs of friendship and to make sacrifices. I have come to believe that a long with friendship comes heartache. In all cases of friendship comes the danger of instability. Obstacles, barriers and blind hatred often hurt the tender bonds between friends. At such times sacrifice becomes important. A selfless act can do much to repair a damaged friendship and strengthen an already strong one. It is a logical reaction; when we help our friends, we help our friendship. A simple payment of these costs will insure a friendship that will last a lifetime.

To further demonstrate this point, let us again look at the soldiers. After meeting the first two tests, and passing them with flying colors, the big day arrives. as the operation is in full swing they focus on the task at hand, the invasion. Running, one soldier notices an enemy rise and take aim at his buddy. Instinctively, he throws himself in front of the on coming bullet, saving his friend's life.

The friend, now powerless from what he has witnessed, drops to his fallen comrades side and prays. His friend is now gone and he realizes, as he will to his dying day, that this, now lifeless, body was his one best friend.

While this good friendship truly began with a death; the friendships we desire need not the ultimate sacrifice. Many small sacrifices can and will easily equal a large one.

In conclusion it is evident that, when we think of a good friendship the images that should come to our mind should include true closeness, respectful sarcasm and sacrifice, where understanding, ordeal and competition can be used for harmonious purposes. After all, a good friend is one that needs us as much as we need them.