Culture of friendship needs reshaping

Dr Mathew Mathews spoke of the need to facilitate ways for Singaporeans to build stronger friendship ties, which requires individual effort and can be fostered by local community agencies ("Why friends matter"; July 25 ).

However, I suggest that beyond individual effort or community help, what also needs to be addressed is the contemporary view and culture of friendship.

I have observed that in our society, friendships tend to be valued much less than romantic relationships.

This is shown when we hear two friends who are not romantically partnered or a couple who have broken up say that they are "just friends".

Or when two friends of the opposite gender grow closer to each other, they might be teased about being romantically involved.

Such behaviour, when done excessively, surfaces the mis-assumption that a healthy and close platonic friendship between a man and a woman is not possible or satisfying in and of itself.

Friendships must be prized as highly as romantic ties. Friendship is not a consolation prize and friends are not dispensable or replaceable.

Rather, friendship is where healthy, self-giving platonic connection can take place outside the family.

It must not be utilitarian, based only on what one can get out of one's friends, but selfless, and oriented towards bettering the good of one's friends.

In order to facilitate ways to build stronger friendship ties, it is important to foster a robust culture in which strong friendships are valued and practised.

Zhang Jieqiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline 'Culture of friendship needs reshaping'. Print Edition | Subscribe