Knowing Yourself Well, Would You Choose You as a Friend?

The Evening Standard (London, England), April 26, 2012 | Go to article overview

Knowing Yourself Well, Would You Choose You as a Friend?


Byline: Charles Saatchi

WHAT do you like most about yourself ? What's the best part of being you? What specific character trait do you want to be known for? These are some of the unappetising questions I put to myself in seeking an answer to this; the only comfort I could find was my feeling that those who look for friends without faults will have none.

I did receive a Friendship Card once, but I always feared the greetings message inside was meant ironically.

Some days are cold and dark, Some make us feel so alone, Some days are hard to understand, On those days God knew we'd need and extra hug or two, So he gave us friends, So that we would always have an angel close when we needed one.

I never heard from this friend again, and could never trace him, so I assume it was a deathbed note, or he emigrated to avoid me.

Before you can make a success of life, in work as well as spiritually and socially, do you believe it is imperative to stick to the maxim "Know thyself "? Socrates' familiar view -- that the unexamined life is not worth living -- was probably inspired by the inscription "Know thyself" at the shrine of the oracle of Delphi. He saw in his fellow citizens of Athens a society that craved only money, power and fame, Which worse that friend's feelings, the that them deeply? and was doomed to forever try to enlighten them.

Sadly, despite Socrates and the other great philosophers who followed him, society today appears indistinguishable from that of the Socratic era, except with knobs on. So best not to do too much internalising, particularly if, like me, the view inside is not all that appealing. Do you ever look up old school colleagues or attend school reunions, seek out friends from your young days, looking for them on Facebook, or on sites like Friends Reunited? My youth is definitely Friends Disunited, and I don't know if that's because I'm too stuck here in the present, or too nervous about what I may dig up about my past.

Equally, people who knew me when I was young have been studiously effective at not seeking me out, and they must have their reasons.

Which is worse -- a fib that saves a friend's feelings, or the truth that upsets them deeply? I always feel that telling the truth and making someone cry is just as bad as telling a lie and making them smile. But I've been called a "phoney" so many times over the years, I've decided it's probably true.

As long as you accept that it's okay to be partially phoney, part of the time, I think this flaw applies to most people. …

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