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Human beings are fundamentally social creatures who are biologically hardwired to connect with each other. Friendship is a cornerstone element of human experience that has proven to be one of the things that is cherished throughout our collective lifespan.

What constitutes a truly “good” friend? Aristotle classified friendships in three categories: of pleasure, of utility, and of virtue.

A friend of pleasure would be considered someone with whom you enjoy spending time, and someone who gives you a direct sense of contentment.

Friends of utility are people who you befriend mostly as a means to an end, without a real prerequisite of genuine connection. These can be found in work relationships and any other that is based on mutual exchange.

Friends of virtue are regarded as the highest calibre of friends, since they are people who embody all the classical attributes of an enduring companion (integrity, good character, etc.). This is the type of person that makes you a better human being just by being around them.

But aside from these three classifications, what really makes a “good” friend stand out from the rest?

In my experience, the best kinds of friends act as mirrors. They are the ones who recognize the sparks of brilliance that you have inside you and help ignite that flame, turning it into a burning fire that pushes you forward in life. But a true friend is also someone who will call you out on your crap, and can identify all your glaring character flaws.

Most often, the friends who have the most profound effect on our lives are the ones that do not just see us for who we are, but for who we have the potential to become. They need to believe in us and see things in us that we are either oblivious to or regard as a doubtful fantasy. That feeling of being given a clear vision of yourself is almost transcendental. It penetrates our blinding fog and allows us to get a temporary glimpse of our true potential.

In order to see the potential in others you must learn to see it in yourself as well. This is the crux of this exploration into friendship. The calibre of friends you surround yourself with oftentimes reflects your inner world. So before we ask what makes a good friend, we must first become one ourselves.