The Japanese have a term, kenzoku, which translated literally means “family.” The connotation suggests a bond between people who have made a similar commitment and who therefore possibly share a similar fate. It implies the presence of the deepest connection of friendship, of lived lives as comrades of the distant past.
Many of us have people in our lives with whom we feel the bond described by the word kenzoku. They can be family members, mother, brother, daughter, cousin. Or a friend from the grammar school we have not spoken to for decades. Time and distance do not diminish the bond we have with these types of friends.
The question then arises: why do we have the kind of chemistry encapsulated by the word kenzoku with only a few people we know and not others? The closer we get to the answer, the more elusive it becomes. It may not actually be possible to know, but the characteristics that define a kenzoku relationship certainly are.
1. Common Interests This probably unites us closer to our friends than most would like to admit. When our interests diverge and we can not find anything to enjoy together, the time spent together tends to decrease rapidly. Not that we can not care deeply about friends with whom we no longer share common interests, but it is probably unusual for these friends to interact regularly.
2. History Nothing unites people, even people with little in common, than having experienced the same difficult experience. As the only glue to keep entire friendships in the long run, however, often dry, crack and ultimately fail.
3. common values. While not necessarily enough to create a friendship, if values are too divergent, it is difficult for a friendship to thrive.
4. Equality. If a friend needs the support of the other on a consistent basis in such a way that the person relies on receiving no benefit beyond the opportunity to support and encourage, as long as the relationship can be meaningful and valuable, it can not be said to define a true friendship.
1. A commitment to your happiness. A true friend is constantly willing to put his happiness before his friendship. They say that “good advice irritates the ears,” but a true friend does not refrain from telling you something you do not want to hear, something that might even risk breaking your friendship if you hear it is in your best interest. A true friend will not lose mercy to correct you when you are wrong. A true friend will confront you with your drinking problem as quickly as telling you about a malignant-looking skin lesion on the back that you can not see.
2. Do not ask that you put the friendship before your principles. A true friend will not ask you to compromise your principles in the name of your friendship or anything else. Ever.
3. A good influence. A true friend inspires you to live up to your best potential, not to satisfy your most basic impulses. Of course we can have friends who meet all these criteria and still do not feel good kenzoku. There still seems to be an extra factor, an attraction similar to that which attracts people romantically, which unites friends irrevocably, often immediately, for no reason that anyone can identify. But when you find these people, these kenzoku, they are like invaluable jewels. They are like finding home.
This is easy, at least on paper: become a true friend. One of our favorite quotations comes from Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
Be the friend you want to have.
We all tend to attract people into our lives whose character mirrors ours. You do not have to become what you think others find attractive. No matter what your areas of interest, other people share them somewhere. Just become a great target. Join social clubs organized around activities that you like. Enjoy the Internet to find people of similar mind. Take action.
While we think about it, we have four people here that I consider kenzoku. How many do you have.

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