Man is a social creature. None can live alone, away from the society of his fellow being, like shipwrecked Alexandra Selkirk who aspired for company in the lonely island. It is always very natural for him to seek the company of others. Even when all his immediate physical needs are met, he must have someone to talk to enjoy himself with. At home he has his near and dear ones by his side. But that is not enough. He must have other companions— friends to whom he can unburden his heart and with whom he can exchange his ideas and share his enthusiasm.
Hence, we must intimately associate with others; we must do so that our friends may come to exert a great deal of influence over us, on our character and conduct. Man is by nature imitative, and he will often be led to imitate others.
For good or for evil, others very often lead and guide us. They may mould our tastes and interest, and shape our character. We become good or bad as our friends are. For instance, if a man is virtuous and honest, he will by his speech and conduct inspire his friends with goodness and honesty. Similarly, if our friends are wicked, we may follow them do as they do and become wicked ourselves. Naturally, we cannot blame people if they judge us by the company we keep. The same boy shapes differently if placed in different companies.
Furthermore, no companionship, at least no lasting companionship is possible unless the parties have similar tastes and interests, likes and dislikes. It is like the magnetic affinity. A man who is bad in instinctively drawn to those who are similarly bad. It has been most truly said that birds of the same feather flock together. Here also the character of our companions is an index of our own character. If he does not show his dislike nor try to avoid uncongenial company, having found undeserving, he will surely, in course of time, become quite as bad as his friend. It is quite axiomatic that one who is virtuous will shun the company of those who are given to the ways of vice. He will try to make friends with those that are good and on the right path.
Companionship thus is a positive factor not only in the formation of character but in the estimation of man’s true worth. It is at once an influence on character and a measure of one’s real worth. A man is often judged by the collective quality and identity of his group. Nobody will believe that a particular robber of the gang is honest. As we are drawn to men who feel and act like ourselves and we are influenced by them. An estimate of the moral character of an individual can easily by made in reference to that of his companions. He cannot be different from his friends. So we conclude that he is what his friends are. Just as one rotten mango spoils the rest in the basket, similarly one wicked man corrupts a lot of friends.
In the choice of our companions, we must be cautious and careful because on this choice depends so much. Before we make friends with others, we must watch their conduct and know what kind of men they actually are. But as children do not know what is right and wrong, parents must see that boys and girls do not fall into evil company. This task should begin at school, — in the formative years of a boy or girl.