“Young man, be aware of these four enemies disguised as friends:
- The Taker
- The Talker
- The Flatterer and
- The Reckless companion.
- “The taker can be identified by four things:
- By only taking,
- Asking for a lot while giving little,
- Performing duty out of fear, and
- Offering service in order to gain something.
- “The talker can be identified by four things:
- By reminding of past generosity,
- Promising future generosity,
- Mouthing empty words of kindness, and
- Protesting personal misfortune when called on to help.
- “The flatterer can be identified by four things:
- By supporting both bad and good behavior indiscriminately,
- Praising you to your face, and putting you down behind your back.
- “The reckless companion can be identified by four things:
- By accompanying you in drinking, roaming around at night, partying, and gambling.”
That is what the Buddha said.
So in life, you can use these 4 criteria to give you an idea of what people are like – and this helps you to build a picture of them in 4 different dimensions:
- Are they Givers OR Takers?
- Is their talk cheap? OR do they honor their word?
- Do they say things just to flatter you? (and talk behind your back?)
- Do they bring their other friends to ruin?
Let’s see if we can go into a little bit more detail.
Using these 4 criteria, in the Sigalovada Sutta, the Buddha tells us to be aware of 4 types of friends because they are actually enemies in disguise – and how to identify them:
Young people, be aware of these four enemies disguised as friends:
- The Taker: In life, there are givers and there are takers. Takers can be identified by these things:
- Like to take their friends’ stuff
- They asking for a lot, while giving little
- Does things in order to gain something or seek some advantage or out of fear.
- The Talk is Cheap Friend: These people say empty words and only render lip service – they are all talk and no action. But talk is cheap – it’s easy for people to talk big, but when it comes down to it, they can’t deliver on their actions. They are unreliable – so be weary of relying on them in times of need. They can be identified thus:
- They remind you of what they did for you in the past and promise things they’ll do for you in the future
- They’ll try to get on your good side by mouthing empty words to you
- When you want them to help, they’ll say that they can’t (e.g., they’ll cry about their misfortune)
- The Flatterer: Can be identified thus:
- They’ll approve of your bad deeds and tell you off for your good deeds
- Say nice things in front of you, and but will say bad things about you behind your back.
- The Friend who Brings Ruin: They accompany you in:
- Drinking – If you get intoxicated – infatuation and heedlessness arises – so you can easily (without realizing it) do lots of stupid things that you may regret later – and even suffer the consequences of those actions for the rest of your life.
- Roaming around at night – because of the danger you can encounter at night – as it’s dark and people can get away with things without being seen or caught.
- Partying – related to the above 2 as well as realizing the preciousness of your time. And inch of time is worth more than a pound of gold – so treasure it wisely. Enjoy yourself but be careful not to let your time (and therefore life) go to waste frivolously.
- Gambling – this is how you lose your hard earned money fast [and potentially split your family up because of financial troubles in the process] because the odds are always on the house. This can be addictive too – as people like to win big with little to no effort – but the downside is how often
Summing up in verse, the sublime teacher said:
- The friend who is all take
- The friend of empty words
- The friend full of flattery, and
- The reckless friend;
These 4 are NOT friends, but enemies.
The wise understand this and keep them at a distance as they would a dangerous path.”