Choose Your Associates Wisely

 Posted by on 13 August 2013 at 10:00 am  Character, Ethics, Justice, Relationships
Aug 132013

Last night when watching the excellent television show Major Crimes, I was struck by these words of wisdom from Sharon Raydor: “If you hang out with criminals, you eventually will become a witness, a suspect, or a victim.” Or, I would add, an accomplice.

Too many people think that they can immunize themselves from friends and associates of dubious character… somehow. It’s just not true. If you choose to maintain ties with destructive, crazy, malicious, negligent, irrational, or otherwise sordid people, they will splash their crazy on you, again and again. As a matter of self-protection, you need distance.

I said much more on this topic in the 4 August 2013 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, in answering the question on red flags in relationships. It’s a long discussion, but I was quite proud of it. It’s particularly helpful, I think, to good people apt to get “taken in” by not-so-good people.

If you’ve not yet heard the episode, you can listen to or download the relevant segment of the podcast here:

For more details, check out the question’s archive page.

  • Damon Payne

    I’ve long felt that this is also true in the opposite direction. If you want to be an entrepreneur, hang out with some. If you want to be fit it helps to have friends who would rather go to the gym than to the bar.

    • Diana Hsieh


  • John Pryce

    What you were saying about someone not respecting boundaries…

    I’ve occasionally been guilty of that, with respect to certain conversation topics. Fortunately I remain friends with said person, but…

    Frankly, it really wasn’t because I was incapable of respecting said boundaries, but more because of the difficulty of having anything to talk about with this person I saw on a regular basis (she worked at our family ranch) if I never spoke on the subjects of politics or economics. So many of the topics I was actually interested in were at least peripherally related to one of those, so bringing up anything I read or heard about or saw on the news or something was likely to cross one of those boundaries.

    I think you can imagine my frustration. I genuinely liked this girl (not romantically), but we had gone from genuinely good friends to people who didn’t have a lot to talk about besides certain aspects of pop culture (which could easily degenerate into discussions of philosophy and politics) and our college classes (we only ever shared one, and she was studying something I didn’t have much interest in, whereas I was pursuing a profession).

    And its not like she didn’t have political opinions. She certainly posted enough things indicating various political positions on Facebook. According to her, she didn’t want to talk about economics because she wasn’t interested, and politics because she didn’t want to argue with me.

    Our relationship has since stabilized, but while sometimes I feel guilty, other times I wonder whether I should or not.

  • Zach

    I really don’t agree. It’s one thing to disassociate with those who harm others, but seeking to quarantine yourself from all who appear “crazy” or “irrational” is a fool’s errand. Even those who have a bad side may have something beneficial to teach, if you are willing to listen.

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