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The world is full of warring brothers, sisters, spouses, communities and nations. The meanings of words such as 'brother' or 'spouse' have become defunct, now referring to a merely technical connection with each other in terms of their DNA or a legal contract rather than the deeper relationships of love, companionship and friendship, as they did previously. The cause of the warring? Old rivalries, old grudges, misunderstandings and conflicts of value systems. The last goes to the root of it all. It is not, as many would like to believe, that most people are inherently deceptive, scheming or selfish. What is intrinsic to people is their value systems - the priorities and hierarchical structures of things they value most in their lives - it may be money, power, adventure, security, health, career, studies, fame, the opposite sex, friends, family or something as simple as food, sports, dancing, partying and sometimes something very much deeper, such as philanthropy, social work or God. Any one of these can take precedence over all the others if it is at the top of his or her value system. And we cannot force someone to renounce his or her values under duress or even through logically justifying our values to be better than theirs. Value systems lie on a deeper level than intellectual systems. For example, in Louisiana, USA, a train crashed over a bridge and fell into the river below. The carriages began to sink rapidly as water flooded into them. Rescue teams arrived promptly, but there was little time to spare. Water had already reached chin level in the compartments. One young couple was trapped with their young cerebral palsy-afflicted child. Rescuers reached into the compartment to pull the couple out. Instead, they handed over their baby and perished as their compartment submerged moments later. An act of heroism or foolishness? Both views can be argued vehemently. But arguing changes nothing. For that particular couple, there existed no other option. Saving the baby first was the only thing to do.

Understanding that other people don't always have the same value systems we do is the first and most crucial step towards creating friendship or resolving strife. It makes it easier for us to let go more often. Too many discussions on trivial matters such as the distance from Mumbai to Delhi end up in argument and bitter exchanges! Learn to laugh and change the topic or just agree or keep quiet. Talk about subjects which interest others, not yourself, even if those subjects are truly boring. Remember, they mean a lot in the value system of the other person. Ask them how they got involved in the subject and about their experiences and opinions. The more people you show interest in, the more friends you'll have. But remember, do not assume that friends are primarily for helping you. That may be disastrous. That thought represents your value system. Theirs may just be that friends are for chatting and listening to.

In serious matters, however, all individuals should enter a mutual, written agreement in the company of witnesses from both sides - even in dealings with one's father, brother, wife, son or best friend. Remember, they may not all share the same value system as you - for example - "trust" or "gentlemanship." Or their value systems might easily change in the future. For instance, when young, many people subscribe to the value "all for one and one for all". Later, after many thankless experiences they furiously switch over to "every man for himself." So, if a person refuses to enter into such a written agreement with you, make some excuse and just call off the plan. Even if it sours relations a little, it won't sour them as much as it will years later when people begin to say, "I didn't promise any such thing," or, "You told me you were going to do this and that." Another important reason for such legal dealings even with those close to us is so that the agreement cannot be contested by other people in the event of the signatory passing away or becoming mentally impaired due to illness, accident or old age, etc.

The master formula is: to get a friend, be a friend. But please choose your friends carefully. Their value system will determine their destiny. Associating with them may determine yours, too.

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