Ahedo, J., Caro, C., & Arteaga-Martínez, C. (Coords.) (2022). La familia: ¿es una escuela de amistad? [The family: Is it a school for friendship?]. (Paula Álvarez Urda)

Ahedo, J., Caro, C., & Arteaga-Martínez, C.
(Coords.) (2022). La familia: ¿es una escuela de amistad? [The family: Is it a school for friendship?]
Dykinson. 190 pp.


Friendship is one of the fundamental pillars of any person. It is impossible to imagine what human relations would be like without a sense of reciprocity, of sharing the personal with others, of interchanging or sacrificing for the good of a friend or of listening actively to learn mutually. Friendship has been and still is one of the most important aspects of human societies, and so it is necessary to reconsider what a healthy relationship really comprises; how much it is possible to forgive, empathise, or sacrifice; why empathy or listening is crucial; what real need does a human have to establish links with others; and how the way we make new friends has changed in a society that is so fast moving and digitised. Above all, it is essential to reflect on the role that the family plays in the formation of new friendships that we make throughout our lives and analyse what actions or attitudes that it instils in us might be most appropriate and which are not so much when establishing new links. The book La familia: ¿es una escuela de amistad?, coordinated by Josu Ahedo, Carmen Caro, and Blanca Arteaga-Martínez, considers in great detail and very precisely all of these aspects from different perspectives.

The work is structured in four sections with a total of fourteen chapters, each written by authors from different Spanish universities. It starts with a very interesting prologue on the importance of the book’s subject matter and how it is organised. The first section considers emotion in friendship, covering aspects as important as forgiveness, the development of the person, growth in values, and confidence. The second section tackles help in friendship and covers topics such as empathy, solidarity, and learning to create friendships from the everyday and family sphere. The third section comprises chapters with very interesting points that consider the friendship of values, such as wonder, generosity, transcendence, virtuosity, and imperfection. Finally, the fourth section, whose point of interest is the networks with which we establish and sustain friendships, focusses on educating at a family level, how to create lasting links, and the role that social networks play in relationships nowadays.

The first chapter revolves around the importance of forgiveness in friendship. It starts by stating that in friendships there can also be facts, situations or actions that are not correct or are displeasing to the other, that is to say, that one of the members of the relationship is damaging it. Nonetheless, it is worth thinking calmly about what has happened and analysing the intentions, motives, and attitude of the person who caused the harm, as well as asking whether it is possible to hold a conversation about the subject and arrive at an understanding, and forgiveness to heal both the injured party and the person causing the harm. Or instead, whether it is really worth maintaining this relationship if the harmful situation is continuously repeated or there is no clear repentance. Therefore, the family must be an agent that teaches about forgiveness as something healthy that a human being can do in relationships with others, both the fact of forgiving and that of being forgiven, but it is necessary to know its limits and its true value.

Chapter two tackles the close relationship between friendship and personal growth, as the former is an essential requirement for the latter to occur. This text specifically and literally analyses the saying a friend is a treasure, since, as the book argues, it is. This is because creating connections with other people, listening to them or sharing experiences with them helps us to know more about others, but it also produces introspection: it leads us to analyse ourselves. Therefore, a true friendship is essential for a quality life, in which we count on someone who helps us in any situation, even to grow as people.

Chapter three is closely aligned with the previous one, as it focuses on friendship as a source of growth in values. It is a bond that should not focus solely on the material, but which goes further and requires a sense of reciprocity where the people who maintain this relationship have the necessary will to share experiences that personally enrich them and help both members of the relationship to grow in values. Therefore, family and friendship are closely linked when we transmit values to each other and help us grown as people.

Chapter four considers trust and its role in friendship. The author first invites the reader to reflect by making a very interesting comparison with the prisoner’s dilemma. This chapter also tackles an interesting concept: methodical mistrust, which can protect against deceptions and appears in relationships where there is a certain existential incoherence. It also insists on the friendship of superiority, which appears in parents with regards to children, as something normalised and considers trust in this type of relationship, as well as the place of hope in friendship, which is a source of optimism for human relationships.

Starting the second  section, chapter five is based on empathy and the importance of putting ourselves in the place of our friends, as they are another part of us. This capacity is fundamental for establishing true relationships of friendship and, therefore, it is also important to learn to listen to others to develop even further empathy for those who surround us. The family should, therefore, be an agent that promotes the importance of listening and of putting ourselves in the place of our friends to establish healthy links and so develop empathy.

Chapter six starts with a very enlightening reflection on our identity, in which our names and surnames play a special role. Nonetheless, it questions what the links or aspects that truly make us authentic are, including the people we love. It also centres on the analysis of coexistence, both in the home and with ourselves, and it questions whether one single person is responsible when establishing or maintaining links that support this coexistence.

Chapter seven is perhaps the most practical in the book, as it sets out everyday case studies in which the family teaches us how to develop ourselves as sociable and friendly people within a community. It provides examples and useful advice in which it is very visible how the everyday trains us to establish relationships with others.

The third section starts with chapter eight, which focusses on how the emotion of wonder makes us open our minds and see beauty in others and in the everyday, and so connect with other people. To do so, it presents three stories that underline this fact, in which the protagonists are a dog, literature, and a group of religious women. In this way, it shows that wonder is fundamental for bringing us together and for wanting to know others, and, as it argues in the concluding notes, wonder is essential for contemplating beauty, opening minds to reality, travelling with full conscience or initiating new friendship relationships.

Chapter nine questions the relationship between generosity and preadolescence. These do not seem to be as incompatible as it may seem, as the chapter shows by explaining the evolutionary foundations of development. It centres on analysing what generosity really is and how it is a fundamental pillar in our relations with others, and it provides a series of very practical and ideas to ensure that generosity is a trending topic among preadolescents.

Chapter ten covers a subject of great spiritual depth, as it relates friendship to transcendence. To do so, it considers terms such as death and plenitude, whose pedagogy is based on salvation, friendship, and virtue. Another revealing aspect that might even stir the reader’s emotions is the reflection on the death of a friend and how the family should be an agent that also educates in this aspect: the transcendence of friendship.

Friendship as a virtue that enables reciprocity between people is the subject of the next chapter. It notes that it is necessary to be virtuous and have a healthy relationship for this reciprocal sensation to function. In this way, it covers friendship seen from an up-to-date perspective and provides a series of reflections and strategies to guide families in a virtuous education in friendship.

Chapter twelve concludes this section by presenting a family case study with some problems and a specific situation, accompanied by a large number of illustrative examples. This situation is the focus throughout the text, as it is a perfect example to understand the relationship between love and friendship or friendship in a couple, along with its consequences, which include the point of view of the children and how they themselves see friendship thanks to the lessons of their parents.

The two chapters from section four complete the book. On the one hand, the author focusses on providing a series of explanations that are of particular interest to families when raising their children to ensure that they can maintain lasting relationships. To do so, she sets out the importance of the role of the family, the different stages of friendship, how to have a large number of quality friendships, and the aspects within the family sphere that can be of use for having and maintaining friendships. On the other hand, the final chapter analyses social networks and how irresponsible use of them is a challenge for families in regards to the appropriate socialisation of their children. It clearly states that a like on a post can conceal many more aspects (not always positive ones) beyond simply saying “I like this”. Therefore, families must stay up to date and be willing to browse with their children in the new digitised era to make them see what a friendship, a gesture of affection, or a real “like” truly are. To do so, it includes a guide as a survival manual for families that have this goal.

This book undoubtedly covers a wide range of subjects and perspectives connected to friendship and the family as a formative agent. In addition, its wealth of advice, stories, examples, philosophical quotes, and case studies allow the reader to delve into each of its chapters about human relations. Given the subject it covers, this is unquestionably an especially useful book for families with children of all ages and also for educators, teachers, or social educators, as it provides an up-to-date and enlightening view of how to educate in friendship.

 

Paula Álvarez Urda