Friendship is a bond that allows strangers to open up to each other, to look out for each other. It should be forgiving, kind and trusting. However, it can be tainted by competitiveness. It’s something that erodes away even the oldest and strongest of relationships. It creeps in casually, looking for weak joints in the friendship, breaking them individually and deliberately.

Competitive friendship begins with silent comparisons. As we talk about grades, social engagements or extra-curricular activities with this friend, we get dissatisfied when the comparisons are not in our favour, and a triumphant feeling when they are. Of course, we send out obligatory congratulations when they do better and put ourselves down modestly when we do better. This stage is entirely invisible to outsiders; sometimes even the participants are oblivious of it.

Then the cracks continue to widen in the friendship. The dissatisfaction grows. Thoughts about how we are equally qualified or how they don’t deserve it, or how they won’t stop babbling about their accomplishments frequent our minds; sometimes we even say them aloud. The daily interactions become a conflicting experience: the pleasure of winning, the frustration of losing and the guilt of feeling the former two emotions entwine with each other. One part of us feels that we should confess, communicate or break off this competitive friendship, but another part of us asks for more.

The final stage is always ugly. There are open remarks of sarcasm, bitterness and challenge. Tension builds every time an interaction occurs. We look at past memories through the tainted glass of jealousy and competitiveness. All the fond, happy memories become distorted, either them always acting like they are better or them trying to put us down, refusing to appreciate our true value. Most competitive friendships end here, some with a dramatic confrontation.

Friendship is a precious thing. It should be mutually supportive. There is no reason to hate our friends for their accomplishments if we wouldn’t hate a stranger for achieving the same ones. And if it is clear that the friendship cannot continue, then don’t elongate the torture. Even until the very end, friendship should end with honesty and openness.