“There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his worth” (Sirach 6:8)
Author John Cuddeback, in his book True Friendship: Where Virtue Become Happiness, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2021) tells how the ancient Greeks, such as Aristotle and Plato, wrote a good deal about friendship. Aristotle taught that there were three kinds of friendship. He called the first “pleasant friendship,” where friendship is basically about having a good time together, socializing together. This friendship is particularly found in young people. The second kind of friendship is “useful friendship,” in which each person receives some benefit from the other. The third kind of friendship Aristotle calls “virtuous friendship” in which the other person is loved because of who he is himself. “Virtuous” friendship can grow out of the first two kinds. But in the “pleasant” and “useful” friendships, persons are not loved because of who they are in themselves.
Aristotle was convinced that human happiness, requires human friendship. Aristotle thought that a happy man must have developed a true friendship. He described virtuous friendship as “the crowning gift of happiness.”
Aristotle held that “virtuous” or “true” (Cuddeback) friendships were rare. The ancient Greeks in general thought that true friends were few. This was so because virtuous persons are rare. Another reason is that true friendships take time and sustained effort to form. To grow in friendship, we need to give time to it. True friendship unfolds gradually. It requires seeing the other person in various circumstances of life and seeing how the person responds to various situations. The friendship does not simply happen. It takes a long time for two people to truly get to know each other We can really go deeper with only a few people. It should be noted that for Aristotle true friendship exists among people who are truly good people.
The following are recognized as characteristics of true friendship: there has to be some equality, some sameness. According to Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, any friendship consists in some kind of equality. And the more we are like another, the more we can really understand and enter into the other’s life. Aristotle points out that where there is great difference, it is difficult to be friends; the more difficult it will be to enter into each other’s life and understand each other.
Values match up, friends have the same likes and dislikes. True friends like to do the same kind of things. They share a vision of what life is all about. True friends experience each other as being part of themselves in some profound way. They are what C.S. Lewis calls “kindred souls.” A true friend wants what is best for the other person. True friends rejoice over the blessings for the other. One’s friend is more excited about one’s success than his friend is. As John Cuddeback put it, during the most difficult times a true friend will be Simon of Cyrene for the other. Someday when we come to stand before the judgment throne of God, our true friend will argue on our behalf. Good friends engage in good conversations. They can also enjoy sitting in silence with each other. They pray for and with each other. They may discuss theology. There is loyalty and trustworthiness. One’s true friend is one’s confidant, one’s conscience, one’s cheerleader. A true friend is your compagnons de voyage. True friendship involves a love that is self-giving and self-sacrificing.
Kyler Shumway (The Friendship Formula) offers some what she calls “Friendship fortifiers.” Some of them would be:
Gratitude, words of thanks; even saying thank you as part of your goodbye.
Notice the small things a friend does for you.
Say “I’m proud of you” for something the friend may have accomplished.
Empathize with the friend’s situation.
Find good opportunities for self-disclosure.
Shumway claims that one of the ways to deepen a friendship is to make a journey together.
There is a depth and beauty to true friendship that you don’t find anywhere else. True friendship recognizes true goodness in the other person. It is rooted in true knowledge of another person. And one needs a true friend to help one see one’s self. “Ubi amor, ibi oculus” – “where there is love, there is the power to see.”
There are limitations on one’s ability to share one’s life with other people. We can really go deeper with only a few people. Hence, as Aristotle thought, true friendships are rare.
There are relationships that go by the name “friendship” but are not truly true friendships.
We form “acquaintances” or “attachments.” We are friendly, we chat and have laughs and enjoy one another’s company. We trade favors. However, we are not truly close, are not invested in each other’s lives.
There are many people who say they have never experienced a significant, enduring friendship. Researchers speak of an epidemic of loneliness in our society.
In the end, it is probably true to say that we do not make a true friendship happen – it is an unmerited gift that we receive. These relationships are not by pure chance. It is not an accident that two people come together. True friends are a gift. They are not manufactured. One true friend in life is an amazingly huge gift. In the end, as John Cuddeback claims, true friendship is a gift from God. There is more going on than meets the eye. A secret Master of Ceremonies is at work.
“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he that has found one has found a treasure” (Sirach 6:8)
(Dr. Hicks runs two Bible Studies on the second week of the month: one on Tuesday mornings, the other on Thursday evenings. Anyone interested send your email to bergCarole@yahoo.com or MariJopanettieri@charter.net, or firstname.lastname@example.org)