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Conduct Of Life:
Manners When Travelling
How To Dress
Achieve Happiness
Of A Happy Life And Wherein It Consists
Man The Maker Of Happiness
Happiness Through The Pursuit And Use Of Money
The Art Of Having Time
The Miracle Of Tact
Frienship - Part 1
Friendship - Part 2
Friendship - Part 3
The Simple Life
The Essence Of Simplicity
Right Living As A Fine Art

Friendship

( Originally Published 1913 )



The Book of Proverbs might almost be called a treatise on friendship, so full is it of advice about the sort of person a young man should consort with, and the sort of person he should avoid. It is full of shrewd, and prudent, and wise, sometimes almost 'worldly-wise, counsel. It is caustic in its satire about false friends, and about the way in which friendships are broken. "The rich hath many friends," with an easily understood implication concerning their quality. "Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts," is its sarcastic comment on the ordinarv motives of mean men. Its picture of the plausible, fickle, ylip-praising, and time-serving man, who blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, is a delicate piece of satire. The fragile connections among men, as easily broken as mended pottery, get illustration in the mischief-maker who loves to divide men. "A whisper separateth chief friends." There is keen irony here over the quality of ordinary friendship, as well as condemnation of the tale-bearer and his sordid soul.

This cynical attitude is so common that we hardly expect such a shrewd book to speak heartily of the possibilities of human friendship. Its object rather is to put youth on its guard against the dangers and pitfalls of social life. It gives sound commercial advice about avoiding becoming surety for a friend. It warns against the tricks, and cheats, and bad faith, which swarmed in the streets of a city then, as they do still. It laughs, a little bitterly, at the thought that friendship can be as common as the eager, generous heart of youth imagines. It almost sneers at the gullibility of men in this whole matter. "He that maketh many friends doeth it to his own destruction."

And yet there is no book, even in classical literature, which so exalts the idea of friendship, and is so anxious to have it truly valued, and carefully kept. The worldly-wise warnings are, after all, in the interests of true friendship. To condemn hypocrisy is not, as is so often imagined, to condemn religion. To spurn the spurious is not to reject the true. A sneer at folly may be only a covert argument for wisdom. Satire is negative truth. The unfortunate thing is that most men who begin with the prudential worldly-wise philosophy end there. They never get past the sneer. Not so this wise book. In spite of its insight into the weakness of man, in spite of its frank denunciation of the common masquerade of friendship, it speaks of the true kind in words of beauty that have never been surpassed in all the many appraisements of this subject. "A friend loveth at all times, and is a brother born for adversity. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel. Thine own friend and thy father's friend forsake not." These are not the words of a cynic, who has lost faith in man.

True, this golden friendship is not a common thing to be picked up in the street. It would not be worth much if it were. Like wisdom it must be sought for as for hid treasures, and to keep it demands care and thought. To think that every goose is a swan, that every new comrade is the man of your own heart, is to have a very shallow heart. Every casual acquaintance is not a hero. There are pearls of the heart, which cannot be thrown to swine. Till we learn what a sacred thing a true friendship is, it is futile to speak of the culture of friendship. The man who wears his heart on his sleeve cannot wonder if the daws peck at it. There ought to be a sanctuary, to which few receive admittance. It is great innocence, or great folly, and in this connection the terms are almost synonymous, to open our arms to everybody to whom we are introduced. The Book of Proverbs, as a manual on friendship, gives as shrewd and caustic warnings as are needed, but it does not go to the other extreme, and say that all men are liars, that there are no truth and faithfulness to be found. To say so is to speak in haste. There is a friend that sticlceth closer than a brother, says this wisest of books_ There is possible such a blessed relationship, a state of love and trust, and generous comradehood, where a man feels safe to be himself, because he knows that he will not easily be misunderstood.

The word friendship has been abased by applying it to low and unworthy uses, and so there is plenty of copy still to be got from life by the cynic and the satirist. The sacred name of friend has been bandied about till it runs the risk of losing its true meaning. Rossetti's versicle finds its point in life:

"Was it a friend or a foe that spread these lies? `Nay, who but infants question in such wise? "Twas one of my most intimate enemies!"

It is useless to speak of cultivating the great gift of friendship unless we make clear to ourselves what we mean by a friend. We make connections and acquaintances and call them friends. We have few friendships, because we are not willing to pay the price of friendship.

If we think it is not worth the price, that is another matter, and is quite an intelligible position, but we must not use the word in different senses, and then rail at fate because there is no miracle of beauty and joy about our sort of friendship. Like all other spiritual blessings it comes to all of us at some time or other, and, like them, is often let slip. We have the opportunities, but we do not make use of them. Most men make friends easily enough; few keep them. They do not give the subject the care, and thought, and trouble, it requires and deserves. We want the pleasure of society without the duty. We would like to get the good of our friends, without burdening ourselves with any responsibility about keeping them friends. The commonest mistake we make is that we spread our intercourse over a mass, and have no depth of heart left. We lament that we have no staunch and faithful friend when we have not really expended the love which produces such. We want to reap where we have not sown, the fatuousness of which we should see as soon as it is mentioned. "She that asks her dear five hundred friends" (as Cowper satirically describes a well-known type), cannot expect the exclusive affection which she has not given.

The secret of friendship is just the secret of all spiritual blessing. The way to get is to give. The selfish in the end can never get anything but selfishness. The hard find hardness everywhere. As you mete, it is meted out to you.

Some men have a genius for friendship. That is because they are open, and responsive, and unselfish. They truly make the most of life; for, apart from their special joys, even intellect is sharpened by the development of the affections. Nd material success in life is comparable to success in friendship. We really do ourselves harm by our selfish standards. There is an old Latin proverb expressing the worldly view, which says that it is not possible for a man to love and at the same time to be wise. This is only true when wisdom is made equal to prudence and selfishness, and when love is made the same. Rather it is never given to a man to be wise, in the true and noble sense, until he is carried out of himself in the purifying passion of love, or the generosity of friendship. The self-centered being cannot keep friends, even when he makes them; his selfish sensitiveness is always in the way, like a diseased nerve ready to be irritated.

The culture of friendship is a duty, as every gift represents a responsibility. It is also a necessity; for without watchful care it can no more remain with us than can any other gift. Without culture it is at best only a potentiality. We may let it slip, or we can use it to bless our lives. The miracle of friendship, which came at first with its infinite wonder and beauty, wears off, and the glory fades into the light of common day. The early charm passes, and the soul forgets the first exaltation. We are always in danger of mistaking the common for the commonplace. We must not look upon it merely as the great luxury of life, or it will cease to be even that. It begins with emotion, but if it is to remain it must become a habit. Habit is fixed when an accustomed thing is organized into life; and, whatever be the genesis of friendship, it must become a habit, or it is in danger of passing away as other impressions have done before.

Friendship needs delicate handling. We can ruin it by stupid blundering at the very birth, and we can kill it by neglect. It is not every flower that has vitality enough to grow in stony ground. Lack of reticence, which is only the outward sign of lack of reverence, is responsible for the death of many a fair friendship. Worse still, it is often blighted at the very beginning by the insatiable desire for piquancy in talk, which can forget the sacredness of confidence. "An acquaintance grilled, scored, devilled, and served with mustard and cayenne pepper, excites the appetite; whereas, a slice of cold friend with currant jelly is but a sickly, unrelishing meat." Nothing is given to the man who is not worthy to possess it, and the shallow heart can never know the joy of a friendship, for the keeping of which he is not able to fulfill the essential conditions. Here, also, it is true that from the man that hath not, is taken away even that which he hath.

The method for the culture of friendship finds its best and briefest summary in the Golden Rule. To do to, and for, your friend what you would have him do to, and for, you, is a sim ple compendium of the whole duty of friendship. The very first principle of friendship is that it is a mutual thing, as among spiritual equals, and therefore it claims reciprocity, mutual confidence and faithfulness. There must be sympathy to keep in touch with each other, but sympathy needs to be constantly exercised. It is a channel of communication, which has to be kept open, or it will soon be clogged and closed...

Trust is the first requisite for making a friend. How can we be anything but alone, if our attitude to men is one of armed neutrality, if we are suspicious, and assertive, and querulous and over-cautious in our advances? Suspicion kills friendship. There must be some magnanimity and openness of mind, before a friendship can be formed. We must be willing to give ourselves freely and unreservedly.



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