About Friendship

‘What a scoundrel that Moorsky is!’ he (Turmanov) thought (…). ‘Meet him in the street and he’s all smiles, taps you on the stomach, pretends he’s your best friend – and now look at the names he comes out with! Calls me friend to my face, but behind my back I’m nothing but “Paunch” and “Pot-Pelly”…’ 
“Revenge” by Anton Chekhov

We still commit the same mistakes. We have difficulties with choice of true friends.  That is a 21st-century story as well as an ancient one.
There are some quotations from “On Friendship” by Cicero:

‘(…)rather ought we to have been enjoined to exercise such care in forming friendships that we should never begin to love anyone whom we might sometimes hate.’

‘(…) we must be ever on the search for some persons whom we shall love and who will love us in return; for if goodwill and affection are taken away, every joy is taken from life.’

‘In short: there is but one security and one provision against these ills and annoyances, and that is, neither to enlist your love too quickly nor to fix it on unworthy men. Now they are worthy of friendship who have within their own souls the reason for their being loved. A rare class indeed! And really everything splendid is rare, and nothing is harder to find than something which in all respects is a perfect specimen of its kind. But the majority of men recognize nothing whatever in human experience as good unless it brings some profit and they regard their friends as they do their cattle, valuing most highly those which give hope of the largest gain. Thus do they fail to attain that loveliest, most spontaneous friendship, which is desirable in and for itself; and they do not learn from their own experience what the power of such friendship is and are ignorant of its nature and extent.’

‘Now the support and stay of that unswerving constancy, which we look for in friendship, is loyalty; for nothing is constant that is disloyal. Moreover, the right course is to choose for a friend one who is frank, sociable, and sympathetic — that is, one who is likely to be influenced by the same motives as yourself — since all these qualities conduce to loyalty; for it is impossible for a man to be loyal whose nature is full of twists and twinings; and, indeed, one who is untouched by the same influences as yourself and is naturally unsympathetic cannot be either loyal or steadfast. To this observation should be added a requirement tending to produce that steadfastness, which I have been discussing for some time: a friend must neither take pleasure in bringing charges against you nor believe them when made by others. And so, the truth of what I said in the beginning is established: “Friendship cannot exist except among good men. For it is characteristic of the good man, whom I may also call the wise man, to maintain these two rules in friendship: first, let there be no feigning or hypocrisy; for it is more befitting a candid man to hate openly than to mask his real thoughts with a lying face; secondly, let him not only reject charges preferred by another, but also let him avoid even being suspicious and ever believing that his friend has done something wrong.’

‘But most men unreasonably, not to say shamelessly, want a friend to be such as they cannot be themselves and require from friends what they themselves do not bestow. But the fair thing is, first of all, to be a good man yourself and then to seek another like yourself.’

‘Since happiness is our best and highest aim, we must, if we would attain it, give our attention to virtue, without which we can obtain neither friendship nor any other desirable thing; on the other hand, those who slight virtue and yet think that they have friends, perceive their mistake at last when some grievous misfortune forces them to put their friends to the test. Therefore, I repeat the injunction, for it should be said again and again: you should love your friend after you have appraised him; you should not appraise him after you have begun to love him. But we are punished for our negligence in many things, and especially are we most grievously punished for our carelessness in the choice and treatment of our friends; for we deliberate after the event, and we do what the ancient proverb forbids — we argue the case after the verdict is found. Accordingly, after we have become involved with others in a mutual affection, either by long association or by interchange of favours, some cause of offence arises and we suddenly break the bonds of friendship asunder when it has run but half its course’

‘As, therefore, it is characteristic of true friendship both to give and to receive advice and, on the one hand, to give it with all freedom of speech, but without harshness, and on the other hand, to receive it patiently, but without resentment, so nothing is to be considered a greater bane of friendship than fawning, cajolery, or flattery; for give it as many names as you choose, it deserves to be branded as a vice peculiar to fickle and false-hearted men who say everything with a view to pleasure and nothing with a view to truth. Moreover, hypocrisy is not only wicked under all circumstances, because it pollutes truth and takes away the power to discern it, but it is also especially inimical to friendship, since it utterly destroys sincerity, without which the word friendship can have no meaning’

‘But by the exercise of care a fawning friend may be separated and distinguished from a true friend, just as everything pretended and false may be distinguished from what is genuine and true.’

‘For in friendship, unless, as the saying is, you behold and show an open heart, you can have no loyalty or certainty and not even the satisfaction of loving and of being loved, since you do not know what true love is. And yet this flattery of which I spoke, however deadly it may be, can harm no one except him who receives it and delights in it.’

‘No one, to be sure, unless he is an utter fool, fails to detect the open flatterer, but we must exercise a watchful care against the deep and crafty one lest he steal upon us unawares.’


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