Friendship demands very close correspondence between those who
love one another, otherwise it can never take root or continue.
And together with the interchange of friendship, other things
imperceptibly glide in, and a mutual giving and receiving of
emotions and inclinations takes place; especially when we esteem
the object of our love very highly, because then we so entirely
open our heart to him, that his influence rules us altogether,
whether for good or evil.
The bees which make that oriental honey of which I spoke, seek
to gather nought save honey, but with it they suck up the
poisonous juices of the aconite on which they light. So here, my
child, we must bear in mind what our Saviour said about putting
out our money to the exchangers; (1) we must seek to make a good
exchange, not receiving bad money and good alike, and learning to
distinguish that which is valuable from what is worthless, since
scarcely any one is free from some imperfection, nor is there any
reason why we should adopt all our friend's faults as well as his
Of course we should love him notwithstanding his faults, but
without loving those faults; true friendship implies an
interchange of what is good, not what is evil. As men who drag the
river Tagus sift the gold from its sands and throw the latter back
upon the shore, so true friends should sift the sand of
imperfections and reject it. S. Gregory
Nazianzen tells us how certain persons who loved and admired S.
Basil were led to imitate even his external blemishes, his slow,
abstracted manner of speaking, the cut of his beard, and his
And so we see husbands and wives, children, friends, who, by
reason of their great affection for one another, acquire--either
accidentally or designedly--many foolish little ways and tricks
peculiar to each. This ought not to be; for every one has enough
imperfections of their own without adding those of anybody else,
and friendship requires no such thing; on the contrary, it rather
constrains us to help one another in getting rid of all sorts of
imperfections. Of course we should bear with our friend's
infirmities, but we should not encourage them, much less copy
Of course I am speaking of imperfections only, for, as to sins,
we must neither imitate or tolerate these in our friends. That is
but a sorry friendship which would see a friend perish, and not
try to save him; would watch him dying of an abscess without
daring to handle the knife of correction which would save him.
True and living friendship cannot thrive amid sin. There is a
tradition that the salamander extinguishes any fire into which it
enters, and so sin destroys friendship. Friendship will banish a
casual sin by brotherly correction, but if the sin be persistent,
friendship dies out,--it can only live in a pure atmosphere.
Much less can true friendship ever lead any one into sin; our
friend becomes an enemy if he seeks to do so, and deserves to lose
our friendship, and there is no surer proof of the hollowness of
friendship than its profession between evil-doers. If we love a
vicious person, our friendship will be vicious too; it will be
like those to whom it is given.
Those who draw together for mere temporal profit, have no right
to call their union friendship; it is not for love of one another
that they unite, but for love of gain.
There are two sayings in Holy Scripture on which all Christian
friendship should be built: --that of the Wise Man, "Whoso feareth
the Lord shall direct his friendship aright;" (2) and that of S.
James, "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." (3)