What Are Friends Really For?
Life is a balancing act. This applies to everything, especially when choosing who we share our lives with.
Our innermost thoughts are sacred to us, but we cannot burden ourselves with them alone. We are social by nature, and having people we trust around us helps us share these burdens.
Some share, with everyone, things which should only be shared with friends. Some are reluctant to share these things with even their closest friends.
We should aim to be neither of these people, for trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one.
This logic can be applied to all walks of life. Those who are in a constant state of relaxation merit disapproval, just as those in a constant state of busyness. Each end of the spectrum is as bad as the other.
“Some men have shrunk so far into dark corners that objects in bright daylight seem quite blurred to them” — Pomponius
Those extreme ends are the dark corners. People who share with everyone will not see the merits of a truly close friend when any ear will do. Whereas those who don’t share at all will shudder at the idea of pouring their soul out to anyone.
Aim for the middle, and share your true self with your true friends.
We are the sum of our peers
But before we truly befriend someone, we must ask ourselves: “Is this person worthy of my friendship?”
Friends are part of us, they enable us to share our innermost thoughts, worries and deliberations. Can we trust this person enough to cross that threshold?
If so, we should welcome them with heart and soul. We must feel we can speak to them as we would speak to ourselves. Be loyal to them, and they will be loyal in return. Deceive them, and we will be deceived.
“Why should I keep anything back when I’m with a friend? Why shouldn’t I imagine I’m alone when I’m in his company?” — Seneca
This article is based on Seneca’s “Letters from a Stoic”, translated by Robin Cambell, and all quotes here are taken from Letter III.