One of the great difficulties in this journey of discovering friendship is that most of us would struggle to define what “real friendship” is… I’d venture to say the majority of modern people have companions but not friendship. The wisdom writer makes a distinction between companions and a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Friends that stick close are rare especially compared to the other relationships you will have over a lifetime, the writer says a person can come to ruin with many companions. Why? Companions won’t step into your mess the way a friend will, friends won’t let you go to ruin.
Timothy Keller speaks to discovering a friend in this way… “perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from earnest counsel.” Proverbs 27v9
The pleasantness of one’s friend, this word pleasantness is a word for sweetness, it’s a word that always had to do with honey. Sweetness. This is saying, that real friendship is like sweet food, delectably sweet food. Here’s why that’s pretty interesting. One of the things all the commentators pointed out is that when the book of proverbs was written, nobody had sugar yet. People didn’t know how to sweeten food.
Today, you can make almost any food sweet it all depends on what you want to do, you can create sweet food but back then you had to discover sweetened food. There were certain foods that were naturally sweet and that was it. What does that say us to? Just this. Friendship requires a foundation, an affinity, a common love, a common vision that can’t be created that can only be discovered.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s in his famous essay on friendship says this, friendship does not ask “do you love me? so much as “do you see the same truth?” Are you passionate about the same thing.
C.S. Lewis’ in his book The Four Loves puts it like this, “the typical expression of opening friendship would be something like, “what you too?” I thought I was the only one. That’s the beginning of friendship. You too! I thought I was the only one. So though we can have erotic love and friendship in the same person, in some ways its less likely to have friendship in a love affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love. Friends hardly ever talk about their friendship. Lovers are face to face absorbed on one another, friends are side by side, shoulder to shoulder on common interests.
What makes a friend is not, “oh do you want to be my friend? But, you too? You think that’s important too? You love that too?” And that creates a friend and that’s the reason why it’s a unique, it brings something unique in your life.
Lewis goes on to really make it very very plain. He says “this is why those pathetic people who simply want friends can’t never make any. The very condition for having friends is that you would want something else besides friends. If someone asks you, “do you see the same truth?” And your honest answer is, “I really don’t care about that, I just want you to be my friend.” Then no friendship can arise. There would be nothing for the friendship to be about! Those who have nothing, can share nothing. Those who are going nowhere, can have no fellow travelers.”
Friendship is initially something that you discover. Aelred of Rievaulx a 12th century monk who wrote a whole book on friendship said that of all of the loves, we are not talking about parent child and brother, sister and husband, wife, or you know, for all the loves, this is the one he says that has the most, least intrigue.
In other words, this is the least, icky love. This is the love in which you don’t constantly have as many hurt feelings and people upset and talking “what about our relationships?!” You see. It has to be discovered before it can be forged to the foundation.
Let me just say this to make sure it’s clear, real true friendship, cannot only be forged, it must be discovered, but now, it cannot only be discovered, it must be forged. The foundation is not enough, you’ve got to build. And the book of proverbs says there are four things you must do to create friend, a true friendship.
The four marks of true friendship are constancy, carefulness, candor and counsel. (we’ll unpack these 4 marks of friendship in coming days)
Timothy Keller, friendship sermon