What Is A True Friend?

hands clasped together

(Image: Courtesy of Pixabay)

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.”
~ Aristotle

“Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
~ Aristotle

Friendship is a reality that is tied to our need to be loved. Part of our socialization experience is to seek out friends that bring us many things within our comfort zone. In my last post, Anger: Is It Good?, I explored this powerful emotion which sometimes plays a part in the development and/or the breakdown of our friendships. In this post, I intend to explore the nature of that special friendship, the true friend, with the assistance of the great Greek thinker, Aristotle.

Aristotle was a lover of wisdom or ‘philosopher’ of Ancient Greece and a teacher. He was born in northern Greece and at the age of seventeen joined Plato’s Academy in Athens as a student. When Plato died, he became the private tutor of Philip of Macedon’s son, Alexander. Aristotle wrote many books on subjects such as physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theater, music, rhetoric, linguistics, politics and government.

As a versatile intellectual, Aristotle shared his ideas about friendship, and I quoted two of them above. The reality of friendship is not easy for any of us to fully grasp nor to master its practice. Some of us make friends at will while others find it challenging and still, others choose to avoid friendships altogether in order to spare themselves emotional pain. One can itemize the various types of relationships that exist in our lives or are available to us, but I’m focusing on the truest of the true in this article. I don’t have any startling new wisdom to impart, but I feel the need to explore some shared experiences with close friendship – which is the topic of Aristotle’s quotes I used above.

The first idea Aristotle shared uses the analogy of the growth process of fruit. There is no such thing as a quick close friendship. There’s an immediate attraction upon which a friendship may be based, but the relationship needs time to ferment and age. As with the ripening of fruit or the fermenting of fine wine, time is a major ingredient.

Why must a true friendship grow over time? The answer is that the bond must be able to withstand the storms as well as the good times. Like a healthy tree or tall building, the key to its strength is in its foundation or roots. People need time to get to know each other and the extent that each share their inner self will determine the depth and strength of the bond. Trust plays a huge role. If I’m unwilling to share my worst secrets and fears, then the friendship will be ‘real’ to a point. If I wear my mask determined to hide my pain, then the other person cannot be a true friend no matter how well intentioned. Indifference is one of the masks we use to insulate ourselves from others, and I explored this in an earlier post called Indifference Is The Enemy.

Aristotle likens true friendship as “… a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” When there are no walls or masks that divide two friends, then these words are an apt description. In the absence of pretention and barriers, the spiritual realities of friends have merged into a new entity – a single soul. This kind of union cannot be seen, but it can be felt. These friends just know. There are no questions, no doubts; they just know.

Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC, recently published three articles on the topic of empathy. They are very relevant to this discussion, so I’m providing the links here, Do you have a minute? Sorry for the Inconvenience Part ISorry for the Inconvenience Part II, and Empathy finale: Part III. I encourage you to take some time to read and absorb these articles that are written about the author’s personal experiences. I found them to be disturbing and moving – but more importantly, they spoke to me about an important quality of true friendship. You don’t have to be an intimate friend (one soul inhabiting two bodies) to have empathy for another, but without it, you don’t have much substance. After all, who needs another ‘party friend’?

One of my more recent blogger friends is a talented poet and artist. Linda J. Wolff publishes her work on her website Urban Poetry. With Linda’s permission, I’m presenting a poem she wrote about friendship, and I’m sure you’ll see why it belongs in this discussion and the reason I’m giving Linda the final words here.

Soft Whispers

It was the silence,
that gripping quietness.
His hurt with no words.
I could feel his pain
as it bled through
to my soul.
I could see it through
his baby blues.
He fought to hide it,
but the language was there.
I walked to him,
embracing his body
with my very being.
And then I felt it,
that soft whisper
of love as he received it.
I just held him
as liquid pain
ran down his cheeks.

©Linda J. Wolff 2017

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

28 thoughts on “What Is A True Friend?”

  1. A very poignant post, John. I was moved by ‘These friends just know. There are no questions, no doubts; they just know.’ Trust is a vital element in friendship, especially when behavior is puzzling. I love Aristotle’s quote, ‘Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.’ For me, friendship is a spiritual experience that spans many lifetimes ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Tina. I found this topic difficult because there are so many kinds and levels of friendship. I’m intrigued by your words “For me, friendship is a spiritual experience that spans many lifetimes.” Care to elaborate? My first thought was reincarnation. Is this what you meant? Again, thanks for visiting with your thoughts. Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, John, I was referring to reincarnation. I sense we travel in soul groups through many lifetimes, and that we make contracts with each other before we incarnate regarding lessons we wish to learn. The children’s book, The Little Soul and the Sun, speaks to this. It’s very touching and I think you’d enjoy it. It’s a wonderful book to read to little ones, because they still have a foot in 2 worlds. Hugs, my friend ♥

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A wonderful article on friendship, John. The post, poem and quotes–touched my heart. Thanks for sharing and reminding me the treasured friends I have been blessed to share with through the years. Love and blessings to you and yours… xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful article, John. The poem is a touching and beautiful way to conclude – although, for me, it most recalls intimate partnerships in my life.

    This post represents the kind of sharing I treasure most — a reflection on what it means to be fully alive and what makes life worth living. For me, it usually comes down to what I have always termed “profound relating” (the focuser among my values). I’m sure you are one of the few that immediately “grok” what I mean by the term, my friend. [“After all, who needs another ‘party friend’?”] As I read this article, I found myself reflecting on the quality of my many friendships through the years.

    In my first career, acting/directing, it seemed to me that a great many friendships formed very quickly and deepened rapidly. I am still in contact with a group of friends with whom I shared a resident summer theatre experience over 40 years ago now, with only a few experiences in common once we disbursed around the country to continue our lives and careers. Spouses etc. who have accompanied company members to reunions have commented on how unusually close our bonds seem to be – even decades later, and without continued day to day contact (which we ALL miss, btw).

    My friend Robin (who located the wheelchair in Part I of my empathy article) was a member of that company, and we reconnected and grew even closer in NYC. My roommate Janine was my TA in grad school and one of the actors in a show I directed with the Resident Acting Company – and we relocated together from New Orleans to New York City in a 16′ truck, along with my two Shih Tzus – many funny memories there.

    My reflections on what made the difference in how deeply friendship bonds attach probably needs to be its own post, but I wanted to share it here with you.

    I can toss all of my thoughts into the same bin:
    A period of ongoing exposure to an extremely openly creative group of folks with similar windows on the same world – where the environment itself reinforces the need to remain open and vulnerable.

    * similar place memories (even though the actual “place” changed as the scenery changed from show to show)
    * the same challenges (mastering choreography, learning the songs, dialogue rehearsals, costume fittings, etc.)
    * LOTS of shared time and a great deal of laughter
    * Equal “status” – ie., the director never seemed to enjoy the same level of closeness (true for me as well when I directed the RAC in NOLA, btw, but not when I was acting in one of the shows)
    * a mix of structured engagement (rehearsals & perfomances) coupled with essentially the same “time off” and “down time” to goof around and self-disclose together
    * equal dedication to the success of the endeavor and almost single-minded focus on same (“the show must go on”)

    I have noted a similar close friendship dynamic in folks with other group experiences, like fraternities/sororities, team sports, service buddies, etc. It almost seems that few friendships made in other environments ever quite reach the same feeling of “closeness” – even after years of engagement.

    Thanks for sending me off on this mental exploration with this wonderful post, John. You’ve made my day.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Guess what? It was your posts about empathy that sparked this post, so I thank you, Madelyn. Shared experiences are a huge part of the development of close friendships – no matter the field or age group. As I said to my friend Suzanne, this whole discussion raises the issue of online friendships – where people like us will share and interact, yet have never met or sat together to chat with a cup of coffee. Are those relationships a different breed altogether? For those of us who dwell on the Internet daily, it is a valid question. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Madelyn!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m so glad to read that you responded with a post of your own, John – and that you made sure I saw it.

        In some ways, I wonder if online friendships deepen more quickly than those made in the flesh. Even though the comment interactions are frequently superficial or perfunctory, the various blog posts themselves often share soul nuggets that might take years to dig out face to face.

        Tweeting and texting, on the other hand, are not formats that are likely to deepen much of any kind of connection. People say those formats are “quicker” – but I’ve never seen how spending hours focused on a smart phone “saves” time (unless you are lost and need an address!) 🙂
        xx,
        mgh

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I agree, Madelyn. Blog comments can be more meaningful – as are the blogs themselves. I’m not a big fan of Twitter – the brevity and bastardization of language that it forces turns me off. Facebook is ok. Email can also help build a friendship. Interesting insights – thank you!

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I used to love email, but now that there is so much marketing e-glut to sift through I rarely use it anymore. The political arguments and “diary of every moment of my day” status updates have turned me off to FB as well. (Simply not enough hours in my days to keep up with what everyone fixes for dinner – lol)

            So far, however, blogging interactions have peopled my life with many wonderful friends I have never met in person – like YOU!
            xx,
            mgh

            Liked by 2 people

            1. Thanks, you’re too kind! I was chuckling about your FB comment. I understand that those social media contacts are important for authors, but it just doesn’t turn my crank. I’m starting to get pretty efficient with my use of the ‘delete’ button when sifting through email. Let’s hoist a cup in saluting blogging friends!

              Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s when we feel that first touch of a gentle hand on that tender skin beneath our masks that our hearts begin to heal. I have been blessed by deep and abiding friendships in my crazy life. This poem and your post moved me, John. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your kindness, Soooz, and for sharing your thoughts. Having read your books, Empty Chairs and its sequel, Faint Echoes of Laughter, I have an appreciation for what you’ve shared here. One day, someone will write a scholarly tome about virtual friendship within the online community. I struggled with that as I wrote this piece.

      Liked by 1 person

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