“Friendship helps the young, too, to keep from error.”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Aristotle is intent on showing how friendship is necessary in every stage and condition in life. With characteristic insight, he points to the precise need it fulfills in each.
Concerning the young, his statement is brief and to the point. The great danger in youth is error—going astray from the truth of reality. The young, of course, have no corner on the market of error. Yet it stands to reason and is evident all around us, that the young especially struggle to find their way. And often enough they go wrong, in their world-view and their actions.
Adults, or in any case those who are wiser, often look on with anything from concern to consternation. “What in the world are they thinking?!” Indeed. Often we must remind ourselves that in some sense ‘thinking’ is not what they are doing at all.
To some extent this is characteristic of the young, and, well, the young will always be with us. But, on the other hand, there is much that we and they (or you) can do to “keep from error”—at least to some significant extent.
The opposite of ‘error’ is living in the truth. And living in the truth is always a multi-person project. Aristotle quotes a proverb: “Two going together.” How simple and powerful. As he writes in another place, what is not possible to you alone is possible to you with your friend.
Such is human life. Good friendships are the key. Knowing this, what is to be done? Certain aspects of how friendships come together are outside of our direct control. But much is in our power, beginning with being intentional. Prioritizing good friendship has more impact, and can require more of us, than is immediately evident.
Good friendship never happens by accident. It comes to those who know how to cultivate it, and choose to do so. Youth need to hear this. More, they need it patterned for them.
Serious self-examination will reveal, I believe, that we are not prioritizing ‘going deeper’ with one or two friends. Yet this is what it takes, no matter our age.
True friendship—the real thing—will always be one of those amazing realities that stands before us and beckons us. If we would but look, and learn, and choose accordingly. There is nothing so useful, nothing so pleasant, nothing so noble.
As an object of intention, prayer, discernment, and active cultivation, it will come to be, even if fitfully, slowly. And it will always more than repay the efforts we have made. One hundred-fold. And this especially in, and for the sake of, the young.
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Thank you, Dr. C., for the beauteous reminder to invest in our relationships with true friends and to set that example as we pray for our nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and godchildren (cf. 1 Cor. 15:33).
Your prayers for them is a great gift you can give them. Never doubt that. And let us pray, among other things, specifically for their friendships.
More perhaps than anything else about growing old and ailing under stressful circumstances, I regret losing the energy or willpower to keep in contact with close, even lifelong friends. May your meditation prompt me to remedy this. I remember Kierkegaard saying something to the effect that we tend to envy people for their money or status, but rarely for what really matters–meaningful, sustained, sustaining relationships with spouses or friends.
Newton, Your frank self-examination is an inspiration. Surely part of the challenge and cross of growing older is accepting that there are certain things we simply cannot do to ‘keep up’ with our friends. I tell myself that in God’s Providence, there is a blessing for these relationships that, for now, must to some extent rest untended. At the same time, God give us the wisdom and courage to keep doing what we can!
Dr. C – you too, sir, are an inspiration…. “relationships that, for now, rest untended.” So well put. Thank you and God Bless.
Thank you, Kenny; and God bless you and your family.
Hi. I soooo enjoy reading your posts! My family has a problem: Dad of our family really didn’t give an example to our boys on how to make male friends, since Dad never learned it in his family of origin. How does my husband realign his life to see friendship as important for himself, as well as for his family? Is there a book, conference or group for an older dad to “learn” (as it is never too late, and for our sons, who just don’t know where to begin? Thank-you so much for your help! Regards, Mrs. Sally Coleman
Sally, Thank you for asking. You ask a great question. First of all, I think it is important to recognize that ALL of us in varying degrees will find weaknesses in our background that immediately affect our life today. I find that this is especially the case in the area of home life: marriage, child-bearing and rearing, and household work, leisure etc. And of course, for many of us also in the area of friendship. I like to say often: we are all in this together! Many of us are seeking to find ways to overcome the paucity of experience and education in our own background about many of the most important life issues. We are looking for good books, good mentors, and good communities, all of which have an important role to play here. Indeed, all that we do here at LifeCraft is most of all about working together to think more clearly about these things so as to be able to live better, with the help of God.
Now, regarding friendship: I of course must mention my book (see tab here at website), which is written to provide basic principles and distinctions to help us understand and deliberate about friendship. I also post very often on friendship, and these posts are available under the True Friendship section of this site. Concretely, I recommend this for a man: 1) start with prayer, as the Lord has made us for friendship; 2) look for one or two men with whom you have much and common and shared principles, and with whom you think you can ‘go deeper.’ 3) Just start simple: get together regularly; share what activities you can together; slowly practice habits of conversation about deeper matters, moving toward holding one another accountable.
I hope this goes in the direction you were thinking. Do not hesitate to followup.
Your book on true friendship has spread like wildfire in our Cursillo community. In September we heard an Ultreya witness talk by two ladies who read it together in a small group. Last week another member was giving away copies at the Ultreya.
I was so pleased to see this.
All the best to you.
I am honored and thrilled to hear this, Dan. Thank you very much.