The following is a modernization/paraphrase of portions of Qualities of a Friend from Some Fruits of Solitude by William Penn (14 October 1644 – 30 July 1718) with some reflections following.
True friends freely share their thoughts and concerns with each other. They give each other sound advice, are quick to help each other, take risks for each other, are patient, defend each other and whatever else may happen, remain true to each other.
Since these are the qualities of a good friend, we ought to look for these qualities in a prospective friends.
People who are covetous, angry, arrogant, jealous, and those who can’t keep their mouths shut make poor (and false) friends.
Basically, when should be as careful in choosing friends as one would a spouse and with the same longevity in mind: Till death separates you.
When I think of true friendship, I think of David and Jonathan (son of King Saul) from the Bible. Their friendship was so tight that even when it became obvious that David, not Jonathan, would be the next king of Israel, Jonathan re-pledged his loyalty and actually looked forward to serving his friend. How many of us would be glad at our best friend taking our “rightful” place and look forward to playing second fiddle? Even more amazing to me is Jonathan’s continual defense of his friend before his father and even disobeying his father and siding with his friend when the proverbial chips were down.
There are those who seem to have hundreds of friends. I question that. Maybe I question that because I do not, nor can I fathom such a thing. I have a few friends for whom I would drop everything and be by their side if they should need me. How many is “a few”? I can count them on one hand.
The thing that brings me up short is when I apply Penn’s litmus test to myself and examine how I measure up. Am I a good candidate for a friend?