Friendship! What a precious gift for all stages in life! “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure” (Sirach 6:14). How fortunate the one who can always count on a friend! “Always” means at all times, whenever everyone else rejects you or when you’re the center of the group. One thing is sure, and it’s that you have to choose your friends carefully, especially in the difficult stages of life – adolescence for example – when a bad friendship can very easily take you down the wrong path, often without you realizing it. You need a lot of willpower to “go against the flow” when your group of friends is not good.
This is why it’s best to discover the goodness of a true friendship, for it can last a lifetime if it is founded on the truth. A true friend is one who always cares about your wellbeing, who doesn’t let—or at least tells you outright—that you do things wrong, who doesn’t break the friendship because of the way you are, but rather helps you be better each day.
When someone isn’t accepted in a group, he or she almost always tries to change in order to fit in. Of course you have to become a better person day by day, but you shouldn’t radically change your way of being just to be accepted by others. Each one of us has an intrinsic value, which doesn’t depend on anything exterior. Rather, we have that infinite worth simply for who we are, and we often forget it. A true friend is someone who, knowing your defects, weaknesses, and miseries, doesn’t leave you but rather loves you the way you are and helps you. A true friend pulls you up, makes you lift your eyes toward noble and lofty goals, and does not conform to your going off to live a meaningless life.
And it’s mutual. To be good friends, we have to care about others so that those who surround us live with their gaze lifted high and seek what is good and true. Not judging is also important, as well as self-knowledge and not being surprised at others’ shortcomings. Correct charitably and tenderly, but firmly. If your friend does something that you know is wrong, if that person is a true friend and you care about him or her, how are you going to let that person go down that path?
That is what cultivating friendship means. You don’t have to think that it doesn’t matter what your friend does because, in the long run, you’re not the one responsible for it. Clearly, in the end, each person is responsible for his or her own actions, but if you could have warned your friend and decided not to, you too will have to answer for not doing what was in your power. If you tell your friend, and he or she doesn’t listen to you, at least you did what you had to do. Above all, you don’t have to be afraid to lose a friend for saying what is right. In any friendship, being free to tell the truth—with love, of course—is very important, even if it may hurt.
“There is nothing as precious as a faithful friend, and no amount can balance his worth” (Sirach 6:15). Only at the end of our lives will we realize how lucky we were to count on good friends. In appreciation, let us make an effort to be a good friend.
- By Marta Troyano