Am, of ust, reader, have some experience of friendship. We have not, come. so far upon life's journey without meeting one or two of our fellow-creatures whom wo have been able to take to our hearts in confidence and affection; and to whom wo were fully persuaded we ourselves, were dear. A life without friendship would he a bar)en, joyless, .inhuman life. But, what a mystery it is! How unfathomable it is! That it shoii-kl matter to me what happens to my friend, or to my friend what happens to me. is indeed very wonderful. I am well and prosperous and happy ; why should it cloud my spirit to know that my friend has fallen ill or met with adversity? His sickness does not impair my health; his ill fortune does not impoverish me : that he has trouble-* and anxieties does not complicate, my affaire. And yet his afflictions are in very truth a real burden to me, and the deeper anil clow our friendship the more, intimately do his sorrows touch my sympathies. Tn like manner my friend may meet- with eome good fortune, some success, eome special happiness. How is it that I have a share in it, and am cheered arid gladdened by it too? It does not ease my pain when he recovers his health, ft does not advance my projects when he carries his. through to a, good issue. And yet, if our friendship be true, his happiness, his attainment, his welfare, does concern me ; it adds to the sum of my pleasure in life. * * * ■* * * *
Or look at it another way. " Friendship." eaid the wise Roman, "improves j happiness and abates misery by tho doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief." So it "is. When something happens vihich gives us pleasure, the pleasure is very meagre if we have no one to share it with. A sympathetic heart to rejoice '. with us enables us to rejoice, with double zest. And pain is the more bitter when we must bear it alone. The heart that aches in solitude or in secret endures a double grief. My friend's sympathy may not set right what has gone awry or give me back vha-t I have lost. But it does strengthen me to hear my trouble and comforts me. All which is very wonderful and mysterious. It is not to be explained on any physical or material basis. It has its roots, "its possibilities in our spiritual nature. It is because Ave are essentially spiritual beings that we are able thus to grapple i.ne anotlu r with hooks- of_ ster-l, to participate- in one another's experiences, to share one another'.* life. linked though we be to the world of matter and space and time, our true, affinity is with the unseen, the infinite, the eternal. Our closest kinship is with God—that is tho meaning of it. Wc are capable of having mends and of being friends, because we are somehow ''made in His image.'' * * * * * *:- * " What a blessing is a friend ''—it was another of the Roman sages who said it—"a friend with a breast, so trusty that thou mayest tafely bury all thy secrets in it, whose conscience thou mayest fear less than thine own, who can relieve thy cares by his conversation, thy doubts by his counsels, thy sadness by hie- good humor, and whose' very look gives comfort to thee." It is a common complaint that true friends are scarce. If we mean friends of the closest, most intimate, and most faithful kind, then we must admit that they are bound to be scarce. Consider how differently we are constituted. Kvery man is unique in his way; and is it any marvel if we meet but one or two persons in the course of a lifetime whose natures fit into ours with never a jar? Human characters and personalities are not manufactured to standardised patterns to that it is easy to match them. Hverv individual lias his peculiarities, his idiosyncrasies, his defects and weaknesses ; and hj hardly becomes any of us to complain if we do not meet with people every day who are willing to put up with all our whima and fancies and little ways. That we have, in the course of our pilgrimage, met with one or two should be to us a ground of deep and lasting gratitude.. " A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have found a friend, who knows the best and the worst of us. and who loves us in spite of all our faulu-." There, is no gift, of God to men more to be. desired than the gift of a. true, faithful. !o-he.-trusted friend. #♦****■* ft is. of course, in youth that the best friendships are formed. That, at least, is the rule; for it is in youth that our natures are plastic and adaptable. Alas, the. changes that the years bring often separate us from those 'who in early days proved themselves friends indeed. That is one of the sad things in life. We move about so much more than our fathers did, it is so easy to go to and fro upon the earth that those separations are only too common. In our youth we are lighthearted and think little of parting even with those who are dearest to ns. We leave home and kindred and companions for the. sake of worldly prospects. It were worth considering sometimes whether it were not wiser to sacrifice material advantages to conserve- ami develop and ripen and enjoy our friendships. But while youth, is the most, favorable, season for the formation of friendships, it would Vie a- view of life both cynical and untrue to say that no friendships can be- formed after Ave are 30. They can be. and they are. Even very warm and (dose friendships can grow out of tho intercourse of later years. And it ; s rot wise to lay too much stress upon the statement that trite friends are scarce. If ideal friendship is possible, with „r.:dy one or two, yet friendships that are st' 1 ! very precious need not be so very uncommon. A good deal depends upon ourselves. Some years ago a London Journalist published anonymously a volume of Reminiscences. So far as one could judge from the book, the- writer had few special interests. He seemed to play no games, to care for literature only in a professional sort of way; politics meant little or nothing to him; he had no hobby; he did not carp tor art; he had no religion. Rut he did seem to have a genius for friendship. He wrote interestingly and affectionately about dozens and scores of people of ail sorts, whom he bad known and companied with during 20 years of journalistic life. He spoke of innumerable kindnesses received from them, and looked back with genuine regret on those whom death had taken away. a
When we lament the scarcity of friendship we usually mean that we, have found but few people to play the role of friend to us. But suppose that wc loo!; at the problem the other way about. Are there ever but few people to whom, we can play the role of friend ? There was a rhyme, common at one time in England, which said : Tn matters of < onimorre, .the fault of the Dutch Is giving too little and asking too much. So the fault of us all in matters of friendship is our far greater readiness to take than to give. We want other people to be our friends, to pay attention to as, to sympathise with us. to help us, to put themselves about for us : but when, itcomes to our .doing these things for other people, it is another story. The world is full of people to whom we can be kind, and the Greatest of all Teacher,* laid, it down that the, proper question .for us to ask is not "Who is my neighbor?" but " To whom can f be neighborly V ******* Hindrances in the way ot friendship are many and various. Our faults and failings come between us and our friendp. An envious or jealous disposition will mar everything. It is difficult for some of us to think kindly of, and to feel kindly towards, thos« who ar& more fortunate in life, than we are. They get what ice have wished for. They succeed v. here we fail. They leave us behind in the race for the things of this world. Ami we envy them. Wo look on them with an evileye. and friendship dies. Or, to instance a much slighter matter which yet may prove an insuperable hindrance to friendship, a. person's idiosyncrasies often alienate us It is not ouly'Dr Fell whom we dislike for ludicrously insufficient reasons. A man's appearance, his voice, some
trick of manner he has, make sympathy and fellowship difficult for us. We are. far too readily influenced by those' trifling things. The man with a genius for friendship looks past them and we« what they hide from us, another human soul, very like his own, aa responsive, as he is to interest and kindness. It is a great tiring to win and keep a friend in spite of something in his outward aspect or manner that wo dislike. * * * * * * * Bub what hinders ns most of all in friendship is the fact that it can never be one-sided. It. cannot be all receiving and no giving. To live a man must let his breath go out as well as draw it in : and friendship must exhale as well as inhale. That i.s the great difficulty. Friendship makes demands upon us, and wo dislike being troubled. We resent being called upon to make sacrifices. The soul that is quick to take interest in others, ready to show sympathy, willing to put himself about for others' sake, equal to sacrificing time, and thought and strength to help another—such an one does not lack friendship. One of tho brightest gems of Hebrew literature is the story of tho friendship of David and Jonathan. Jonathan was the prince, the. king's son, a_ warrior, too, as we.il as David. He had his own victories to boast of, his own successes against the Philistines to win him vo.uown. But "David's victories outshone his, and David's jwpuJarity eclipsed his. David was tho idol of tho army, the people, the women. Yet Jonathan bore him no grudge. No drop of envy embittered his fine spirit. He rejoiced in David's progress and prospects more than David himself did. He recognised in tho son of Jesse a man more gifted than himself, with rictar talents." with a. bigger personality, with a loftier destiny. Vet ho kept on being his friend. And so true a_ friend did he prove that ho busied himself to see that nothing intervened to cut David off from the career that lay before him. He made David's interest's his own, and furthered them with all his miyht. Nothing was a trouble to him : he counted no sacrifice too great. For David's sake he gave up his own prerogatives as prince, hin own ambitions, his right to the crown, everything. The soul of Jonathan was knit with tho soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. # * y * # * # * ~,, , / , , .I.here- is;no more noble instance, no more beautifid story of human friendship, in the world. For three thousand years it has been handed down as setting forth the, ideal of what human friendship may be. In these- days of ours friendship is still as possible as it was when -Saul was king and Jonathan was prince ajid David was outlaw. But the conditions are the same. It must be built on tho threefold foundation of ma.trnanimitv, unselfishness. love.
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FRIENDSHIP., Evening Star, Issue 15696, 9 January 1915
FRIENDSHIP. Evening Star, Issue 15696, 9 January 1915
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