Remember the End

On Letter III, Letters from a Stoic

When you have decided to do so [make someone you friend], welcome him heart and soul, and speak as unreservedly with him as you would yourself.

Admonishment is the prescription of this letter, with the focus on true friendship, over the common misuse of the word which generally substitutes for acquaintance. Lucilius has written to Seneca about a person, and he is unwilling to take into his confidence. Seneca in response, crafts a beautiful prescription for friendship. A friend - Seneca advises - is someone who you trust as yourself, and if you do not trust them to that extent, well they’re not your friend; they’re your acquaintance. A true friendship is not something rushed into but is a relationship entered into after a long period of contemplation. Judging someone after entering into friendship with them is a fast way to end up disappointed, the wise man thinks and then acts; this also applies to who one chooses to be friends. “Why shouldn’t I imagine I am alone when I am in his company?” This incredible turn of phrase is demonstrative of the regard with which you hold your friends: you should love them as you love yourself, they will keep your secrets, and you will keep theirs. Finally, Seneca ends with a warning to not be publicly boastful of your secrets, nor to keep them too close to your chest; you should close your heart to enemies, but open it to friends.

When I was growing up, someone once said something to me that has stuck with me to this day: “it seems like they have a lot of friends, but they don’t - they have a lot of acquaintances.” It is ironic; I suppose that we live in a world where everybody has more than four hundred Facebook friends but will struggle to make a meaningful connection with a single person each day. Some people don’t even like their significant other, but simply put up with them through obligation, boredom, or fear of the unknown. What a sad world we live in where people fail to understand the value and importance of having a true connection with another person.

I once read a meme on the internet, that it was a brutal truth disguised as a joke. It went something along like this: “All of my friends want to go out for a drink or go to the movies, well, if you were really my friend you would come and watch me clean my house.” When you have a true friendship with someone, this is true; although if I went to someone’s house while they cleaned it, I’d probably give them a hand. But a conversation doesn’t need a nice venue or pre-allotted time; it just needs a willingness to connect with someone. Meaningful connection is the crux of Seneca’s letter; a true friend is there to share in your life and be there for you. Make sure you do not make the wrong “friends” and that when you do enter into a friendship, consider it for life: love them as you love yourself.

Adam is a student at Deakin University, studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Philosophy. This blog is about making the learning experience more helpful by encouraging me to write and share.