Concerning evil and frivolous friendships

May 25th, 2021 • 4 min

This is part of an Anthology of the Saints on Friendship, Love, and Marriage.


From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 145:

Chapter XVII.

Friendship: and, first, concerning that which is evil and frivolous.

Love holds the first place among the several passions of the soul; it is the sovereign of all the emotions of the heart, and directs all the rest towards it, and makes us such as are the objects of its love. Be careful then, Philothea, to entertain no evil love, for if you do you will presently become evil. Now friendship is the most dangerous love of all; because other loves may be without communication, but friendship, being wholly grounded upon it, we can hardly have close friendship for any person without partaking of his qualities.

All love is not friendship; for when one loves without being again beloved, then there is love but not friendship; because friendship is intercommunication of love, therefore where love is not mutual there can be no friendship. Nor is it enough that it be mutual, the parties that love each other must besides know of their mutual affection; for if they know it not they have love but not friendship. There must be also some kind of communication between them, so as to form the ground of friendship. Now, according to the diversity of the communications, the friendship also differs, and the communications are different according to the variety of the good things they communicate to each other; if they are false and vain, the friendship is also false and vain; if they are true the friendship is likewise true; and the more excellent the goods may be, the more excellent also is the friendship. For as that honey is best which is gathered from the most exquisite flowers, so also that friendship is best which is founded upon the most exquisite communication. And as there is honey in Heraclea which is poisonous, and makes those mad that eat it, because it is gathered from poisonous plants which abound in that country; even so, friendship grounded upon false and vicious communications is also false and vicious.

Communications founded on sensual pleasures is so gross that it does not merit the name of friendship among men; and if there were no other communication in marriage, there would be no friendship in it; but because, besides that, there is a communication in marriage, of life, of industry, of goods, of affections, and of an indissoluble fidelity, therefore the friendship of matrimony is a true and holy friendship. Such is also friendship that is grounded on accomplishments which are frivolous and vain, because these also depend on the senses. I call those pleasures sensual which are immediately and principally annexed to the exterior senses: such as the pleasures to behold a beautiful person, to hear a sweet voice, and the like. I call certain vain endowments and qualities frivolous accomplishments which weak minds call virtues and perfections. Observe how the greater part of silly girls, women, and young people talk: they hesitate not to say, Such a gentleman has many virtues and perfections, for he dances gracefully, he plays well at all sorts of games, he dresses fashionably, he sings delightfully, speaks eloquently, and looks well; it is thus that mountebanks esteem those in their way the most virtuous who are the greatest buffoons.

But as all these things regard the senses, so the friendships which proceed from them are termed sensual, vain, and frivolous, and deserve rather the name of foolish fondness than of friendship: such are the ordinary friendships of young people, which are grounded on curled locks, a fine head of hair, smiling glances, fine clothes, affected countenances, and idle talk—a friendship suited to the age of those lovers whose virtue is, as yet, only in the blossom, and whose judgment is only in the bud; and, indeed, such friendships, being but transitory, melt away like snow in the sun.

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