ATTITUDES THAT FLOW FROM TRUE FRIENDSHIP
One cannot have a real capacity for friendship if people are nor preferred to things, including that which you own.
We need to "possess things, not to be possessed by them." (The True Religion, 35, 65).
These attitudes promote the capacity for being generous to others, which is essential in friendships.
To love the good more than the friend.
Courage to challenge a friend when he or she wants to lead us downs the wrong road.
To reject what is harmful to a friend, even if it is something that pleases the person.
To love the friends but not his or her shortcomings or bad habits, nor to approve his or her wrong choices.
Not to distance oneself from God for the love of a friend.
The ordered love of a friend.
Love that is not selfish, and not conditional on waiting for something to change.
To love the friend like one self: all that you want for yourself you should want for a friend.
To love friends in spite of their shortcomings and defects.
Confidential attitude with friends.
Attitude of fidelity regardless of whether or not things are going well, regardless of whether a friend is admired or rejected by others.
The true Christian friendship spreads to the love of God in the friend.
(Continued on the next page.)
For further reading
A very fruitful work to browse through is the encyclopedia on St Augustine's thought entitled Augustine Through the Ages, edited by Allan D. Fitzgerald, O.S.A. (Eerdmans, 1999), which contains entries on various topics associated with Augustine. Particularly interesting is the article on friendship by Thomas Smith who notes that Augustine "was the first Christian writer to elaborate a theory of Christian friendship" (p. 372).
In popular culture today, friendship is a neglected topic. The emphasis is so much on the sexual aspect that any friendship between male and female must be inevitably driven to the point of sexual contact. In addition, too many friendships remain on the level of the useful or the pleasurable, two of the three categories of friendship described by Aristotle (p. 372). For Aristotle, "true friendship" is based on the third category, the good (p. 372).
Augustine builds and transforms this classical tradition of friendship so that the bond of friendship becomes "the gift of the Holy Spirit through grace" (p. 372). Friendship merely adds "the notes of attraction and delight to the Christian charity owed to all" (p. 372). In his article, Smith points out that Augustine even "allows for the possibility of conceiving of the Holy Spirit as the friendship of Father and Son" (p. 373).
The radical difference between Augustine's view of friendship and the eroticized view now prevalent in modern culture can be seen in the fact that the celibate and chaste Augustine still strongly valued his friendships to the point of writing in the City of God these words: "What consoles us in this human society so full of errors and hardships, except unfeigned faith and the mutual love of good and true friends?" If the Holy Spirit is the Consoler, then it is easy to see that consoling friendship based on the good is a gift from the Holy Spirit.