"Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." 1 Corinthians 15:33
Everyone needs friends. The busier one is, the richer one's nature, and the more one is living for others — the more does one need a friend or a few friends, whose lives shall become knit to his, and in whose love he may rest. Friendship is the soil in which true hearts grow best. For lack of it many a life, with fine possibilities, shrivels and dies. What kind of friends young people should choose, is a matter of vital importance.
Swiss climbers going up the mountains are tied together with a rope, that they may support each other. But sometimes one falls and drags the others to death. The friends to whom we attach ourselves, will either help us upward to fairer beauty of character — or drag us down.
The friend we choose should be one who will be patient with our faults. He must be one who will not cast us off when he discovers imperfections in us. It is not every professed friendship that can stand this test. People do not know us through and through, at one glance. We wear our society face and our society clothes in public — and when our admirers see us more closely, they sometimes find unsuspected blemishes and weaknesses. We often greatly admire people when our acquaintance with them is only slight. They appear very gentle and beautiful. But when drawn into closer relations with them — we discover in them qualities which are unlovely. Selfishness is veiled under apparent courtesy. Rudeness and lack of refinement are hidden under the illusion of culture. We find weaknesses marring the strength we admired.
In choosing friends we need those who will not be driven from us when they discover our faults. True friendship must take us for better, and for worse. It must not be chilled by our defects — but must be patient with them. We have need for those as friends who when they know all about us, and have learned our weak points, the unlovely qualities in our character and disposition, as they must do in the close contact of friendship, shall still be our friends, truer than ever, and gentler and more patient.
Again, the friend we may safely choose, should be one whose friendship will be a blessing to us. Every friendship leaves its impression on our life. There are touches that blight — and there are touches that are blessings. The hearts of the young are so delicate in the beauty of their unsullied innocence, that even a breath of evil tarnishes them. You cannot afford to take into your life for a single hour, an impure companionship. It will leave a memory that will hang like a shadow over your soul, even on your deathbed.
True friendship implies mutual helpfulness — it is not all on one side. Friends should be partners in cares. What one has, the other shares. Where there is true friendship, there are always two sets of shoulders under every burden.
Some are quite willing to be served, but do not care to serve in turn. All jealousies, and complaints of neglect or slighting, and all demands for attention — are qualities, not of friendship — but of greedy, grasping selfishness. In choosing friends we need to look to this.
If a young woman finds her lover exacting, tyrannical, jealous, dictatorial — then let her beware! His love may prove a crown of thorns when she becomes his wife!
We should seek for friends those who will never tire of bearing our burdens. We shall have sorrows. Shadows shall creep over us. Our reputation may be assailed. We may become a care, unable to give anything in return, but grateful love. He who consents to be our friend, is taking upon himself many possibilities of burden-bearing. The friends we choose should be such as will not grow weary of these costly services if they are required.
"A friend is born for adversity," said the wise man. "A friend should bear a friend's infirmities," says a proverb. Our friend must take us and be ready to share our sorrow or our weakness — and never tire of helping us.
There are human friendships which do this. Holiest of them all is the father's or the mother's. You have seen a child growing up deformed, blind, deaf, or with some other trouble that made it always a burden and a care. Yet, through the years, the parental hearts clung to it with the most tender, patient, unwavering affection, never wearying of the burden, ministering with almost divine gentleness all the while.
You have seen invalids, also, who could never be anything else than invalids, to be toiled for day after day, to be watched over year after year, to be carried from room to room, upstairs and downstairs, like helpless infants. There was no hope that they ever could repay the toil they cost, or that the burden would grow lighter by and by, or that they ever could be anything but objects of care.
Yet you have seen friendship equal even to such sore and costly test. You have seen husbands who live for invalid wives; and wives for broken-down husbands. You have seen whole households devoted to an invalid brother or sister.
Even outside of the home and family circle, you have seen friendships that never faltered nor wavered under burdens that could not grow less. There are indeed holy human friendships whose beauty and splendor remind us, amid the world's selfishness and hardness, that fragments of God's image yet exist even in fallen lives, and that it is possible to restore the heavenly luster. Blessed are they to whom God gives for friends, such rare people — unselfish and holy!
"A friend loves at all times!" Proverbs 17:17