Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German poet, zoologist, botanist, and geologist once said: “Our friends show us what we can do, our enemies teach us what we must do.” Goethe went on to say that what friends do with us and for us is a real part of our lives for it strengthens and advances our personality. The assault of our enemies is not part of our life, it is only part of our experience. We can deal with it and learn to protect ourselves against it just as we do against frost, storm, rain, hail, or any other of the external evils which may be expected to happen.1
There are insightful things we can learn from our friends, especially our closest friends. First, we can learn that quantity is of very little value while quality is everything. One good word of advice from a close friend is worth more than hundreds of words of flattery.
Secondly, we can be ourselves among good friends. This means we don’t have to pretend or put on a happy face when we are really despondent. Others may simply tolerate you, but a good friend will be tender with you. Thirdly, trust is a valuable commodity. In fact, it is priceless among good friends. You can tell it like it is without fear of being devalued. Real friends will never make fun of your hurt feelings because they are there to support you.
Fourthly, good friends need you as much as you need them. By helping others, we are inspired to strengthen ourselves. If people didn’t have problems, we wouldn’t be needed. Being a good friend can help someone you care deeply about to take the mean things they’ve been handed and make something meaningful out of them.
Fifthly, as long as you have true friends you are never alone in this world. Not only are they ready and willing to be with you in time of need, but to walk through the trouble with you to help you figure how to handle it. Sixth, what we learn from good friends make us better. Just as you often carry your good friends to help them progress, they will carry you when you need assistance and motivation. There’s nothing like growing together with good friends.
Seventh, even with good friends there can be disagreements. But instead of each one trying to prove the other wrong, good friends are willing to listen to where they may be wrong. Friendship helps us to be attentive with our words and actions. Accepting our own mistakes may be difficult, but who better to help you recover than a good friend? And eighth, understanding the true value of friendship will make any person thankful and grateful for having good friends. Good friends learn a lot from each other and what is learned will become precious lessons in life.
King Solomon had a quaint way of putting it when he said that just as iron sharpens iron, people sharpen one another.2 That’s why friends who stick close to one another fit so well together. Solomon also said that being scolded out in the open is still better than hidden love.3 That means that sometimes good friends have to yank us by the arm to get our attention when they see that we are making fools out of ourselves. And it was the Apostle Peter who advised us that loving one another as good friends do, will help us get over many mistakes that could otherwise take us down.4 So if you have any good friends, keep them close to your heart. – Dr. Robert R Seyda
(Next week we’ll see what we can learn from those who are disrespectful to us.)
1 The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe: Translated by Bailey Saunders, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1906, p. 201
2 Proverbs 27:17
3 Ibid. 27:5
4 1 Peter 4:8