Friday, 2 September 2011


A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
he that has found one has found a treasure.
There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend,
and no scales can measure his excellence[1]

Recently I watched as David Cameron received a great deal of criticism for appointing his friend, Andy Coulson, as his media adviser. Andy Coulson, it was alleged, had been involved in, or knew about and condoned, the hacking of cell phones.

David Cameron defended his decision to appoint Andy Coulson on the basis of them being friends. David Cameron said that he had, because of their friendship, decided to give Andy Coulson a second chance. I was pleased., despite my feelings about David Cameron. It is not often that the term “friendship” is used today in those circumstances. It did not however go down well with the politicians and the media. The result was that Andy Coulson resigned his position.

That did not stop the matter. The media and politicians kept up their attacks of David Cameron and his decision to appoint Coulson. I watched, hopeful that David Cameron would stick to his guns and support his friendship. Sadly, eventually David Cameron began to distance himself completely from his friend Andy Coulson. The position of Prime Minister began to exceed the value of their friendship.

While I agree that the phone hacking scandal is disgraceful and understand the tremendous amount of anger about the matter, I was quite perturbed at the fact that the friendship between the two men seemed to have no value whatsoever. When the heat was really turned up, Cameron buckled, rather than lose the position of Prime Minister for his friend. The media and politicians themselves sent a clear message. Friendship is not honourable and it has no value in this world in which we live.

Sadly, this is true for many people today. The term “friend” or “friendship” is completely misunderstood or simply not appreciated anymore. The term “friend” is used, in many instances, incorrectly to define a relationship from which one derives some beneficial value. When the benefit derived from the relationship is deemed to no longer hold any value, or the relationship causes embarrassment or hardship, the “friendship” terminates. This relationship would probably have been better defined as an “acquaintance” and not as “friendship”.

Friendship is so much more than an acquaintance. The dictionary describes friendship “as a state of mutual trust and support.

The best explanation of the meaning true friendship probably comes from St Ambrose:

A faithful friend is the medicine of life and the grace of immortality.
Give way to a friend as to an equal, and be not ashamed to be beforehand with thy friend in doing kindly duties. For friendship knows nothing of pride. So the wise man says: "Do not blush to greet a friend."
Do not desert a friend in time of need, nor forsake him nor fail him, for friendship is the support of life.
If friends in prosperity help friends, why do they not also in times of adversity offer their support?
Let us aid by giving counsel, let us offer our best endeavours, let us sympathize with them with all our heart.
If necessary, let us endure for a friend even hardship.
Often enmity has to be borne for the sake of a friend's innocence; oftentimes reviling’s, if one defends and answers for a friend who is found fault with and accused. Do not be afraid of such displeasure, for the voice of the just says: "Though evil come upon me, I will endure it for a friend's sake."”[sic][2]

I often believe that one of the biggest problems that society faces today is the absence of friends. We live in a lonely world where we don’t trust and support anyone and conversely no one trust or supports us. Mother Teresa once said: “the most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.

Friendship should not be taken lightly. We need friends.

Maybe it is time for us all to re-evaluate our friendships and consider whether we are truly “friends” or just “acquaintances”.

[1] Sirach 6: 14 – 15
[2] St Ambrose, On the duties of clergy, Book III, 128 and 129

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