In these series of blog posts I translate the Moral letters to Lucilius by Seneca into modern English. In Letter 3, Seneca discusses why having a true friend is important; to have people you can trust and confide in.
It’s important to know what a true friend is. For example, in life there are important choices, worrying events, and other activities which you should be comfortable to talk over with a friend. Friends are people you should be able to trust and confide in. A few thoughts:
- Having many friends is not as great as having few, great friendships.
- The wise man desires friendship, and he advocates that you should be active about friendship.
- If you want a friend, be a friend.
- The wise man should bear solitude, but not miss the opportunity of making a friend.
Of course, you have to speak to different people about different things. You may choose to ask one person for their advice on your career, but you wouldn’t ask this same person their opinion on your relationships. And friends may choose to discuss some of their activities with you, but not others; it’s just the way it is with friends. You not only have to help them if you can, but you have to stick up for them and try to stay in touch too.
Be a true friend
Often we try to present a certain good side of ourselves. We try to come across as competent, knowledgeable, interesting, accomplished, funny, smart, etc. But that’s a front. It’s only a part of who we are — the good part. If it’s true at all. Why bother trying to connect with someone when we’re just going to give them a false identity, just a façade? Might as well stay home. Much better is to open yourself up, to show the real you. When you become vulnerable, you risk a lot, but you also get much, much more. You get trust from the other person and a deeper connection. You get a better friendship. They open up more too.
Some people may be fortunate to know one person who can fulfil all aspects of what is means to be a friend, but this would be unusual. So you have use your judgement about the different people you choose to have faith in, in a variety of situations. Everybody can’t help with everything, thinking this is the case will lead to frustration. You also shouldn’t say that unless a person is perfectly qualified then you will not seek advice from them. This will mean that you end up with no friends at all.
Read the original text here.