Acquire for yourself a friend (Ethics of the Fathers 1:6)

How does one “acquire” a friend? Don’t friendships occur spontaneously?

Many people think they have friends, and some people think they have many friends. However, let’s reflect: “Is there anyone with whom I am so close and whom I would trust so completely that I would confide in him or her and tell everything and anything that is on my mind?” Many of us would find that such friends are few in number, and some of us may totally lack this type of relationship.

In his work on Ethics of the Fathers, Rabbeinu Yonah states that if a person tries to achieve perfection in all character traits at one time, he or she is likely to achieve nothing, but if the effort is concentrated upon improving one trait, success in that one area will facilitate improving many other traits. Similarly, trying to achieve a great number of friendships at once will likely create superficial friends. However, if a person will cultivate one friendship and so achieve the desired intimacy and trust, he or she may thereafter find it much easier to develop more profound and meaningful relationships with many people.

The teaching of the above Talmudical passage is now evident. Just like there are certain things in life that are an “acquired taste”, and may take time and determination to develop, Acquire a friend, i.e. try to develop a single relationship that grows beyond a superficial skin-deep level. Not only is that friendship important in its own right, but it will also enhance the quality of all the other relationships.

Today, think about your friendships. Either select one existing  friend and try to cultivate the friendship into one of complete trust and intimacy, or endeavor to form a new friendship instead.

Dr. Abraham J. Twerski