Mar 19, 2010

Elements of Friendship

by Sarah Albrecht

This week I read an article that delved into the definition of friendship with the purpose of exploring how friendships can educate us. Classically (as in Aristotle), friendship is defined by three characteristics:

· Common interest
· Helpfulness
· Common pursuit of moral good

The article goes on to note that in today’s Western world, friendship is marked primarily by just the first component, common interest, and that the latter two are largely foreign in our culture.
I was very interested in the article’s exploration of what can happen within a friendship when the latter two components, helpfulness and common pursuit of moral good, are either absent or present. When these two elements are absent, friendship can “damage well-being” and “pull people away from community.” When present, these elements:

· Lead to a greater respect and concern for people
· Lead to greater commitment to truth and justice
· Lead to an “elevating, animating” activity of the heart
· Enlarge and extend our moral experience because we know ourselves and others better

And what I really liked is this equation: friendship + virtue = educative experience.

It’s a lot to think about and can be applied in many situations: our own, historically (I think of John & Abigail Adams), in the gospel context…and how about the types of friendships we develop in our writing? Which of the three elements are present, and how do they affect the characters’ relationships?

I’m still ruminating.

Citation: Smith, M. E. and Smith, M. K. (2002) 'Friendship and informal education', the encyclopedia of informal education


  1. My first thought about the 3 components took me to analyze my different friendships. The friends that are just "softball friends" or just "football friends" or "parents of my kids friends friends" sometimes seem shallow and empty, especially when I only socialize with them on those ocassions. It is my friends that help me, and I them, and those that have a common pursuit of moral good, are the friends I know I can count on, even if sometimes I only see them during football season, or the school year. Food for thought today for sure. Thanks so much.

  2. Fascinating. Now you have me ruminating. I really appreciate the friendship + virtue = educative experience.

  3. Thank you for your thoughts on this subject. It is good food for thought.


Thank you for visiting. Feel free to comment on our blogger's posts.*

*We do not allow commercial links, however. If that's not clear, we mean "don't spam us with a link to your totally unrelated-to-writing site." We delete those comments.