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
· 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