Good friends have been such a blessing in my life. The notion of friendship mines the deep content of mutuality that stretches beyond tit-for-tat and natural affections, and duties. I have been reading a book by Aelred of Rievaulx, a Cistercian monk of 12th century Britain. He puts this so well:
“…[F]riendship among the just is born of a similarity in life, morals, and pursuits, that is, it is a mutual conformity in matters human and divine united with benevolence and charity.”
And later he goes on in more detail: “…[F]riendship bears fruit in this life and the next. It manifests all the virtues by its own charms; it assails vices by its own virtue; it tempers adversity and moderates prosperity.” And he describes how important it is to have someone “to rejoice with him in adversity…to unburden his mind if any annoyance crosses his path, or with whom to share some unusually sublime or illuminating inspiration.”
He continues: “What happiness, what security, what joy, to have someone to whom you dare to speak on terms of equality as to another self; one to whom you need to have no fear to confess your failings; one to whom you can unblushingly make known what progress you have made in the spiritual life; one to whom you can entrust all the secrets of your heart and before whom you can place all your plans! What therefore is more pleasant than so to unite to oneself the spirit of another and the two to form one, that no boasting is thereafter to be feared, no suspicion to be dreaded, no correction of one by the other to cause pain, no praise on the part of the one to bring a charge of adulation from the other. ‘A friend,’ says the Wise Man, ‘is the medicine of life.’ For medicine is not more powerful or more efficacious for our wounds in all our temporal needs than the possession of a friend who meets every misfortune joyfully…. who carries his own injuries even more lightly than that of his friend….’[F]riends,’ says Tullius, ‘though absent are present, though poor are rich, though weak are strong, and – what seems stranger still- though dead are alive.’
from Spiritual Friendship, by Aelred of Rievaulx (translated by Mary Eugenia Laker) Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo, MI 1974, pp. 61,73-75.