Book 9: Friendship or Love—Continued.
Is it in prosperity or adversity that we most need friends? For under both circumstances we have recourse to them: in misfortune we need help, in prosperity we need people to live with and to do good to; for we wish to do good.
In adversity, it may be answered, the need is more pressing; we then require useful friends: but friendship is a nobler thing in prosperity; we then seek out good men for friends; for it is more desirable to do good to and to live with such people.
The mere presence of friends is sweet, even in misfortune; for our grief is lightened when our friends share it. And so it might be asked whether they literally take a share of it as of a weight, or whether it is not so, but rather that their presence, which is sweet, and the consciousness of their sympathy, make our grief less. But whether this or something else be the cause of the relief, we need not further inquire; the fact is evidently as we said.
But their presence seems to be complex in its effects. On the one hand, the mere sight of friends is pleasant, especially when we are in adversity, and contributes something to assuage our grief; for a friend can do much to comfort us both by sight and speech, if he has tact: he knows our character, and what pleases and what pains us. But, on the other hand, to see another grieving over our misfortunes is a painful thing; for every one dislikes to be the cause of sorrow to his friends. For this reason he who is of a manly nature takes care not to impart his grief to his friends, shrinking from the pain that would give them, unless this is quite outweighed by the relief it would give him; and generally he does not allow others to lament with him, as he is not given to lamentations himself; but weak women and effeminate men delight in those who lament with them, and love them as friends and sympathizers. (But evidently we ought in all circumstances to take the better man for our model.)
In prosperity, again, the presence of friends not only makes the time pass pleasantly, but also brings the consciousness that our friends are pleased at our good fortune. And for this reason it would seem that we should be eager to invite our friends to share our prosperity, for it is noble to be ready to confer benefits,—but slow to summon them to us in adversity, for we ought to be loth to give others a share of our evil things: whence comes the saying, “That I am in sorrow is sorrow enough.” But we should be least unwilling to call them in when they will be likely to relieve us much without being greatly troubled themselves.
But, on the other hand, when our friends are in trouble, we should, I think, go to them unsummoned and readily (for it is a friend’s office to serve his friend, and especially when he is in need and does not claim assistance, for then it is nobler and pleasanter to both): when they are in prosperity, we should go readily to help them (for this is one of the uses of a friend), but not so readily to share their good things; for it is not a noble thing to be very ready to receive a benefit. But we may add that we ought to be careful that our refusal shall not seem ungracious, as sometimes happens.
The presence of friends, then, in conclusion, is manifestly desirable on all occasions.