What Is A Good Friend?
I am your good friend and I bring out the best in you. You can count on me for compliments as well as constructive criticism. I make you feel great about yourself because you know I love you enough not tp compliment something which is not real. I don’t give you those honest compliments and critiques because I am smarter or more talented than you. I give you that valuable input because I am not you. I see you from the outside in a way that you are unable to see yourself. You and I share secrets, challenges, and triumphs because we know we have each other's best interest in mind.
You have another friend, but your relationship with him is different. He always compliments. He gives you great things like tickets to events, and always cheerfully picks up the check for dinner. Maybe he makes you feel good because you are smarter and in a more advanced position in life than he is. You take a lot from him, at times indirectly and other times directly. He is a fun person to be around, but he is not your good friend.
Your second friendship is easy to manage; the moment that his cost seems to outweigh the value of the relationship you let him go. He never really was your friend and there never really was a relationship: it was a person you kept around for convenience.
Managing the first friendship we discussed is a little more complicated:
I know that you value me as a friend, yet, sometimes I am expensive to have around. Sometimes I criticize a little too much. I am not abusive, G-d forbid, just a tad too demanding. Certain habits that I have are irritating to you. All in all you value our friendship deeply but you need to pay for that friendship. The price? Not responding to everything I do that annoys you. You give me the “benefit of the doubt” that I am not doing anything intentional to cause you pain or discomfort. You realize that I am not perfect. You accept me and love me with my imperfections and you don’t feel a need to constantly keep our relationship 100 percent “fair.” (Disclaimer: I am not suggesting that you let me walk all over you; I am asking that you cut me a little slack when I need it.)
In Pirkei Avos—Ethics Of The Fathers (1:6) we are taught “Make a rabbi for yourself and purchase a friend for yourself.” What does it mean to purchase a friend? Are we being taught to “pay” for a friend? Is a friend who we paid for even a friend at all? Rabbainu Yonah (13th century Talmudist) explains that the price we pay for a friend is overlooking their imperfections. He references the verse in proverbs 17:9: “One who covers up mistakes is seeking love and one who retaliates will separate the best of friends.” When my friend wrongs me, I really want to retaliate. I feel justified and there is no doubt in my mind that I am within my right. King Solomon in Proverbs is teaching us that I am correct. I am justified. He or she deserves it. Yet, if I act on that drive in will lose the friendship. Do you want to be right or do you want to be successful? Do you want to be right or do you want to keep a friend? King Solomon is not advising us to let ourselves be taken advantage of. He is teaching us the price of true friendship is to appreciate the fact that both we and our friends are not perfect. It can feel very expensive sometimes, but it is an expense worth stomaching for the life enhancing value that a true friend gives us.