How to Be A Great Friend: The Great Books of the Western World on Great Friendship.
These are the basic readings on friendship. If you want to be a great friend, here is how.
1. Start with Lysis. This is supposed to be about friendship but actually Socrates is just teasing. Listen in on how Socrates uses the passion for Lysis to direct him to a wise end? This is one aspect of being a great friend: direct your friend to their own greatness. The Lysis of Plato is the single best instruction manual on making friends with young people, because it shows intead of tells you how.
2. Next, read Cicero On Friendship. If the Lysis is the best guide to young friends, the dialog On Friendship by Cicero is the best instructions on how to make friends with elders. Notice how wonderfully Gaius and Quintus draw Laelius out; can you see how they manipulate him with words to show his best qualities? Since it is no deceit to bring out good qualities in your friends, the text of this short dialog really shows another great lesson in friendship: use words to draw out the best qualities in your friend.
3. Finally, we come to a crucial parting point in the lessons on friendship: whether to follow the heart or the head? Francis Bacon is a friend of the head variety, whereas Michel de Montaigne is a friend of the heart. Both have essays entitled ¨On Friendship¨. Between them you must choose your lesson. Which is more important to you? Which is more important to your friend? And, are you aware of the consequences of either path? Among friends with worldly goals and practical concerns, this is the essential thing to know. So the lesson these two men suggest is: Be aware of what kind of friendship you are in, heart or head, and what consequences flow from that.
4. Last but not least are the ethical analyses of Aristotle, the reasoning of Epictetus, and the essay of Seneca. These mordant analysts cover the same material as Cicero with less charm. And they instruct me in the finest lesson of friendship, which is: Be friends only with people who make you happy and who you love to make happy. Because anything that lasts must make the effort to be charming. This
There they are: my four lessons of friendship:
1. Direct your friend to their own greatness. (Especially in young friends)
2. Use words to draw out the best qualities in your friend. (Especially in elder friends)
3. Be aware of what kind of friendship you are in, and what consequences flow from that. (Especially in peers)
4. Be friends only with people who make you happy and who you love to make happy.