Loyalty or honesty – which quality best describes a friend? “I thought he was your friend?”
The question was asked of me by a reporter. I’d just retaken my seat following the allowed three minutes at the microphone in which I had chastised one of the city council for his attempt to override our community effort to honor one of our locals.
“He is,” I replied. “He just crossed the line.”
There’s an ancient Hebrew proverb which some translations render inaccurately:
“A man that has friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”
Wrong. At least the first half.
The implication is amiableness; get-alongness; a smiley-face, best-foot-forward likeableness that certainly offends no one but rather is found by everyone as, well, friendly.
A good ol’ Joe.
Forever smiling, sun always shining, the number of Facebook friends stupefying – surely this guy epitomizes what it means to be a friend.
Observes one commentator, “the maxim means that the man of many friends, who lays himself out to make friends of bad and good alike, does so to his own ruin.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a friend.
“Facing the greatest evil of the 20th century” – Hitler’s Germany – Bonhoeffer was repeatedly assailed by the pressure from friends and foes alike, “mayn’t we all get along?”
Bonhoeffer’s answer: ‘mayn’t.’
In fact Bonhoeffer would write, “I find myself in radical opposition to all my friends.”
“As the shadow of the Third Reich fell across Germany,” as described in “Bonhoeffer – Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas, Hitler’s intentions became crystal clear to Bonhoeffer, but the ingratiating, fawning, blurring, co-opting and conceding compromises of his friends to Hitler’s advances began paring the list of those Bonhoeffer believed could truly be counted on.
One who made the cut and joined Bonhoeffer as a traveling companion – in fact became Bonhoeffer’s best friend – on his “long and lonely road” was Franz Hildebrandt who, within the first five minutes of the two meeting for the first time, began to argue and according to Hildebrandt “we never stopped arguing from that day (December 16, 1927) until we were separated by exile and war.
“You could not be a friend of Dietrich’s if you did not argue with him.”
Got a friend like that?
Would you rather have a friend loyal or honest?
Consider this from INC magazine, July 1991:
“Inexperienced CEO’s think they want loyalty. But don’t kid yourself. When it comes to making critical decisions, loyalty can be a big handicap. What you need is somebody who can stand up to your crazy ideas. Understand we’re not talking about someone who will undermine your basic principles. We’re talking tactics – how you move ahead, how you use resources to meet your goals. You want somebody who can help you think things through. Often that means somebody who can tell you you’re wrong.”
Do you cultivate – if not cherish – friends like that?