Friendship Advice from Seneca

There’s a time for judgment and a time for trust

friends riding bikes
Image by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

“After friendship is formed you must trust, but before that you must judge.” Seneca the Younger, in Letters from a Stoic

How many times have you found yourself justifying a friend’s motives? How many times have you felt that a loved one is foolishly defending a friend’s actions?

My husband and I often disagree on what each other’s friends said or did. He can’t see why I think his friend is cruel because of something he said. I can’t understand why he’d think my friend’s action makes her dishonest.

It’s not a huge deal when we talk about our views in private. We’ve had serious fights, however, when he or I have criticized each other’s friends in public.

I’ve always thought that I’m right and my husband’s wrong. I just happen to be more discerning and balanced when judging other people.

Seneca says otherwise. There’s this other factor we’re not even aware of: Once someone’s a friend, you trust them.

Seneca also tells us not to enter into friendship hastily. First, you need to take the time to understand a person’s behavior patterns; analyze their actions, words and motives; and determine whether their values align with yours.

Then, and only then, should you and that person enter the realm of friendship. Once you cross the threshold into friendship, though, you must trust.

Seneca’s statement sounds like simple advice: first judge, then trust. Yet we can also see things a different way. If you don’t trust you friend Joe, then you don’t really see Joe as a friend. A friend is someone you give the benefit of the doubt to, someone who has gained, and deserves, your trust.

By the same token, it will be hard to repair a friendship once someone violates that trust.

Friendship is a beautiful thing. Though a personal visit may not be possible at the moment, today’s a good day to call, email, text, write, or otherwise connect with a friend.

Day 9 of 30-day writing challenge on a single topic: Quotes from Seneca the Younger’s Letters from a Stoic.

Why this topic? Because I can’t get over how timely and brilliant Seneca’s words are -2,000 years after he wrote them.

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