True friendship is worth more than gold, because the elements of character and virtue that make true friendship a blessing cannot be purchased. The best type of friend is one who is wiser and better than ourselves, inspiring us through their wisdom and virtue. They commit noble deeds, and their wisdom and goodness lifts us higher both mentally and morally.
Those that intend to be great artists practice imitating the lines of previous masters, just as those who desire to life a good life must carefully follow the examples of trusted and true friends, imitating their good qualities until they equal or exceed the other person’s virtuous deeds.
A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps
This proverb is always true. A person’s character has the ability to change others through daily interaction faster than through any other means. Purity creates purity; like creates like. This makes the choice of companions in early life more important than that of teachers or guardians. Keep good company, and you shall become good.
When Sir Joshua Reynolds was a boy, he had such great reverence for the Pope that he would press through the crowd simply to touch his coat with the end of his forefinger, as if he expected to be lifted higher by the act, and become more of a man. That same feeling should apply in the choice of companions. Select those whose nobleness inspires you to reach out in admiration.
Companionship Saves or Destroys
The late Rev. Dr. Thomson, of New York City, published the story of a youth who came under his ministry at nineteen years of age. He was the son of pious parents, neither profane, idle, nor vicious, and had established a character for industry and sobriety. At twenty-one he was employed by a rail road company, where he made friends with wicked companions. He soon fell into evil ways, and in less than a year, became too abandoned and reckless to be harbored by the church. This man died within three years.
Dr. Thomson described it, “Two weeks ago I knelt in that murderer’s cell, in company with his parents, sister, and brother, who had come for their last interview with him on earth. That narrow cell was more solemn than the grave itself. Two weeks ago tomorrow I saw the youth, who had once been of my spiritual flock, upon the scaffold. It was an awful scene. He made a brief address. Oh, if you could have heard the warning of that young man from the scaffold:
‘You know how I was brought up’, he said. ‘I had the best instructions a Christian father could give. Oh, if I had followed them, I should have been in my dear father’s home; but evil companions led me astray, and I have come to this! I hope, now, as I leave the world, my voice will warn all young men. Our desires and passions are so strong that it requires very little to lead us astray. I want to urge it upon all young men, never to take the first step in such a career as mine. When the first step is taken in the paths of sin, it is very difficult to stop.'”
The company he kept led to his fall. Associates make or break a man. A promising boy can be transformed into a felon, while a felon can be transformed into a promising man. All the lessons of home can be nullified, and the language and habits of your current company can replace years of previously learned behavior.
On a positive note, good companionship has the power to elevate and bless the spirit. It can do far more for you than wealth, home, or books. The benefits of good schools, churches and social clubs are in large part attributable to the quality and abundance of the pure spirited companions to be found there.
Beware Companions Whose Moral Character is Below Your Own
Unless you associate with them solely to reform them, avoid those who depreciate true worth, speak lightly of the best class of citizens, and sneer at reforms. Those who think that man cannot be successful in business and be honest, or those who think there is no hope in the future. They may not be bad people, but if their moral tone is below yours, they are dangerous associates for you. Instead you should choose friends of higher, nobler aims, whose aspirations are to be true and useful, who would not, knowingly, risk a stain upon their life-work, who know, “a good name is better than great riches,” and whose sole purpose is to create the best life possible.