Aristotle defined a group of virtuous friends as “Friends of the Good”. I prefer noble friendship. Buddhists believe a community of noble friends is the third Jewel of a beautiful life.
My noble friends are the friends who help us on our spiritual path, who show up to call us out and keep us sane. They tell the truth, even when it hurts, and they pick us up when we can’t manage ourselves. They ensure we see the light of day. They are the ones who allow us to say how we feel and then not take it personally—they let us vent, then drop it and don’t run story lines. They model back to us what we need most because they themselves are diligent practitioners of the inner life and by virtue of their existence inspire us to walk a similar road.
These are the tried and true, the ones who are always with you and it’s not a conscious effort, it just is.
I have few of these, but the ones I have are deep and real. Being this kind of friend is hard. I suspect it’s why so few fall into this category.
For me, it’s 3 three things:
1) Fierce truth: Being direct and telling fierce truth, helping someone see what he or she can’t in a certain moment. I need it in return even if I suck at receiving it. Fierce truth is how I know when someone really loves me—they say the hard stuff, they push thru the discomfort so that I can shine even in the dark.
2) Unconditional love and grace: Much more is going on in everyone’s lives than any of us realize. This life is hard to navigate, no matter how awesome you’ve got it. Friends of the good recognize this intimately and they allow huge grace. They get that we all blow it, we all are just doing our best and often that’s not very good. Unconditional love requires us to love the sinner, even if we’re horrified by the sin.
3) Attention and cultivation: A friendship of the good is an enormous privilege and blessing. It deserves our respect, attention, and loving-kindness. So many of us have had friends of the good but have not honored and revered them as the true gift they are. We all know by now that to have, we must give and this requires us to jump in and fully engage. To cultivate this kind of friendship I have to take time to actively engage and authentically cherish.