Before we delve into just how many friends we can argue that anyone can handle, we perhaps need to ensure that we are on the same page with respect to our understanding of the word, ‘friend’, or the equivalent rendition, ‘friendship’.
What then is a Friend, or what exactly constitutes Friendship? Is a friend someone who simply delights in spending time with you? Or is a friend someone with whom you share the innermost secrets of your soul? Or perhaps yet, a friend is someone who is there for you whenever you need some emotional or moral support?
If someone spends time with you, loves to laugh with you, but yet, after several years, you really know nothing about essence of this person, clearly, such a person has yet to become your friend, merely is a person who delights in your companionship.
By the same token, if a person who delights in spending time with you does not exhibit any desire to get to know you as a person, clearly, there is delight in companionship — conversation and activities — but as yet no desire for arrival at friendship.
One of the travails of marriage in modern society is that women marry men who only delight in their companionship — men who do not have any desire to get to know the person that is the woman, men who only delight in the escapism of which the woman is representative. Ditto failings of men’s marriage decisions. In this respect, if you say, “divorced physician heal thyself;” I respond, “That is essence of the adjective, ‘divorced’.”
Delight in Companionship is not the same thing as Delight in Friendship.
Delight in Companionship can be no more than Escapism from Realities of Life. The Worst part of it? It can be more subconscious, than conscious.
While Delight in Companionship is a necessary condition for arrival at Friendship, it is not the same thing as Delight in Friendship.
A person who always can be relied on to provide emotional and moral support can be no more than a Sycophant. A person who is a sycophant does not have any capacity for provision of Companionship, talk less of Friendship, for sycophancy implies a focus on benefits of sycophancy, as opposed to a focus on relationship.
That good book, the Bible, declares that, because there always are sycophants seeking to please, this for enhancement of their own monetary welfare, a rich man always will have people around him. While a rich man always has people around him, this does not translate into either of companionship or friendship.
In this respect, consider kings. There is not any wise king who seeks a sycophant, or sycophants as personal adviser(s). A sycophant always tells a king that his ideas, actions, and beliefs are as right as ever they could be. A true adviser prods a king to think more deeply about his ideas, actions, and beliefs for arrival at wiser ideas, actions, and beliefs. A true adviser then, knows how to push back at a king, yet with a focus on dignifying of the king, as opposed to a focus on appearing to be wiser than the king. The capacity for staying on the right side of the line outlined — advice that dignifies a king, as opposed to making an adviser look wiser than a king — is essence of all advisers of kings who, themselves, attain to greatness.
So then, an adviser has capacity for becoming a companion to a king, but yet because a king must be seen to maintain an air of kingship, does not have capacity for arrival at friendship with a king.
A person who always can be depended on for emotional and moral support may be no more than a sycophant, as such lack capacity for either of Companionship or Friendship.
People have been known to be ‘done in’ via their willingness to share innermost secrets of their soul with others. A famous example known to even those who are not Christians comes from Christian Scriptures, that is, Samson the Nazirite, who was done in by beautiful Delilah.
By the way, why is it that even yet today, beautiful Delilahs continue to sacrifice Samsons — deliverers of society from oppression of the rich and powerful — for men who do not have any regard for them, for men who seek to enslave the rest of society, this only so they end up with lots of money?
But then, I digress.
A person who truly seeks to be a friend does not demand knowledge of innermost secrets of the soul, rather seeks to understand and to know. A person who seeks to become a friend attempts, in context of interactions, to arrive at understanding and knowledge of ethos of a person with whom friendship is desired.
Boy meets Girl, Boy and Girl click, Boy and Girl begin to date, begin to find delight in Companionship. So then, Boy begins to develop sexual desire, as such seeks to have sex. Girl, however, still is processing the relationship, has yet to arrive at permission for herself to engage in sex with Boy.
So then, Boy who demands secrets of the soul declares: “If you truly loved me, you would have sex with me.” Interpretation?
“If you truly loved me, whatever it is you are reserving for a man whom you find pleasing, well then, give it to me. I declare that I deserve it.”
But then, Boy who delights in friendship declares: “What is the obstacle in your spirit or mind, which as yet, makes it difficult for you to arrive at wanting to have sex with me? Is it something I can address? If so, why don’t we talk about it?” Interpretation?
“If the obstacle has to do with the extent to which you find a man pleasing, well then, let me know what it is, so I can choose to prove to you that I am the man for whom you seek.”
Friendship never demands, always seeks to understand and to know.
If friendship always seeks to understand, and to know, given friendship, by it’s very nature must be bi-directional, else it loses it’s meaning, we arrive at the following characterization of friendship.
Friendship involves two or more persons who, themselves, desire to be known and understood, and who desire to understand and to know ‘the other’ to the extent that ‘the other’ wishes to be known and understood.
Consider then what is involved in Friendship, which is, an opening up of oneself to be known and understood, and a putting forth of efforts towards knowing and understanding another — who also desires to be known and understood — to the fullest extent that is possible.
So then, just how many persons do you think, on basis of normal commitments of life — marriage or dating, or courting, children, job, community, politics, keeping up with the news, mandatory social interactions etc. — do you think you could engage with in context of a commitment to Friendship?
Two famous kings — kings David and Solomon of Biblical fame — could, themselves, only find time for formation of one friendship.
Well then, just how many friends do you think you can handle?
Reference for allusion to Samson and Delilah: Judges ch. 16.
Reference for surrounding of kings by sycophants: “Even of his neighbor is the poor hated, and those loving the rich are many. Whoso is despising his neighbor sinneth, whoso is favoring the humble, O his happiness — Proverbs 14:20–21, YLT.”
Reference for how many persons were stated to be friends to either of king David, or king Solomon: David — 2 Samuel 16:16; 1 Chronicles 27:33. Solomon — 1 Kings 4:5.