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What’s the mark of a real friend?

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True friends are a treasure, so it’s important to know who they are.

Friendship has been praised throughout the centuries. The biblical Book of Ecclesiastes (or Sirach), written in the second century before Christ, includes these beautiful words: “Nothing is comparable to a faithful friend, and no weight of silver or gold is worth more than the goodness of his fidelity. A faithful friend is a medicine for life and immortality.”

Generally speaking, we make friends in the ordinary course of life. As we enter different environments—beginning when we are young, in our neighborhood and our extended family, and as we grow up, in our city, at school, at work—we discover people who become our friends. We’ve all experienced the joy of getting together with them, talking, sharing experiences, giving each other advice, and so forth.

Wanting what’s good for the other person

Our life experiences include many moments of happiness when we are accompanied by friends, who are often the ones who made those moments possible. Things such as trips, sporting events, graduation from school, or birthday parties are among the countless good experiences we’ve had with our friends.

How can we tell if someone is a real friend, and not just someone who’s passing through our life in a pleasant and enjoyable way, but with no further meaning or consequences? And how can we make those friendly and fun people whose company we enjoy into authentic friends?

Friendship has one basic aspect: friends want what’s good for each other. Friends are not really friends if they’re only useful for reaching professional success or for connecting with other people, or for satisfying our ego and vanity because we want to be surrounded by influential people.

True friends don’t take advantage of each other.

Friends share what’s going on inside

There’s another distinctive aspect of friendship we should include: authentic friends share their interior life with each other. Friendship goes both ways, so it’s not about one giving and the other receiving.

This means that in great friendships people share their experiences of suffering, concern, and their interior battles, and they help each other in times of difficulty. They also share their deepest joys and most personal discoveries. Friends know each other’s hearts through and through.

It’s not necessarily about sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings on social networks, or about being able to drink wine with each other every Friday night. The way it happens is something that’s different in every friendship.

With whom do I share my confidences, and the depths of my heart? Does that person share theirs with me? That’s the way true friends are, and it lasts throughout the wide variety of circumstances we may experience throughout our lives, even if we can’t always be physically present with each other.

If you have a friend like that, you truly have a priceless treasure.

Read more: This is how friendship can transform you

Read more: There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.

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