I spoke in an earlier post about friendship. The purpose of that post was to discuss the difference between human and divine friendship, and how the one may sometimes be sacrificed for the other, especially in times of loneliness. In that post I also spoke briefly about the essence of friendship in general, going from St. Thomas. Today I'd like to expand a bit on that subject, again going from St. Thomas. (This will again serve as a sort of "note-to-self" for me, in regards to my own relations with certain other people...)
...not every love has the character of friendship, but that love which is together with benevolence, when, to wit, we love someone so as to wish good to him...Yet neither does well-wishing suffice for friendship, for a certain mutual love is requisite, since friendship is between friend and friend: and this well-wishing is founded on some kind of communication. (2nd pt. of 2nd pt., q. 23, a. 1).I found a passage in Garrigou-Lagrange's The Three Ages of the Spiritual Life, where he speaks of charity, and he quite nicely explains the above passage from St. Thomas. Here it is:
Every true friendship, St. Thomas tells us, implies three qualities: it is first of all a love of benevolence by which a man wishes good to another, as to himself; in this it differs from the love of concupiscence or of covetousness, by which one desires a good for oneself, as one desires a fruit or the bread necessary to subsistence. We ought to wish our friends the good which is suitable for them, and we should wish that God may reign profoundly over minds and hearts.
Moreover, every true friendship presupposes a love of mutual benevolence; it is not sufficient that it exist on the part of one person only. The two friends should wish each other well. And the more elevated the good which they wish each other, the more noble is this friendship. It is based on virtue when friends wish each other not only what is pleasant or useful like the goods of earth and fortune, but what is virtuous - fidelity to duty, progress in the love of moral and spiritual good.
Lastly, to constitute a true friendship, this mutual love of benevolence does not suffice. We may, in fact, have benevolence for a person at a distance, whom we know only through hearsay, and that person may have the same benevolence for us; we are not, however, friends for that reason. Friendship requires in addition a community of life (convivere). It implies that people know each other, love each other, live together, spiritually at least, by the exchange of most secret thoughts and feelings. Friendship thus conceived tends to a very close union of thought, feeling, willing, prayer, sacrifice, and action. (Book III, Chapter 19.)1. Love of Benevolence. When we love another person truly, we wish good for that person, as if that person were "another self." We all desire certain goods for ourselves; principally, our desire should be for our own spiritual and eternal good, tending towards the salvation of our souls. If we are to look at another as though he were "another self" to us, than we ought to wish the same good to him that we wish for ourselves. Thus, our principal desire, in the love of another human person, must be for his spiritual good, tending towards the eternal salvation and happiness of his soul. But the important point is that we wish this for him because we first wish it for ourselves, and we wish for him as if we were wishing it for ourselves. This is what Jesus meant when He commanded us, "...and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." This is the kind of love which makes the essence of the love of friendship; we do not truly love our neighbor with the love of friendship unless we desire that person's good, as if he were "another self."
If our love for another were to be founded upon the delight we take in that person's presence, or in the delight we take in beholding that person's beauty, or some other such self-interested motive, our love would not be the love of friendship, but the love of concupiscence, as St. Thomas called it. This is the sort of love that we have for food and drink, and other such like; this love tends toward our own benefit and our own pleasure, whereas the love of friendship tends toward the benefit of the one loved. The love of benevolence is essentially a selfless love.
2. Mutual Love. Although one person may love another with the love of friendship, or the love of benevolence, this is not necessarily enough to constitute an actual friendship between the two persons. For friendship, it is necessary that both persons have a love of benevolence for each other; it does not suffice that the one person love the other, and yet his love is not returned; it is not mutual. This is not friendship. Friendship is not a love of one person for another, but of two persons for each other. This much should be easily understood.
As Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange explains above, the nobler the good that two friends wish for each other, the nobler and holier and more beautiful the friendship. Thus, two persons ought to found their love for each other on a desire for each other's spiritual good and eternal salvation. This implies a mutual desire for virtue in each other, the desire that each other be ruled by his reason, and that his reason, in turn, be ruled by the principles of God's law; and likewise, in connection, that each person be ruled by his will, and that his will be ruled by the Will of God. Etc.
3. Communication of Love. It is finally necessary for friendship that this mutual love be communicated by each person to the other. It is not enough simply for both persons to love each other; in a friendship, they show and communicate this love to one another. Two people may genuinely love each other from a distance; but they cannot be called friends. To deserve that name they must share a community of life. This is done by an active movement of one to the other, a tendency towards a true union of hearts and minds. They must, in some sense, live with and in each other. This is shown by the continual presence of them in each other's hearts, the exchange of words, the sharing of their thoughts, their desires, their affections and emotions, their cares and concerns, their deepest secrets; an active self-giving to each other; an active doing of deeds for the good of each other; a conformity of wills between each other; activities done with each other; sacrifices made for the happiness of each other; support given to one another in times of trial; the offering of prayers for and with each other; etc. Two friends must become as if they were one person; they must be unified in almost everything - heart and mind, activities, etc. Love must be communicated by both persons to each other, in order for there to be a true friendship between them.
It should be easily seen that his communication of love is perfectly natural; for if one truly desires the good for another person, then one should actively seek to attain that good for the person. To refrain from such action would imply that perhaps one's love is weak; and practically speaking, it would indeed be largely inefficacious. In another place, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange writes that charity - and this would apply especially the love of benevolence - "ought to be not only affective but effective, not only benevolent but beneficent." This effectiveness and beneficence, by which the lover seeks to actually bring about the good of the beloved, comes about through this active communication of love; and thus is completed the making of friendship.