The Four Loves Read-Along ~ Week 3 ~ Friendship

The Four Loves

Again from my The Four Loves Read-along week 2 post I’ve had thoughts brewing. On Marian’s blog, I posted a question that I’ve been musing about and I thought I’d re-post here in case anyone has any enlightening comments on it:

“Were you surprised when Lewis spoke about developing Affection for people one normally would have nothing to do with but circumstances brought them together? I find that nowadays most people choose only people they would want to hang out with. Where have the relationships gone which form in spite of themselves? Has our world changed drastically from Lewis’ world?”

I do think generally that in spite of our outward modern multi-cultural tolerances, that people actually have practically less tolerance towards the differences of people.  What do you think?

Friendship pablo picasso

Frienship (1908) Pablo Picasso ~ source Wikiart


Lewis states that few people think of Friendship as a love, and while the Ancients prized it as “the most fully human of all the loves,” the modern world ignores it.  Of course, we say we need “friends” but view them as a marginalized diversion that fills space in our lives and do not see them as bringing a rich, meaningful love of which Cicero spoke in his Amicitia (which I own and am planning to read soon!).  We do not know Friendship because we travel through life not experiencing it.

Why?  The “non-natural” aspect of Friendship explains the historic alteration in its value.  While it is the least natural of the loves, it is perhaps the most practical.  It draws people away from the collective instead of drawing them together.  While other loves are necessary, Friendship is not.  Groups can feel uneasy when Friendships are formed.  The Ancient world “was ascetic and world-renouncing.  Nature and emotion and the body were feared as dangers to our souls, or despised as degradations of our human status.  Inevitably that sort of love was most prized which seemed most independent, or even defiant, of mere nature.  Affection and Eros were too obviously connected with our nerves, to obviously shared with the brutes …. But in Friendship — in that luminous, tranquil, rational world of relationships freely chosen — you got away from all that. This alone, of all the loves, seemed to raise you to the level of gods or angels.”  Then arrived Romanticism and Friendship did not have enough emotion, instinct or natural behaviour to commend it.

Friendship The Four Loves

Friendship (1907) Mikalojus Constantinas Ciurlionis
source Wikiart

However, Friendship, “is a relation between men at their hightest level of individuality.”  It withdraws rather than collectively unites and some “forms of democractic sentiment are naturally hostile to it because it is selective and an affair of the few.”

Because of this history, Lewis claims that any writing on Friendship must be a “rehabilitation” and to begin, he refutes a popular assumption that every “Friendship is consciously and explicitly homosexual.” Certain men argue for this view as they would argue for an “invisible cat” but “those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend ….. in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love affair.”  And contrary to Eros which constitutes two, Friendship can be more enriching with three or more.  We are more ourselves through others.

Animal Friendship

Animal Friendship (1918) Karl Reichert
~ source Wikimedia Commons

There is another interaction in communities which is often mistaken for Friendship but under its matrix: men enjoying the company of other men and women enjoying the company of other women.  These interactions breed pleasure in cooperation, mutual respect and understanding.  It is called Companionship.  While Friendship can arise out of Companionship, it is not the same. Many say they have Friends when they only have companions.

Because Friends care about deeper aspects in life, those who merely “want friends” will never truly find them.  “The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends.”  Friends ask each other, “do we see the same truth?” Anything less could be Affection but not Friendship, as for Friendship to exist, there must be something for it to be about.

Friendship between the sexes may exist, but it easily transforms into Eros, or will sooner or later.  The co-existence of Eros and Friendship often enriches both.

Allegory on the friendship between the artist and Joannes Radermacher

Allegory on the friendship between the artist and Joannes Radermacher (1589) Jorise Hoefnagel ~ source Wikimedia Commons

Lewis has already mentioned the unnecessary quality of Friendship and he will elucidate his point.  While Friendships that spur certain social movements could be either beneficial or detrimental to a community, generally the community doesn’t benefit from Friendships.  What people view as Friendship is often merely an ingredient of the true thing. Friendship is free from “the need to be needed,” is uninquisitive, arbitrary, irresponsible and unnecessary.

“I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine.  No claims, no shadow of necessity.  Friendship is unnecessary.”

Yet because Friends share a common journey, an Appreciative Love develops between them, sometimes so powerful it can be humbling.

Most Friendships spring up between like genders as their common interests tend to differ, although in certain situations there can be cross gender Friendships.  However, sometimes there is unequal attempts at crossing the gender barriers which can make for an uncomfortable Companionship, for although a female may make herself part of a male group, she is never truly part of it.  In effect, she has drawn no closer to men than her grandmother, yet her grandmother was happier.  In fact, by such methods women can banish male Companionship and therefore male Friendships in droves. And while their victory is unconscious, there are other women who do it deliberately.  But these are “silly women” and there are many sensible ones who stay in their own sphere and perhaps laugh at the men, which is as it should be.  “Where the sexes, having no shared activities, can meet only in Affection and Eros ….. it is healthy that each should have a lively sense of the other’s absurdity ….. No one ever really appreciated the other sex … without at times feeling them to be funny.  For both sexes are. Humanity is tragi-comical …”

Cupid and Hymen Drink From the Cup of Friendship

Cupid and Hymen Drink From the Cup of Friendship (1820) Jean Baptiste Regnault ~ source Wikimedia Commons

Lewis now says:

“… it seems no wonder if our ancestors regarded Friendship as something that raised us almost above humanity.  This love, free from instinct, free from all duties but those which love has freely assumed, almost wholly free from jealousy, and free without qualification from the need to be needed, is eminently spiritual.  It is the sort of love one can imagine between angels.  Have we here found a natural love which is Love itself?”

Yet there are holy and unholy angels and just because we view Friendship as spiritual, does not mean it is “holy or inerrant.” We must look at three issues:

  1. The distrust of Authority for Friendship
  2. The attitude of the majority who does not know or understand Friendship and may be envious of it
  3. Friendship does not reflect the image of God & Man; Scripture, in fact, tends to overlook it

First, Authority frowns on Friendship because:

“Every real Friendship is a sort of secession, even a rebellion.  It may be a rebellion of serious thinkers against accepted clap-trap or of faddists against accepted good sense, (etc.) … Whichever it is, it will be unwelcome to Top People ….. Men who have real Friends are less easy to manage …. harder for good Authorities to correct or for bad Authorities to corrupt.”

Yet while “Friendship (as the ancients saw it) can be a school of virtue; but also (as they did not see) a school of vice …. It makes good men better and bad men worse.”  It is important to be aware of these dangers.

The Union of Love and friendship

The Union of Love and Friendship (c. 1793) Pierre Paul Prudhon ~ source Wikimedia Commons

Friends cannot have the same wide effect as a powerful social class but it is still dangerous on its own scale.  A sense of superiority can bring on a “deafness” to others …. “Thus the transition from individual humility to corporate pride is very easy,”: a pride of Friendship.  Because Friendship must exclude, there is a real danger of this pride appearing. And while Friendship is the most spiritual of the loves, it must bear a triple dose of humility to protect it.  Is it any wonder that Scripture refers to it so rarely?  It is too spiritual to represent spiritual things: … “The highest does not stand without the lowest.”  God can safely be “Father” and “Husband” without confusing the literal but if Friendship were used, “nearness (by resemblance) to the heavenly life which Friendship certainly displays, might be mistaken “for a nearness of approach.”

Because Friendship is spiritual, it must request divine guidance to remain so.  It must not be a “mutual admiration society”.  But for a Christian, as God as chosen us, he also has chose us for one another.


  1.  What are your thoughts about friendship between the sexes?  Is it possible?
  2. Lewis’ examples of a female in a male sphere can indicate that she is trying to “fix” her contemporaries.  Do we do this in modern times?  Do men try to “fix” women and women, men?
  3. How many true friendships do you think you have in your life?


Hmmm ….. although I thoroughly appreciated Lewis’ thoughts in this chapter, I don’t have much to say about it.  He’s left me thinking about if a man and a woman can truly be Friends without it turning to Eros.  We like to think they can be just Friends but I have the uncomfortable feeling that Lewis is more right than not. However, I have one good male friend whom I’ve been friends with for years (I’m friends with his wife too) and that’s ALL we are ….. friends.  So I suppose it can happen but is it worth taking the chance?  Or at least perhaps the realization that Eros could happen might make us more careful.

I do love this idea of Friendship … someone whom you can get deep with, you share in their lives and have really no expections for each other.  Yet there is a loyalty and connection that reaches beyond the worldly.  However, in order for this love to develop, people must be able (and willing) to speak about topics that are profound, overlook a person’s faults and, in this age particularly, work at spending time to make the Friendship grow.  Perhaps it’s no wonder that true Friendship nowadays is a rarity.

Good Friends William Merritt Chase

Good Friends (1909) William Merritt Chase ~ source Wikiart

And finally, I’m going to list some Friendship pairings, some of whom Lewis mentioned but some I discovered myself:

Damon and Pythias: Pythias is accused of plotting against Dionysus I of Syracuse who allows him to settle his affairs, holding Damon in his stead in case Pythias should not return.  But Pythias does return to a certain death, and Dionysus, impressed at the depth of their friendship, lets them both go.

James Boswell & Samuel Johnson:  Even with a 31 year difference in their ages, these two met and formed a close friendship that would last a lifetime.

Samwise Gamgee & Frodo Baggins:  A friendship that sticks together through thick and thin (and fire!) [The Lord of the Rings]

Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday:  Perhaps on a desert island, one gets to know another better than anywhere else! [Robinson Crusoe]

John and Abigail Adams:  If anyone exemplifies a love, partnership and friendship between husband and wife, these two are a fine example!

Anne Shirley and Diana Barry:  This is a friendship that many young girls can only dream of. [Anne of Green Gables]

Charlotte and Wilbur: Such a sweet friendship [Charlotte’s Web]

George, Harris, Jerome & Montmorency:  Three Men in a Boat!  If you haven’t read it, you’re missing something grand!

Pooh and Piglet: Need I say more?

Can you think of any others?


⇐  The Four Loves – Affection                                        The Four Loves – Eros

The Four Loves




14 thoughts on “The Four Loves Read-Along ~ Week 3 ~ Friendship

  1. Just posted my post (at the same time?!). 😀 I love your list of friendships from literature and history! Frodo and Sam are friendship goals, for sure. My favorite is Alan Breck and David Balfour from Stevenson’s Kidnapped.

    I think friendship between men and women is possible, to a limited extent. I was good friends with two former coworkers, both male. The three of us solved problems together, shared lots of laughs, and spent a lot of time with each other at the office. Because they were both married, I was never able to be the kind of friend to them that they were with each other. Still, I keep in touch with them on a professional basis and consider them friends, if not “close” friends.

    Outside my family, I haven’t experienced many true friendships…certainly less than five. Quality over quantity!

    • You’ve reminded me that I’d planned to read Kidnapped this year. I think I read it as a child but I can’t remember.

      I think friendship between men and women is possible too but very unusual. As Bookstooge says below, often it goes sideways and can turn out badly or turn to Eros which may or may not be a good thing.

      As for friendships, in spite of being very social, I haven’t had many true friendships either. Most are companionships and while valued, are not valued nearly as much as my friendships. I like that Lewis says unless you are able to “go deep,” you will never experience true friendship. Friendship is more than drinking with your buddies, sharing gossip, men (or women)-bashing, shopping, eating out, etc. It’s rather sad though to think that given the state of our society, there are probably many out there who are truly alone. But then again, perhaps they don’t realize it ……

  2. “1) What are your thoughts about friendship between the sexes? Is it possible?”

    I think friendship between the sexes is much like the drinking of alcohol. It is possible to drink, regularly and not get drunk. However, the very nature of alcohol leads to drunkenness unless one is constantly vigilant. And some simply cannot partake, for one reason or another. I’m always leery of cross-gender friendships because I know how many problems have arisen from a friendship turning into eros, even if just in the mind for one of them. Personally, I don’t have female friends. Companions, yes. And I would as soon spend time with a wolf than alone with a woman who isn’t my wife. The inherent risk is to great for me to cross that line.

    “2) Lewis’ examples of a female in a male sphere can indicate that she is trying to “fix” her contemporaries. Do we do this in modern times? Do men try to “fix” women and women, men?”

    I think men have given up, societally, on “fixing” women. Any time a man tries to assert anything in the public sphere shouts of “toxic masculinity” rise like the Flood. I also think the opposite is true in the other direction. Men are being “fixed” all the time. And it has led to our current crop of kids who have no spine and don’t know how to act like men and when they do react against being cut down, they react wrongly, never having been trained in how a man should react. I am afraid when the backlash for masculinity arrives, because of humanity’s brokenness. I see a time when masculinity becomes a lot more akin to how Islam views it than Christianity.

    “3) How many true friendships do you think you have in your life?”
    2 or 3 at most. However, part of that is genetics 😀 My dad was a loner and when I was a teenager and I saw him by himself, I used to wonder how he stood the loneliness of being by himself without a group of friends. Now that I’ve reached my 40’s, I’m finding myself enjoying being alone more and more. People, even good and well meaning people, just annoy me too often.

    As for your opening question, I think our times HAVE changed from Lewis’s, a lot. With people now moving every decade or less, at least on average here in the States, and the number of activities available, no body has to hang out with the work group “because that’s all I’ve got”. Same for church. You don’t “have” to hang out with other church members.
    And we suffer for that corporately even while it might be beneficial individually.

    Flipping fantastic post, yet again. Keep up the good work.

    • Wow, Bookstooge, thanks for your answers. I really value your opinion; you always have wonderful (and direct 😉 ) observations and these answers no less so.

      First #1, I agree wholeheartedly. I used to not agree and think that men and women could certainly just be friends. But, especially if you are in a relationship, why risk that for someone else who shouldn’t mean as much to you? Too dangerous at the risk of complicating life too much. In Lewis’ time it might have been easier because letter-writing was a big thing and people could be kept at arms length but nowadays, especially with the moral climate, it’s much too risky.

      And #2: great thoughts on this topic and I think you’re right. It really bothers me how much women nag men and get away with it. And men are starting to women-bash which used to only be the other way around (not good either). I must say that I’m shocked at the number of men who tell me that they will no longer hold the door open for a woman because of the number of times they’ve gotten in trouble when they have. Really?! If you think something is right (or wrong), wouldn’t you do it (or not do it) anyway just for the moral/positive societal aspect of it regardless of what others think? Perhaps this is an example of your referenced loss of backbone. I think we’ve lost the hierarchy that used to balance cross gender relationships. And I don’t mean males in charge of everything, I mean males in charge in certain circumstances and females in charge in others. People try to eradicate hierarchy to get equality and it just doesn’t work. Hierarchy naturally asserts itself in any case. There is no more obvious case in point than nature but we seem to be too dense to realize it.

      And finally #3. Even though I think I’m a loner at heart, I’m still very social and have had tons of “companions” through the years. But just lately I’ve stopped initiating everything and it’s interesting to see which companions drop off. Now I think I’m left with my few true friends, those who are willing to get deep about many different subjects, give without the thought of getting back and taking time to form a strong relationship. I like the balance and I’m enjoying not being so busy (although I do have one friend who is hard to keep up with, lol!)

      Thanks so much for your kind words! These posts have been draining but I’ve wanted to do the work as I think Lewis’ perspective is so valuable. Thank YOU for reading! 🙂

      • Yeah, I’m nothing if not direct. It is a huge part of why I’m not in any groups online, not even at book sites. I can’t keep my mouth shut about certain things 😀

  3. Thanks for another great post–I’ve been reading yours and others, and I’ve read the Lewis through week three, but I’m not going to get my own post on the book, until I’ve finished the whole thing, it’s clear, and even then it may take a while…

    • You’re welcome, Reese! I would certainly wait to post until the end. It’s not easy going but so worth it. I’m so interested to hear what you have to say!

      • I’m finally finished the Lewis & composing a post and rereading yours (so thoughtful!)

        I read de Amicitia relatively recently and I’m not entirely sure that Lewis properly characterizes the classical attitude toward friendship. Cicero seems to me to see friendship as a more one-on-one sensation than does Lewis. (Though Cicero is equally, if not even more, interested only in masculine friendship.) But it’s an interesting question, and got me to thinking about friendship in groups versus friendship in pairs. It’s not obvious what the answer is.

        I also think Lewis is relatively accepting of the friendship between the sexes for 1960–certainly more so than Cicero–but perhaps not as much as we might be now.

        Anyway! Look for a post soon, I hope! The friendship between the animals picture is a lot of fun. Thanks for that!

        • It will be certainly interesting to hear what Cicero says. I’ve always thought of friendship as being one-on-one, with groups of friends being rare. Then again, Lewis had his Inklings and perhaps because of the structure of universities it made it more plausible for group friendships to form. I remember reading about Benjamin Franklin and he used to walk with his friends and they’d discuss ideas and debate.

          Lewis and Dorothy Sayers were great friends, a good example of cross-gender friendship. I wish more was written about them.

          Thanks for your insights, Reese. I always appreciate them. I’ll keep a sharp look-out for your post!

  4. Bravo. Loved all this, and all the comments too.
    I agree with this totally: I do think generally that in spite of our outward modern multi-cultural tolerances, that people actually have practically less tolerance towards the differences of people. What do you think?

    Houston is the most ethnically and culturally diverse city in the whole USA. You’ve heard well. More than NY. As I subbed in schools last year, I’ve seen people from all over the world. Once at an ESL class, there was a young man from an African country, a young woman from Palestine, others from central and south America, (El Salvador, Cuba, Guatemala…), and the problem was that there was no time or place to know each other. Love comes from the familiar, from common points we can all relate to.

    Just today, listening to Cry the Beloved Country, in chapter 7, the narrator says something, -I’m paraphrasing- such as, without love, nothing will be solved or improve, the black man and the white man, both must love their country as to wish the best for her. He was talking about how power corrupts, how white man is corrupt and many times, the black man that had ideals, gets to power and gets corrupt himself. And that’s when he says that cycle only love can break.

    That’s what I see on FB and around me. Lots of hatred. Appeal to the ethics. No common ground, no common affections. If we start from the differences, we’ll never get to a common place. Only the common place, the familiar, our affection, can act as gravity that can receive the impacts of the different and those tensions, and resolve the conflict of the different. (To give your life for a friend, many will, but to die for one whom you don’t know… only Jesus. Why? Because He, -unlike us-, knows us ALL).

    Good list of friend pairs. I’m adding Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

    About friendships with the other gender, ditto all you have said. I have a male friend, but I’m too friends with his wife, and my husband is also friends with both. But there’s never as much freedom to love as with my friends who are women, -I also have a few, and the good thing with most is that our common interests are books, thinking, and God-.

    I loved his depiction of friends’s groups when they leave you out! LOL I’ve suffered that, and probably, when in a group, I may have inflicted that onto others. Wow. Lewis is such a great encourage for me, to love well, to make introspection and change or correct when I’m veering from the right path.

    • You know, it’s interesting what you say … that you hear hatred AND appeals to ethics. That’s exactly it! I hear so many people calling for justice BUT with this ethical consideration, there is often the sound of hate in their rhetoric against those who don’t agree with them. Indeed, without love one wonders how there can be any peace, and I mean REAL love that Lewis and Fromm speak about, not the wishy washy modern view of it.

      Great friendship pairing!

      • Yes, ma’am. Thanks again for a wonderful study so this mom’s brain won’t go to seed, and I can grow as a person, grow in REAL love.

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