Samuel Johnson, in a letter dated July 14, 1763, to his friend George Strahan, who was afraid he’d lost Johnson’s friendship through some offense. It’s Johnson’s birthday today, September 18th, and I’m posting this because I’ve probably learned as much about friendship from Samuel Johnson as from any other author I’ve read on the subject. I’m very grateful for his essays and letters, and I hope others discover them too. Happy birthday, Dr. Johnson!
You are not to imagine that my friendship is light enough to be blown away by the first cross blast, or that my regard or kindness hangs by so slender a hair, as to be broken off by the unfelt weight of a petty offence. I love you, and hope to love you long. You have hitherto done nothing to diminish my goodwill, and though you had done much more than you have supposed imputed to you my goodwill would not have been diminished.
I write thus largely on this suspicion which you have suffered to enter your mind, because in youth we are apt to be too rigorous in our expectations, and to suppose that the duties of life are to be performed with unfailing exactness and regularity, but in our progress through life we are forced to abate much of our demands, and to take friends such as we can find them, not as we would make them.
These concessions every wise man is more ready to make to others as he knows that he shall often want them for himself; and when he remembers how often he fails in the observance or cultivation of his best friends, is willing to suppose that his friends may in their turn neglect him without any intention to offend him.
When therefore it shall happen, as happen it will, that you or I have disappointed the expectation of the other, you are not to suppose that you have lost me or that I intended to lose you; nothing will remain but to repair the fault, and to go on as if it never had been committed.
This is my commonplace book and sometime-journal.
I blog at SpiritualFriendship.org.
My book is here: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.
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