A Letter from Fr. Ashmore
Friendship and Virtue
My grandpa was a quotable man. Growing up, I never knew my grandparents very well. We always lived several hours away from them, and by the time I was old enough to realize I wanted to know the man, his mind had been taken by age and dementia. My dad, who adored his father, gave me a taste of his personality and intellect, however, by feeding me with brief lines of his wisdom and humor. When I was a little mouthy, he might tell me, “It is never good to be loud and wrong on the same day.” If I was overly sure of myself, he might say, “Ignorance is not nearly painful enough.” One quote, however, that always stuck with me was the simple classic, “You should never be the smartest person in the room.”
It’s a simple, but utterly brilliant concept. For me, this statement explained and epitomized my grandpa’s wisdom. He knew something crucial about human nature. We are only as good as the people with whom we surround ourselves. And, if we want to continually grow, we should always surround ourselves with those who can make us better.
This is why friendships are so important. Friends are not a mere accoutrement of life or an optional nicety that can be discarded at will. Our friends express who we are and show the potential of who we want to be.
Aristotle famously said there were three types of friends: friends of utility, for example your barber; friends of pleasure, for example a college buddy; and perfect friends. He said the last category was far rarer, but even more precious. True friends unite around one concept. They decide together to challenge each other to virtue, to encourage each other in trial, and to support each other even when all seems lost. He says that a person would be lucky to have one or two perfect friends in his life.
It’s notable then, that Jesus calls us his friend. He is the perfect image of a perfect friend. He teaches us how to live. He shows us the meaning of true love, love to the point of death. And, he sacrifices everything so that we can have life. This is the model of what a true friend should be.
In our life, we have two choices in regard to friendship. First, we can choose what type of friend we are to others. Second, we can choose what types of friends we have. At Saint Thomas Aquinas we want to teach our students to be perfect friends, friends who hold each other accountable, who are examples of virtue, who support each other when they are down, and cheer on each other in victory.
This, however, starts at home. What types of friends do you as parents have? Can you pick out a perfect friend in your life? Do you have toxic friends, friends who drag you down? Are you surrounding yourself with people who call you to your greatest potential as a Christian mother or father? Do you have conversations with your children about their friends, and tell them the importance of always surrounding themselves with true friends who make them better?
Friendship is a skill; it is not engrained in us from birth. We must learn how to be good friends and be taught the true meaning of friendship. If we help our students do so, we will give them the tools to accomplish marvelous things long after they leave the school’s and the home’s front door. We’ll help them become the great men and women they were intended to be.