Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3, Chapter 20

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CHAPTER XX. Of the Difference between True and False Friendship.

TAKE notice, my child, that the honey of Heraclyum, which is so
poisonous, altogether resembles that which is wholesome, and there is
great danger of mistaking one for the other, or of mixing them, for the
virtue of one would not counteract the harmfulness of the other. We
must be on our guard not to be deceived in making friendships,
especially between persons of the opposite sexes, for not unfrequently
Satan deludes those who love one another. They may begin with a
virtuous affection, but if discretion be lacking, frivolity will creep
in, and then sensuality, till their love becomes carnal: even in
spiritual love there is a danger if people are not on the watch,
although it is not so easy to be deluded therein, inasmuch as the very
purity and transparency of spiritual affection show Satan’s stains more
promptly. Consequently, when he seeks to interpose, he does it
stealthily, and strives to insinuate impurity almost imperceptibly.

You may distinguish between worldly friendship and that which is good
and holy, just as one distinguishes that poisonous honey from what is
good–it is sweeter to the taste than ordinary honey, owing to the
aconite infused;–and so worldly friendship is profuse in honeyed
words, passionate endearments, commendations of beauty and sensual
charms, while true friendship speaks a simple honest language, lauding
nought save the Grace of God, its one only foundation. That strange
honey causes giddiness; and so false friendship upsets the mind, makes
its victim to totter in the ways of purity and devotion, inducing
affected, mincing looks, sensual caresses, inordinate sighings, petty
complaints of not being loved, slight but questionable familiarities,
gallantries, embraces, and the like, which are sure precursors of evil;
whereas true friendship is modest and straightforward in every glance,
loving and pure in caresses, has no sighs save for Heaven, no
complaints save that God is not loved sufficiently. That honey confuses
the sight, and worldly friendship confuses the judgment, so that men
think themselves right while doing evil, and assume their excuses and
pretexts to be valid reasoning. They fear the light and love darkness;
but true friendship is clear-sighted, and hides nothing–rather seeks
to be seen of good men. Lastly, this poisonous honey leaves an
exceeding bitter taste behind; and so false friendship turns to evil
desires, upbraidings, slander, deceit, sorrow, confusion and
jealousies, too often ending in downright sin; but pure friendship is
always the same–modest, courteous and loving–knowing no change save
an increasingly pure and perfect union, a type of the blessed
friendships of Heaven.

When young people indulge in looks, words or actions which they would
not like to be seen by their parents, husbands or confessors, it is a
sure sign that they are damaging their conscience and their honour. Our
Lady was troubled [109] when the Angel appeared to her in human form,
because she was alone, and he spoke to her with flattering although
heavenly words. O Saviour of the world, if purity itself fears an Angel
in human shape, how much more need that our impurity should fear men,
although they take the likeness of an Angel, if they speak words of
earthliness and sensuality!
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[109] S. Luke i. 29.
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