This has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind, and so I’m writing rather than whining about it, (although you can whine-write, too, which I hope I’m not doing!) At any rate, what kind of friends do you have? What kind of friend are you?
There are four different kinds (or levels) of friendship, and it’s important to know something about and the differences between them.
- There is benigna consociation, the kindly (or friendly) association.
This is very easy to understand. This relationship is simply a friendly, on-the-surface association, such as you commonly find in the workplace. It is the ones with whom you “get along” with some attendant, lighthearted camaraderie. The benigna consociation is not one that involves cook-outs and football parties. Some descriptive words for benigna consociation might be “pleasant, nice, and comfortable.” In benigna consociation, there is no real depth or any intimacy whatsoever.
- There is the casualia amicitia, the casual friendship.
This type (or level) of friendship is of the cook-out, football party kind. The casualia amicitia extends beyond the workplace (or group in which both participate on a regular basis.) Here there may be some sharing of the heart to a limited extent. Casualia amicitia does not involve “soulish” kind of converse and connection. One can legitimately refer to the other as “friend;” however, the friendship is not deep. This type (or level) of friendship has roots, to be sure, but those roots are somewhat shallow and weak.
- There is the intimos amicos, the intimate friendship.
This type (or level) of friendship has deep and strong roots, such that intimos amicos needs no cook-outs, football parties, or the like in order to maintain itself. This is the kind of friendship one of the ancients described as “one soul abiding in two bodies.” This friendship is one that is at least as rich and meaningful as sibling relationships, if not even more valuable. This is the friendship well exemplified by Jonathan and David of the Hebrew scriptures. Descriptive words that come to mind when thinking of intimos amicos include “trust and loyalty, constancy and resilience, understanding, love and compassion.” This friendship is one of the greatest blessings in life, but also the one that can cause, or give rise to, the greatest pain.
- Then there is the “friendship,” which is not really friendship; the larvatum amicum, which literally means “masked friend.”
This is that relationship in which one pretends to be a friend, while the other honestly assumes the individual really is a friend. Several descriptive words come to mind with thinking of larvatum amicum, such as “fake, fraudulent, deceitful, harmful, poisonous,” and oftentimes “self-serving.”
It’s wonderful to have friendly acquaintances (kindly associations), especially in the workplace, or school, or some group – perhaps the place of worship, if you attend one – but casual friendships are like food for the hungry. You can really call the casual friend, “friend,” and know it’s true. They’re the ones who will reciprocate and invite you over to their place for a cook-out, too. They’ll take the time and make the effort to not only give your car a jump start, but actually take you to work or the grocery store or wherever if the jump start doesn’t do the trick. They’re the ones who’ll remember your birthday, (and you really should remember theirs, as well!) You get the idea.
The larvatum amicum is one who wears the mask of friendship as long as it suites them. “There are friends who only pretend to be friends … but some friends are friends only in name.” They’re the ones who will be oh-so kind and friendly while you’re giving them rides to work because their car is broken down and they can’t afford the repairs. They’ll compliment you to the highest heavens so long as they’re eating on your dime.
They’re the ones who read, “like,” and comment on your blog while they’re building up their own, but drop you in flash when their blog finally achieves stability and reaches a certain level of success; suddenly, or so it seems, they no longer even visit your blog and you realize, rather painfully, that they were just using you. Yes, they’re the ones you see talking, laughing and kicking it up with other co-workers, paying you no mind at all, soon after they’re car is repaired and they no longer need you… You realize then that you were really no more than a “ride” for them.
Oh, but if you’ve found that friend, who “sticks closer then brother or sister,” you have found an invaluable treasure. It’s important to be a person of upstanding character and integrity anyway, but the intimos amicos is greater than gold and you should treat it accordingly. Woe be to you, though, if you are one of the “masked friends,” just another pretend-friend! As the old saying goes – and it still goes for a reason – “what goes around, comes around.” If you bite, you will eventually be bitten. If with something like the disgusting, corporationist mentality, you step on people to climb higher and higher in whatever situation or setting, you will eventually find yourself under someone else’s boot!
It’s perfectly fine to be merely a kindly acquaintance, or casual friend, as long as you’re real. If you happen to be an intimate friend, then treasure that relationship like blood in your veins. But whatever you are, be real! No one likes pretend friends … so don’t be one!
 Proverbs 18. 24a, NRSV
 Wisdom of ben Sirach 37. 1b, NRSV