Gentleman's Philosophy

On Friendship, From the Norse

Evening Gents! It’s Jonah here form The Young Gentleman’s Guide. Today we return to our series on Norse mythology and the many lessons for gentlemen held within.

Today we discuss friendship and its importance. Do you have a few bros? Maybe there are a few guys at school who you see regularly, or a few fellas who go out for drinks with you. But do you have real friends? Men who you aren’t afraid when they see you as you really are?

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Picture Credit: Google Images

In just two verses, the poet of the Sayings of the High One explains to us the importance of choosing friends and being intentional about our friendships. Keep in mind this just scratches the surface of what the poem has on friendship. Here you can find all the verses:

The Sayings of the High One say,

  1. I was once young,/ I was journeying alone,/ and lost my way;/ rich I thought myself,/ when I met another./ Man is the joy of man./

And back up a bit:

  1. Know, if thou has a friend/ whom thou fully trustest,/ and from whom thou woulds’t good derive,/  thou shouldst blend thy mind with his,/ and gifts exchange,/ .and often go to see him.

I’ll focus on two little bits. First, from verse 47, we learn that “man is the joy of man.”

Gentlemen, nothing will give you joy like other people. That is why to be a gentleman relates entirely to people and how you interact with people. That is where our joy derives – from each other. Never forget that!

Now here’s the friendship-specific bit, verse 44. Let’s break it down:

“Know, if thou…”

Already we have something. When thee, thou, thine, and thy were in common usage, the thou form denoted closeness. Spouses would say “thou”, and friends, while authority figures would be addressed as you. The poet is addressing his audience as a close person or a friend.

“Know, if thou has a friend whom thou fully trustest…”

Do you have a friend who you fully trust? Think for a moment – trust them completely? Who you could tell anything…? If you do, I feel profoundly good for you. If you don’t, then we may be in the same boat. Let’s continue – this one verse is pure gol.

“…and from whom thou woulds’t good derive…” Are you deriving good from your friends? Are you getting advice; genuine, wholesome fun; and a renewing of your spirit? Do your friends challenge you to be a better man?

Or do your “friends” disparage your decisions and pressure you to lower your standards? Do they try to get you drunk, just because it seems cool? Do they try to get you to live short of your commitments in order to hang out? If they do these things, sorry to break it to you, but they are not good friends – or even friends.  

But true friends bring out the good in you.

“… thou shouldst blend thy mind with his,/ and gifts exchange,/ and often go to see him.”

To “blend thy mind”, and “often go to see him”  – what does this say? We must be intentional about our friendships. We must put work into them. We must spend time and effort. We must be magnanimous when our friends can’t hang out because they need to handle their responsibilities. Not only that, but we must support them in their responsibilities.

We must choose wisely. Choose men who challenge us to be true gentlemen. Men who are truly fun to be around. Men whom we trust, men for whom we would put in all the effort and stick through thick and thin.

If we want to be friends with those men, we have to be those men.

On that note, I’m Jonah with The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you next time.


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