World Scripture


Beyond the circle of the family, a person seeks friends who will be honest, faithful, and true. The scriptures uphold the ideal of the true friend, while admonishing people to choose their friends carefully, lest they be misled or find themselves abandoned in adversity.

Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

1. Christianity. Bible, John 15.13

And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship and pay the poor-due, and they obey God and His messenger.

2. Islam. Qur'an 9.71

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.

3. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, 2 Samuel 1.26

Only two virtues are enough;
Why should the good stand in need of many?
Anger lived like a lightning flash
And friendship enduring like a line inscribed on a rock.

4. Jainism. Vajjalagam 42

John 15.13: Cf. Galatians 6:2, p. 974, and related passages. Qur'an 9.71: Cf. Qur'an 49.10, p. 270, and Hadith of Bukhari, p. 974. 2 Samuel 1.26: The story of David and Jonathan is a tale of an exemplary friendship. Jonathan, the son of King Saul (and heir apparent), risked his life to help David flee his father's wrath. David sings this verse in an eulogy for his friend, on hearing of his death in battle.

Men bound in fellowship first weep and lament, But afterward they laugh. (Hexagram 13: Fellowship with Men)

The Master said,
"Life leads the thoughtful man on a path of many windings.
Now the course is checked, now it runs straight again.
Here winged thoughts may pour freely forth in words,
There the heavy burden of knowledge must be shut away in silence.
But when two people are at one in their inmost hearts,
They shatter even the strength of iron or of bronze.
And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts,
Their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids."

5. Confucianism. I Ching, Great Commentary 1.8.6

There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

6. Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Proverbs 18.24

He who entreats aid for his comrade, though he himself is in need, is answered first.

7. Judaism. Talmud, Baba Kamma 92a

The dog says, "If you fall down, and I fall down, the play will be enjoyable."

8. African Traditional Religions. Nupe Proverb (Nigeria)

Offend me and I will question you--this is the medicine for friendship.

9. African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)

Only few people act in our interest in our absence,
When we are not around.
But in our presence, every Dick and Harry, slaves and freeborn,
Display their love for us.

10. African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Verse (Nigeria)

Confucius said, "There are three sorts of friend that are profitable, and three sorts that are harmful. Friendship with the upright, with the true-to-death, and with those who have heard much is profitable. Friendship with the obsequious, friendship with those who are good at accommodating their principles, friendship with those who are clever at talk is harmful."

11. Confucianism. Analects 16.4

I Ching, Great Commentary 1.8.6: Cf. Book of Songs, Ode 64, p. 986. Nupe Proverb: Good friends should share each other's feelings. Yoruba Verse: Cf. Yoruba Song, pp. 953f.; Analects 1.3, p. 1019.

It is by dealing with a man that his virtue is to be known, and that too after a long time; not by one who gives it a passing thought or no thought at all; by a wise man, not by a fool. It is by association that a man's integrity is to be known... It is in times of trouble that his fortitude is to be known... It is by conversing with him, that a man's wisdom is to be known, and that too after a long time; not by one who gives it a passing thought or no thought at all; by a wise man, not by a fool.

12. Buddhism. Udana 65-66

When you gain a friend, gain him through testing,
and do not trust him hastily.
For there is a friend who is such at his own convenience,
but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
And there is a friend who changes into an enemy,
and will disclose a quarrel to your disgrace.
And there is a friend who is a table companion,
but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.
In your prosperity he will make himself your equal,
and be bold with your servants;
but if you are brought low he will turn against you,
and will hide himself from your presence.

A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter:
he that has found one has found a treasure.
There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend,
and no scales can measure his excellence.
A faithful friend is an elixir of life;
and those who fear the Lord will find him.
Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendship aright,
for as he is, so is his neighbor also.

13. Christianity. Bible, Sirach 6.7-17

The friend who always seeks his benefit,
The friend whose words are other than his deeds,
The friend who flatters just to make you pleased,
The friend who keeps you company in wrong,
These four the wise regard as enemies:
Shun them from afar as paths of danger.

The friend who is a helper all the time,
The friend in happiness and sorrow both,
The friend who gives advice that's always good,
The friend who has full sympathy with you,
These four the wise see as good-hearted friends
And with devotion cherish such as these
As does a mother cherish her own child.

14. Buddhism. Digha Nikaya iii.187, Sigalovada Sutta

Udana 65-66: Cf. Majjhima Nikaya iii.21, p. 469. Sirach 6.7-17: Cf. Micah 7:5-7, p. 953; Analects 13.25, p. 468.

  • What is attached to the defiled will be defiled; and what is attached to the pure will be pure.

    15. Judaism. Mishnah, Kelim 12.2

    Those that are good, seek for friends; that will help you to practice virtue with body and soul. Those that are wicked, keep at a distance; it will prevent evil from approaching you.

    16. Taoism. Tract of the Quiet Way

    Friend! listen to the benefits of holy company:
    Thereby is cast off impurity, vanished are millions of sins,
    And purified is the mind.

    17. Sikhism. Adi Granth, Bilaval, M.5, p. 809

    Sit in the assembly of the honest; join with those that are good and virtuous; nay, seek out a noble enemy where enmity cannot be helped and have nothing to do with the wicked and the unrighteous. Even in bondage you should live with the virtuous, the erudite, and the truthful; but not for a kingdom should you stay with the wicked and the malicious.

    18. Hinduism. Garuda Purana 112

    Bilaval, M.5: Cf. Kanara, M.5, p. 285. Garuda Purana 112: Cf. 1 Corinthians 5.9-13, p. 963.

    As the man one makes his friend,
    As the one he follows,
    Such does he himself become;
    he is like unto his mate.
    Follower and following,
    Toucher and touched alike,
    As a shaft with poison is smeared
    Poisons all the bunch unsmeared,
    Both are fouled. A man inspired
    In the fear of being soiled
    Should not company with rogues.

    If a man string putrid flesh
    On a blade of kusa grass,
    That same grass will smell putrid.
    So with him who follows fools.
    If a man wrap frankincense
    In a leaf, that leaf smells sweet.
    So with those who follow sages.
    Mindful of that leaf-basket,
    Knowing what will him befall,
    The prudent man should company
    With the good, not with the bad.
    Bad men lead to purgatory;
    The good bring to the happy bourn.

    19. Buddhism. Itivuttaka 68-69