This letter provides a lot of food for thought pertaining to who you should call real friends.
The word friend varies in definitions, all of which could be correct in any given context. Some examples to consider:
I have a friend who is my neighbor. I see them every so often and we exchange pleasantries. Sometimes, we will spend 15-30 minutes talking and catching up. We may discuss our children's lives and how things are going with work. The subject of our conversation may dip into the events of the day as well. Every so often, we may get together for a BBQ to sit and chat.
I have another friend who is my neighbor, but we are slightly more closer. Our conversation is more trusted and intimate. This friendship started like the above example, but then bloomed into more frequent dinners and the conversation more personal and trusting and deeper.
I have a handful of friends with whom I work. Much of our conversation is business related. But through shared stressful times, and struggles, we got to know each other's strengths and weaknesses. Our trust grew strong and we shared our personal lives, triumphs and failures with each other. We share information about ourselves which are reserved for the truest of friends. These friends, meet the Seneca standard of "friend."
Seneca advises, "When friendship is settled, you must trust; before friendship is formed, you must pass judgment."
I have one friend, like no other. She is my wife. There is very little she does not know about me and that is due to the fact that we've only lived 22 years with each other, rather than 45. We trust each other, absolutely. I don't think Seneca is referring to these types of friends, in his letter. But nonetheless, what he discusses is granted in spousal friendships as well.
Trust and true friendship are synonymous. On this topic, Seneca wrote:
you should share with a friend at least all your worries and reflections. Regard him as loyal, and you will make him loyal. Some, for example, fearing to be deceived, have taught men to deceive; by their suspicions they have given their friend the right to do wrong. Why need I keep back any words in the presence of my friend? Why should I not regard myself as alone when in his company?So what to take away from all this? Start with some trust. Share parts of your life with a person who is becoming your friend. As you mutually gain trust, do your best to understand their true character. As Seneca teaches, " I would have you discuss everything with a friend; but first of all discuss the man himself." Once you really know them, then you can be sure they are a true friend.