“A friend is someone who knows everything about your life and still loves you.”

This is another of the fake quotes I found in a web page of supposed “Buddha quotes about friendship. All of the quotes on the page were fake. And the page ranked number 1 on Google for “Buddha quotes on friendship,” which is rather sad.

I’ve already dealt with the first of the quotes, “Friendship is the only cure for hatred, the only guarantee of peace.”  Now it’s time for the second, “A friend is someone who knows everything about your life and still loves you.”

Really, it’s so Hallmark-y that I’m amazed anyone would think it came from the Buddha’s teachings. It has a bit of history to it. I have found it, or variants of it, going back well over 100 years. In some of the earlier mentions of it, it’s referred to as something an unnamed schoolboy said.

The earliest mention I’ve found of it so far, in something close to its current form, at least, is in a play,called “A Widow’s Wiles,” published in 1908 by Emilie H. Callaway. There, a character called Daisy Burton says, “Speaking of friends—have you heard the latest definition? A friend is someone who knows all about you and still likes you. How does that strike you?”

The fact that Daisy refers to this as “the latest definition” suggests that this was a relatively new saying at that time.

It seems to have evolved from less neat and pithy versions, such as the following, which is from “A King’s Daughter,” an 1899 novel:

Can you always put your thoughts into words? I can’t. But I will give you Kingsley’s definition of a friend; it is the best I know: “Someone whom we can always trust, who knows the best and worst of us, and cares for us in spite of all out faults.”

“Kingsley” here is Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875), who was, according to Wikipedia, “a broad church priest of the Church of England, a university professor, social reformer, historian, novelist and poet. He is particularly associated with Christian socialism, the working men’s college, and forming labour cooperatives, which failed, but encouraged later working reforms. He was a friend and correspondent of Charles Darwin.”

He was also the author of “The Water-Babies.”  I don’t know if anyone reads it any more, but it was still popular when I was young. Kingsley seems to have been a bit of a dick, to use a word that a commenter on this blog applied to me recently. He believed in the superiority of supposedly “teutonic” Anglo-Saxons and referred to the Irish as “human chimpanzees” and “white chimpanzees.”

The quote is from a book of Kingsley’s called “David: Five Sermons.” There, in a sermon called “Friendship, Or, David and Jonathan,” he wrote:

“Ay, a blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend ; one human soul whom we can trust utterly ; who knows the best and the worst of us, and who loves us, in spite of all our faults ; who will speak the honest truth to us, while the world flatters us to our face, and laughs at us behind our back ; who will give us counsel and reproof in the day of prosperity and self-conceit; but who, again, will comfort and encourage us in the day of difficulty and sorrow, when the world leaves us alone to fight our own battle as we can.”

This is the pre-Hallmark-ified version of the quote. Perhaps Kingsley himself took the idea from somewhere else (it may well exist in classical thought), but that’s as far back as I’m going to go for now.

So my assumption is that Kingsley is behind the modern version of the quote, which was polished as it was passed down from author to author, and voice to voice. It has nothing to do with the Buddha.

If you want some Buddhist genuine quotes, I’d direct you to this piece I wrote on what the Buddha said on the topic of friendship.

 

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