Particular friendship is an exclusive association between two persons based upon emotional fascination. As such, it is a perversion of God's gift of good and wholesome friendship. In the very definition of particular friendship is found the distortion of truth that it is. It is an exclusive association and therefore detrimental to the universal charity due to all. It is a friendship based upon emotional fascination and motivated more by the selfish interests of the "friends" than the desire of each to promote the good of the other. Therefore, it does not deserve to be called friendship except in an extended sense of the term.
The danger of forming particular friendships is directly proportional to a person's emotional instability. Such an association exists most often between those who are emotionally insecure. Particular friendships are an expression of the human tendency to love and be loved, which in this case is applied wrongly. Such friendships can develop between those of the opposite sex, or those of the same sex.
The characteristics of particular friendship are: (1) Exclusiveness—all one's attention is focused on one person to the point that there is resentment of the intrusion of others. (2) Jealousy—because all attention is focused on one person, there is jealousy if that person has other friends. (3) Absorption of mind—the friends think of each other continually in much the same way that young lovers do. As a result, the freedom to pray, study, work, do one's duties, or be with others is hampered. (4) The tendency to manifest affection—because this type of friendship has all the marks of the relationship between young lovers, the friends feel more and more the desire to manifest affection. This they do by talking in a sentimental way and even by the physical expression of love. Because of this, it is obvious that particular friendship can easily lead to violations of chastity. This may not always happen, but even when it does not lead to this, the detrimental effects of particular friendship are numerous.
Avoidance of particular friendship and freeing oneself from it involve the use of means consistently recommended by spiritual writers. These are: (1) Conviction— the persons must be firmly convinced that such friendships are harmful and therefore must be avoided or eliminated. (2) Confidence—when emotion dominates a person, victory can seem impossible, but one must be convinced that victory is possible. (3) General self-discipline—just as an alcoholic cannot break his habit without a general practice of self-discipline, so neither can one break a particular friendship without a similar self-discipline. (4) Physical separation—one must carefully avoid all unnecessary association with this kind of "friend," and when association is necessary, must be careful to control the emotional response that accompanies it. (5) Mental separation—one must avoid thinking about the other person as much as possible, for this only feeds the flame of emotional involvement. (6) Cultivation of other interests—such persons cannot succeed in a vacuum, as it were, but must substitute for the object sacrificed an interest in the right things. Only in this way is it possible to avoid or remedy a grave defect.
To see the so-called particular friendship for the perversion that it is, one need only compare it with the good and healthy friendship in which the friends grow mutually in goodness and the pursuit of higher ideals.
See Also: friendship.
Bibliography: g. a. kelly, Guidance for Religious (Westminster, Md. 1956) 55–81. a. tanquerey, The Spiritual Life (Westminster, Md. 1945).