While there are many attributes that a “good friend” will have, there is one that is critical.
A lack of envy.
A willingness to rejoice when others rejoice.
When you have good news, you know exactly who you want to tell, because they let you be excited and they don’t try to one-up you. “Oh you got a promotion, that’s great I just bought a new car.”
A friend who does not envy is rare. It has always been rare.
Aeschylus, the ancient Greek playwright, has Agamemnon say the following:
In few men is it part of nature to respect a friend’s prosperity without begrudging him, as envy’s wicked poison settling to the heart piles up the pain in one sick with unhappiness, who, staggered under sufferings that are all his own, winces again to the vision of a neighbor’s bliss.
…winces again to the vision of a neighbor’s bliss.
Of all the companions Agamemnon could remember, only Odysseus maintained his sincerity. All others were a “shadow’s ghost” of companionship.
It is getting harder to find people who do not envy the accomplishments of others because our culture rewards immaturity and whining. The politics of envy assume that if someone has something good, then they denied someone else that good thing.
If you find a friend who does not envy, you have found a treasure.
And if you are that friend who does not envy, you can be a blessing to everyone you come in contact with. A drink of cool water in a desert.
So use this test.
If they can rejoice when you rejoice, they are a good friend. You can tell if it’s sincere. Envious manipulators might try to pretend, but you know.
And for your part, kill envy in yourself. Envy is a poison that steals your joy. Envy is a cancer that corrupts your friendships.
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.Proverbs 14:30
Learn to truly rejoice when others rejoice, and more people will want to rejoice with you.