I marked, with pained attention, the warm glow of expectation so soon to be blighted; and, reflected deeply on the many heart-aches with which they must unlearn their errors. I saw that each one was likely to pass over and reject the richest blessing of earth, even in the very pursuing of it, from having merely sketched, in imagination, an unresembling portrait of the object of pursuit. “When friendship meets them,” I said, “they will not know her. Can no one draw for them a better likeness?”
It is the language of books, and the language of society, that friends are inconstant, and friendship but little to be depended on; and the belief, where it is really received, goes far to make a truth of that which else were false, by creating what it suspects. Few of us but have lived already long enough to know the bitterness of being disappointed in our affections, and deceived in our calculations by those with whom, in the various relationships of life, we are brought in contact. Perhaps the aggregate of pain from this cause is greater than from any other cause whatever. And yet, it is much to be doubted whether nearly the whole of this suffering does not arise from our own unreasonable and mistaken expectations. There are none so unfortunate but they meet with some kindness in the world; and none, I believe, so fortunate but that they meet with much less than they might do, were it not their own fault.
In the first place, we are mistaken in our expectations that friendship should be disinterested. It neither is, nor can be. It may be so in action, but never in the sentiment; there is always an equivalent to be returned. And if we examine the movements of our own hearts, we must be sure this is the case; and yet, we are so unreasonable as to expect our friends should be purely disinterested; and, after having secured their affections, we neglect to pay the price, and expect they should be continued to us for nothing. We grow careless of pleasing them; inconsiderate of their feelings, and heedless of the government of our own temper towards them; and then we complain of inconstancy, if they like us not so well as when dressed out in our best for the reception of their favor. Yet it is, in fact, we that are changed, not they.
Another fruitful source of disappointment in our attachments is, that while we are much more quick in detecting the faults of others than our own, we absurdly require that every one should be faultless but ourselves. We do not say that we expect this in our friends; but we do expect it, and our conduct proves that we expect it. We begin also with believing it. The obscurities of distance; the vail that the proprieties of society casts over nature’s deformities; the dazzling glitter of exterior qualities baffle, for a time, our most penetrating glances, and the imperfect vision seems all that we should have it. Our inexperienced hearts, and some indeed that should be better taught, fondly believe it to be all it seems, and begin their attachment in full hope to find it so. What wonder then that the bitterest disappointment should ensue, when, on more close acquaintance, we find them full of imperfections, perhaps of most glaring faults; and we begin to express disgust, sometimes even resentment, that they are not what we took them for.