“A Man Is Known By The Company He Keeps” Essay

We naturally seek the company of those whose tastes are the same as our own. “Birds of a feather flock together.” Fools do not like the company of wise men, and wise men avoid fools.

Studiously-minded people do not find much in common with frivolous and pleasure-hunting folk, and the frivolous think bookworms are dull dogs.

Sinners feel uncomfortable in the presence of saints, and saints do not seek the company of sinners.

We can, therefore, as a rule, judge a man’s character by the sort of people he chooses as his companion. “Tell me who are a man’s friends, and I will tell you his character.” If a man’s chosen comrades are silly, empty-headed, worldly people, the presumption is that he is the same, or he would scarcely choose such company.

If they are of a criminal class, he is probably criminally-minded. If they are serious, earnest and honorable gentlemen, he is probably of the same type himself.

Lambs don’t make friends with wolves, nor doves with hawks.

At the same time, it is not always safe to judge men by this standard. People have sometimes made sad mistakes by thinking a man must be the same as the company he keeps. A good example of this is the case of Henry V, king of England.

Before he came to the throne, he was apparently, as Prince Hal, a wild and vicious young man, the boon companion of men like Sir John Falstaff and his drunken, roistering, and worthless crew.

Yet as soon as he became king, he dropped all his bad companions and became one of the bravest, wisest, and best kings England has had.

His after-life proved that, though he kept the bad company in his youth, he was not a bad man. A still more striking example is that of Jesus, the founder of Christianity. He deliberately chose to make the erring and wayward and wicked his friends, so that his enemies sneered at him and called him “a gluttonous man and wine-bibber; the friend of publicans and sinners“.

Yet he was the holiest of saints. He mixed with these people to save them from their sins, as a doctor visits the sick.

So before we judge a man by his companions, we must know why he seeks such companions.

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