The old quote from Aristotle, “a friend to all is a friend to none,” confuses some people at first glance. It seems counterintuitive that someone can be everyone’s friend while also being no one’s. This article will explore the true meaning of the phrase.
What Does “A Friend To All Is A Friend To None” Mean?
“A friend to all is a friend to none” means that someone who believes themselves as friends with everybody will not be able to keep up with the demands of friendships and fail all of their friends in turn. The result will be that none of their friends are true.
The idea behind the saying is that true friendship comes from setting up promises and kindness to the people you love most. The more people you believe to be your “friends,” the more likely you are to break those promises and struggle to give them what they want.
In turn, you’ll end up losing many friends and have a difficult time gaining anyone’s trust. The more people you let down, the easier it is for people to overlook you as a true friend.
What Is The Origin Of “A Friend To All Is A Friend To None”?
While we know the quote originated from Aristotle, it seems like the origin goes further than that.
The original quote is written in prose by Aristotle. However, the wording has changed drastically since his entry.
Aristotle wrote, “those who have many friends and mix intimately with them all are thought to be no one’s friend.” The idea for this quote is the same as the one we know today.
It was something that Aristotle swore by and made known in his prose. Many people, later on, took this phrase and changed the wording slightly to appeal to the masses and make it quick and easy to remember.
Matheo Aleman, 1634
Though not originally written in English, the translation of Aleman’s work included the phrase in a more familiar form.
Aleman wrote, “for he is a friend to none, that is a friend to all.” While the phrase has been switched, the meaning is the same, implying that someone cannot have too many friends if they value friendship on a deeper level.
Samuel Crook, 1658
Not long after the 1634 edition of Aleman’s prose, a religious man known as Samuel Crook was the next to write it. However, Crook was the first person to write the phrase in a form we recognized.
Crook was the first recorded written usage of the phrase as we know it today. It mentions that someone can’t be a friend to all people, as they simply end up being a friend to none.
Even though all of these instances in history are different, the meaning of the phrase never changed. It’s important to remember that it means it’s impossible to hold true friendships if you have too many of them.
Is It True That A Friend To All Is A Friend To None?
So, the saying and origin make sense, but now we look deeper at what it means. It doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it’s useful to live by.
Generally, a friend to all is a friend to none is true. It means that someone can’t have too many friendships because they’ll end up treating the people they care the most about poorly.
It’s best if you keep your close friend group tight. You shouldn’t expand out to too many people because you’ll end up making promises you can’t keep and letting a lot of people down.
The key problem that a lot of people don’t realize is that you can still be “friendly” to people without being their “friend.” You can still be a kind and good person without making everybody your friend.
It’s believed that only the lonely surround themselves with people they call their “friends” (even if it’s not the case).
Is It Bad To Have Many Friends?
There are plenty of friendly people out there. Generally, these people make it a habit to have lots of friends. According to this Aristotle saying, is that wrong to do?
It is not bad to have many friends. If you’re a genuinely kind and fun person, then you might have a great deal more friends than other people. However, it’s important to only keep a handful of “close” friends that you can make promises for.
The more friends you call “close,” the harder it’ll be to keep up a true friendship with them. It’s best to avoid doing so because you’ll end up letting a lot of people down, and they won’t trust you with their secrets or promises in the future.
Is There A Difference Between Being A Friend And Being Friendly?
As we’ve mentioned, there’s quite a key difference between being someone’s friend and being friendly towards a person. That’s what makes many people fear this quote, even though it’s only telling them the truth they need to hear.
Being a friend means we’re close and connected with the people we care deeply about. Being friendly means that we treat people with respect and kindness, even if we do not know who they are.
You can be friendly to all of your friends, but you can’t be friends with everyone you’re friendly towards.
The key difference is that “friendly” is a personality trait, while “friendship” is earned. If you’re a kind person, good things will come to you, and you will make a lot of friends. However, if you don’t treat them equally and fairly, you’ll also create a lot of “fake” friends.
What Do You Call Someone Who Is Friends With Everyone?
Someone who is friends with everyone is commonly known as a “social butterfly.” They are given this name because they flutter from person to person, much like a butterfly would from flower to flower in the wild.
Generally, it’s a nice thing to call somebody, as people who are “social butterflies” pride themselves on their ability to talk to new people and be friendly and inviting.
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Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.