Tuesday, May 2, 2017

More Thoughts on Friendship

Last night I reminisced on what I think was the best friendship I've ever had, a happy memory from childhood, and how true, lasting friendship can be a rare thing, especially in adulthood.  I had a couple readers comment about friendships that have lasted the test of time.

One reader, signed in as "Anonymous," shared how they had a friendship that was loyal and lasting despite some heated conflicts.  Their friend recently passed away, and he and his wife were able to comfort him in his final hour.  My condolences, and may he rest in peace.

Philosophers, theologians, and poets have waxed and waned about the virtue of friendship since time immemorial.  I've read some of their pages over the years. What does it mean to be a friend?  When do you know that someone is an authentic friend?  I've asked these questions many times as an adult, with all the experiences I had with "friendship."  I'd venture most of you have too, if not in such formal, philosophical terms.

I believe we need friends like we need anything.  We need food and water.  We need health care, shelter, and social support.  And we need friends.  That's a Christian truth.  It is essential to our human nature, and when we are without friends, or sincere friendships, it is like being severely malnourished or blind.

But I think most moderns don't believe this.  They think an individual is somehow fine on his own, a world to himself, a separated reality, and that if there is friendship, it is mainly for pleasure or utility.  

The Christian ideal of friendship based on mutual respect and self-giving, based on a shared wisdom and virtue--or at least the pursuit thereof--is treated as something odd if not repugnant.  Expecting friendship to be long-lasting, civilized, and loyal is almost considered a sin against modernity.  That's what I sense from most anyway.

Well, I could have easily subscribed to the pop-cultural mindset about friendship.  It would definitely have been an easier philosophy to follow.  Ironically, truth be told, if I did, all or most of those I've called friends over the years wouldn't last all that long as friends, since they haven't exactly been the most pleasurable or useful people to know.  But there was a reason beyond pleasure or utility I sought out their friendship.

For all the effort you can make in making friends, and nurturing that friendship, whether or not it turns out a success is as much partly outside of your control, as is good health or financial success partly outside of your control.  It is a myth that the best efforts always spell success; or inversely, that failure indicates a lack of effort or character.  

At least from your own perspective, whether or not the other person actually returns the friendship with an equitable respect is 100% not in your control.  That's what makes a good, lasting friendship a blessing, a fortune from God.  It's 50% up to you, but the kicker is it's also 50% up to them, and you have no control over that part of the equation.

I've been blessed with lasting friendships, but I know firsthand how rare they really are.  And as much as I must always seek out food and water, I will always seek out true, Christian friendships.  I have to because I am a human being.  

In the end, despite my best efforts, I may or may not be successful in friendship just as I may or may not be materially successful.  How poor or blessed we are in this life, when it comes to money or relationships, it is mainly up to God.  Not us.

In the end, isn't it true that what matters is becoming saints, that ultimately is why we must be true friends to others?

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