Friends and friendship are not required for life. There is no physical necessity to have them. Many live their lives without them. They are a choice that some people cannot make. They require trust and especially trust over time. They also require commitment and respect. They require love and the ability to forgive.
We all know people who have never had a friend that lasted. I see this on high school campuses and in retirement homes. Many have had “friends” they would party with, but they faded and they still doesn’t have true friends. To have someone you can trust to talk with about your weaknesses and strengths is to have a friend. Many have to be seen as strong and always right and they have to win at everything and that has always been more important than anything else. This keeps people away and it’s sad.
Because of a lack of trust some never engage in meaningful conversation. It’s safer to talk sports or cocktail party talk but never about real things.
It is the plight of the average American male. A book was written entitled “Friendless American Male”. Alone they get their meaning simply out of financial, political, and or social, or sexual “achievements” or the quest in pursuit of them.
From 1992-1996 I lived in Korea. There I learned in that culture friends are very important. Many men if not most still have childhood friends. That is one reason I like Korea so much.
My life has been blessed with several very good friends. An a host of other friends. Friends because they can be trusted and together we make each other better people. This is possible because we each trust the perspective of the other. I don’t always agree but I respect and I am respected. My friend’s input into my personal business has been helpful even though it sometimes hurts. This is where trust really becomes vital. I must trust that they are being brutally honest because they love me. In the Hebrew Scriptures in the book of Proverbs it says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”
Proverbs 27:6 ESV
Good friends have earned the right to speak truth to each other. Sometimes the truth hurts. People who don’t really care remain silent and watch another drive into a ditch. Or they flatter you with compliments. Some struggle when they know another is headed for disaster but they do not care enough to tell you for fear of offending. Real love must be honest and yet respectful of the other’s wishes. But, in an attitude of respect speak truthfully.
People who don’t have friends suspect those who do. There thinking goes, “They must be hiding a hidden motive or they can’t be real or I would have one.” All throughout my life I have seen people who understand friends and those who suspect it as weird! Lewis was my first teacher in friendship. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien had such a friendship throughput their adult lives. Their friendship with a group of other friends called the “inklings” have inspired me and still do!
Lewis wrote a book that has affected me deeply, “The Four Loves,” (in short there are four Greek words for love. Friendship deserved it’s own word in Greek “phileo”. ) This Philadelphia brotherly love or attitude is centuries and even thousands of years old. Jesus did not call his disciples followers or slaves but friends.
I’m a rich man because I have friends in my life. Friends make life meaningful and beautiful. Family oftentimes feel obligated to care. Friends care by choice - mutual choice.
Commitment for those who don’t have friends appears as a crutch or an addiction. Some say the same thing about having trust in God. Having friendship and God are more like breathing to me! Like breathing clean air!
I intend to live the rest of my life in friendship with my friends. Living in close proximity has rarely occurred in my life but even with distance real friends flourish.
I say to my friends, “I am your friend for life and I know you feel the same way. “ I don’t want to meddle or control my friend’s life I want them to be happy and to be the best man or woman they know how to be.
I’m committed to this in the life of others due to friendship.
I don’t expect all to understand! Some have no concept of friendship they haven’t experienced it and some even think it must be evil or sinister since they haven’t had the experience. Especially, this is true when another has only had people in their lives that used or took advantage of them. The trust issues of many of my students in groups render them unable to trust another. I understand this for there was a time I had no friends. I was broken and alone.
Trusting God who never changes helped me to learn to trust people. It gave me confidence that I was loved and of value. So, being loved by God allowed me the strength to risk loving and trusting others. Love is full of risk. There is no guarantee that people will love you back. Most of the time they don’t.
This is a risk I decided to take early on in high school. Without risk you have nothing in life. I struggle with trust issues myself every day. I made a choice years ago that I was going to offer friendship to all. I have experienced that 98% of the time people don’t want friendship for a host of reasons. And many realize the cost and then drop out. Truly caring for others is not about “you” it is about them.
Friendships over time get better and better. They demand struggle and determination.
It is so easy to give up on people. God has never given up on me so I refuse to give up on others.
Friends don’t seek to control another but simply share their perspective . There is great freedom in friendship. There is not a desire for ownership or control, for friendship becomes more meaningful in the real life it stands in stark contrast to other interactions with others.
To explain this I turn to T.S. Elliot who wrote a poem called “The Cocktail Party”. Cocktail parties major on the superficial and trite. We call it small talk for a reason. Real life is like a Cocktail party. In the midst of a trite world you want to be where you are accepted and valued as the unique person you that you are. Friends see that and it is refreshing and sustaining.
These are random and thoughtful bits on how I see friendship.
I have had this on my to do list for years. Fortunately with COVID-19 I have the time.
I have imagined a book at some point on “Thoughts on Friendship” I have been collecting thoughts over the years.
- Dr. Tom Morris