The value of friendship
The traditional list of basic needs of life include food, water, shelter and clothing. However, the modern list has been expanded to include sanitation, education, healthcare and relationships. Friendship is a special instrument that can bring relationship to manifest among people, groups, communities and societies be they spiritual or temporal. Researches have equally revealed the necessity of relationships that are founded on friendship. For instance, it is reported that good friendships have not only made life more enjoyable but has given many a longer one. The foregoing has been proven especially among those who marry and live their marital relationship as friends. Hence, there is the popular saying “that married people live longer than their single counterparts.”
The subject matter of friendship in the spiritual life has become very important now because many who are striving to relate with God becomingly, sometimes tend to distance themselve from people whom they supposed to cultivate as friends. So, you hear such people say unknowingly that they do not have friends and they don’t intend to have in the future. Asked why they do not have or cultivate friendship, they say it is not a necessity. They also say that people are bad and it is risky to associate with people and befriend them and it is also expensive to have and sustain friendship. Worse still, some don’t even know who is a friend! I dare say God almighty exist as a communion of friendship that is regulated by the Father who is the Lover and demonstrated by the Son who is the Beloved and empowered by the Holy Spirit who is the Love that exist between the Father and the Son. So, God did not make us to be alone! To this end, God has designed relationships—not just of the marital and familial kind, but friendships as well. Interestingly, even our civil governments recognise the necessity of friendship, hence, they spend a lot on the establishment and sustenance of diplomatic ties and relationships.
I understand the challenges of those who don’t have friends. It is so because many of us have abused the true meaning of a friend. Some see a friend as someone to accept him or her the way he or she is without making any improvement in their lives. Some see a friend as one to short change. However, we have a good definition of a friend from Jesus Christ who is the friend of humankind. He says “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Thus, a friend is someone who courageously and sacrificially gives his time, talent, resource and life for your good and nothing else. That is why I always “laugh” when I hear people say this or that is my friend and yet there are no signs of selflessness and sacrifice. Before Christ exposed the divine perspective of friendship as we understand it today, there have been traces of great friendship in Scriptures. For example, we have the great friendships of David and Jonathan (1Sam. 18), Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha (2kings 2:2), and Naomi and Ruth (Ruth 1:16-17).
In our context, we need friends not for any selfish reason but for us to have closest people to dramatically express our virtues and assist them to experience the love and touch of God. Therefore, today, make a list of at least five friends whom you want to be closer to and work out how you intend to improve your friendship with them. Get a gift like a good book that can improve life and share with them. Take a friend out for a Sunday brunch. Take a friend out for a strolling Rosary. Take a friend out for a meditative encounter of God through nature by the coast or a beach or one of the natural feature of your choice. Thanks for your friendship!
Fr. John-Mary Atep