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  The Quality of Friendship

by the Rev. Mark Connolly

One of the most common expressions we have is: "As long as you have your health, you have everything." Actually, that expression is not true. You need good health but you also need good friends to share it with. Why? Because a good friendship can make poor health less painful, while a lack of friends can make this earth a living hell. I would like to concentrate on the qualities of friendship each one must cultivate.

True friends are like genuine diamonds, they are very rare. In the classical work entitled, "The Education of Henry Adams," the author, speaking of friendship, wrote: "One friend in a lifetime is much, two are many, three are hardly possible." No matter how people disappoint us, no matter how often we are disillusioned by the conduct of others, each one of us must learn that happiness can never be ours, if we lack friends. If you were to take a trip through some of our state institutions for the aged and the elderly, you would see that their ordinary needs are supplied. The people in these homes never starve to death for lack of food. They never freeze because of lack of heat. As well taken care of as they are, some of them are starving and slowly dying because they lack the affection and warmth that comes from solid friendships and good and true friends. Someone once said that a friend is merely the other side of your own soul. How can you tell if you have what it takes to be a true friend? How can you tell from the conduct of others whether they will be true friends of yours? The only way to find out is to consider what each one needs, if he expects to be a friend to others and others to him.

The first quality needed, is a genuine love for sacred things. St. Augustine once claimed that, "he who condemns divine things, has not a proper view of human things, nor does anyone know how to love a man aright, who does not love the God who made the man." Briefly speaking, this is just plain love for God, shown in action towards a neighbor. There can be no true love between friends, if this love is not firmly rooted in the God who was a friend of sinners. In finding a friend, we find another glimpse of God. In losing him, we lose something sacred and holy. The first quality needed to establish a sound and solid friendship, is what we call charity.

The second quality that is needed, is called humility. When you find a person who lacks pretense, who is the same to all whether they be rich or poor, then you have a very humble person. Such a person is clean, inside and outside, neither looks up to the rich or down to the poor, can lose without squealing and win without bragging. He never resorts to flattery or deception. He has the ability to bring out the best in him whose friend he is.

The third quality is that of reverence. This quality prevents friendships from becoming commercialized. This quality of reverence, inspires a person who has it, to try to do as much as he can for his friend. He never looks upon a friend for what he can get from him. A person with this reverence, never cheapens friendships or puts a price on a persons head. Do you remember that man many centuries ago, who sold his friend for a price? One cold Wednesday night, he walked into a crowded room and looked at those who were present and said, "How much will you give me if I deliver Christ up to you?" This man exchanged a friendship, for thirty pieces of silver. But do you remember what happened when the actual betrayal took place? Judas, who had lost this sense of reverence for his friend Christ, brazenly walked up to Him and said, "Hail Rabbi." He kissed him. And Christ, who never lost His sense of reverence for Judas said, "Friend, for what purpose have you come?" Even though he had been betrayed, Christ wanted Judas to know that he never lost his sense of reverence.

The fourth quality is that of inspiration. For a friendship to survive each must try to learn and understand the workings of the minds of others. Friendships are not proven by the sounding of words, of the moving of lips. It is achieved through the workings of one's mind trying to procure the best thoughts, the best motives, the best ideals, for the one whom he wishes to call his friends. This intelligent appreciation of each others mind, produces a greatness that is above jealousies and pettiness. It accounts for the peace and happiness that true friends experience when in each others company.

The fifth quality is that of sacrifice. This simply means giving yourself to others till it hurts and forgiving those who have trespassed against you. A complete emptying of your own personality so that it adds luster to the one who receives it. Sacrifice is the true test of friendship. Only when it is in use can the friendship hope to survive. Christ said, "Greater love than this no one has than he who lays down his life for a friend."

The last quality is that of toleration. Tolerating their faults, suffering with their failures. Toleration brings with it a unity of spirit, develops a marriage between hearts and strengthens each one in the desire to be virtuous. Without toleration no friendship can be cultivated. No friendship can ever hope to survive. Because of what you must give to a friend and what he must give to you, it is impossible to have many friends in your life.

These are the qualities that each one of us needs if our friendships are going to last. Charity, Humility, Reverence, Inspiration, Sacrifice and Toleration -- these enable the real friends to be sifted from the false. If you take the first letter of each one of these qualities and arrange them in order they will form one word:

C from Charity
H from humility
R from reverence
I from intelligence
S from sacrifice
T from toleration

spell and form the word Christ. In bringing these qualities into your own life you put on Christ. And when you become so Christ-like, then you have the warmth and affection that will cause you to lay down your life for a friend and it will inspire your friends to be willing to lay down their lives for you.

The friendships that are cultivated on earth will be continued in heaven. Friendships are formed in time so that they can live in eternity. One of the most famous Scottish songs of all time is proof that friendships begun on earth will live in heaven. Most of you, I am sure, have heard the famous Scottish song called, Loch Lommand. In this song you have this line: "You take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland before you." The explanation of these words is this.

These words were spoken by a man who was about to be hanged from a tree. These words were spoken to the woman he loved. He was accused of treason, unlawfully so, and before his death he said, "You take the high road, i.e. the highway, and I'll take the low road, i.e. the grave, and I'll be in Scotland, i.e. in spirit, before you. (Scotland in this case is just another name for Paradise or Heaven.) Before this man was to meet death by hanging from a tree, he pledged his own personal friendship to the girl he left behind.

And this just reminds us of another man who died on a tree in the presence of a woman he loved very much. His name was Christ and her name was Mary. He reminded those who were his friends of the reward of the Cross. He reminded those who were his friends of the reward that awaited them: "One day thou shall be with me in Paradise."

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