by Rev. Mark Connolly
There is no doubt that a solid friendship can make a major difference in one’s life. Anyone who has had a solid friendship knows the companionship from a solid friendship brings purpose, joy and greater meaning to one’s life. All you have to do is to compare those who have this kind of a relationship with those who are devoid of friendships. In as much as I work with the elderly, it is heartbreaking to see so many elderly people, especially those in nursing homes who virtually have no friends. Either their friends have moved or died or their family has virtually ignored or even abandoned them. Old age for many people because of health problems is quite difficult. But when these same elderly people have no friends, old age is quite lonely and painful.
Friendships are one of the greatest treasures the human heart can have. No one is that old that they cannot cultivate a friendship. Concerning friendships there is a beautiful line that says: "It is not how old you are, but how you are old."
When you look at the life of Jesus in the New Testament and his thoughts about friendship, it is quite clear that one of his goals in life was to establish a solid friendship with each one of us. He said, "I did not come from heaven to earth to call you my servants, but to call you my friends. And in his most powerful line concerning friendship, "greater love than this no one has than he who lays down his life for a friend." And he proved his love and friendship for each by the crucifixion of Good Friday.
Henry Adams, over a hundred years ago, wrote about friendship when he said, "To have one friend in life is much, two are rare, and three are hardly possible." Oh, yes, we have many associates, companions, and confreres, but very few friends. Why? Because the demands of friendship are so great that very few want to pay the price. I think in a strange way we could apply that quotation from the New Testament, "many are called, but few are chosen", to the many people whom we meet in life and who eventually pass out of our lives.
Friendships are most rewarding and at the same time most demanding. Friendships, as Christ taught us, have to have a high degree of spirituality. I think the hope that Christ had while establishing friendships on earth was that they would eventually experience each other in heaven. We can never forget the spiritual dimension of a friendship. There is nothing simple about friendships. The highs and the lows, the moods and the moodiness, we all succumb to and definitely turn off a lot of people from us. The person who wants your friendship has to pay a price that demands they overlook shortcomings and failure and bring a Christlike love that helps a friendship become a reality. When you analyze the relationship that exists between a husband and wife this is the most solid friendship that can exist between two people. When you see that one out of two marriages ends in divorce, you start to wonder. And then there are the marriages that are so close, so locked into each other, you have no doubt that certain husbands and wives have that pearl of great price, a solid friendship.
All of us plan what sort of education we are going to pursue or what kind of career we might follow. There is very little that surpasses a solid friendship. You have to pay emotionally, spiritually and morally to find one solid friendship. And the price you pay is well worth it. You have to be a giver, not a taker. You have to be willing to sacrifice and be of service. You have to recognize that not everyone wants your friendship. This might sound like a harsh statement, but that is the reality of life.
Life for most people is often very hard. With sicknesses, with financial problems, with family problems, life can be quite complicated. One solid friendship can make a tremendous difference to you and to the one who is the object of your friendship. All of us are on a journey back to God. And with the help of one solid friendship, that journey can be one of greater joy and peace.
copyright © 1998-2005, Spirituality for Today