Friendship between men, women, single, attached, married, neighbors, coworkers and a whole slew of other social arrangements––human dynamic as multidimensional as an MRI––is perplexing.
Since we honor veterans on November 11, what about friendships in the military? Very intense, especially in war––which is unequivocal hell. People generally die for their buddies as their first allegiance but Duty, Honor and Country certainly underscore the sacrifice of these heroes.
Having said all this, what exactly is the established protocol for dealing with friends? Are there rules of engagement or are they tailored depending on the friend? Communication, for example. A call every month to check in? Once a year? What if I’m an introvert and you’re not. What if I don’t like talking on the phone? Moreover, when someone says, “Call me,” why don’t they call you? What about holidays, birthdays and special events? Is a face-to-face necessary?
It seems then that conduct between friends should be organic, free-flowing, dependent on circumstances and never rigid. Throw in the requisite love with a dash of forgiveness here and there, and I think we have it nailed.
Nevertheless, should we have limited expectations?
No, not at all. That would be contrary to God’s will in my view. Man is the pinnacle of His creation––seems to me He has a pretty high regard for us. Therefore, I should try my best to mirror that same regard for my fellow man.
However, here’s a big but. Why is it we have so few friends when over the course of a lifetime we meet so many people? This particular conundrum may only apply to me but I doubt it. You see, I get the sense that many folks see friendship entirely in conditional terms. They’ll gladly be friends but they’re only going to mirror the effort of their counterparts. That is, their perception of that effort.
Or they see friendship in selfish terms, the quintessential takers. Hedging their bets might be a possibility. Maybe they’re enablers. Or they look for status, or power, or convenience, or inequality, or acquaintances with benefits. Perhaps they don’t want anything more than shallowness because that’s the extent of their comfort level; God forbid a deep friendship with concomitant responsibilities. If superficial is what they want, thanks but no thanks.
I have no doubt left out a myriad of other reasons for friendship, but for those true, genuine, extraordinary relationships, as to why they work, I can narrow the possible reasons down to one good one: spirituality, an awareness of the divine, the sacred, the nonmaterial.
Am I saying that agnostics, unclear about God’s existence, and atheists, rejecters of God who live in a universe without meaning, can’t have world-class friendships? I don’t think I’m saying that but intuitively, can groups of people who adhere to a relativist morality or secular humanism really pull off the friendship thing over a lifetime? Their morality, for one, is not absolute. Neither is their so-called truth. They both flow with the times.
Many people I know that happen to wear this jersey aren’t stellar at the friendship game. And can one truly be virtuous as a nonbeliever? What constrains behavior if one starts to veer away from an ethical path? In addition, if one doesn’t buy into Love––God––as the paramount Act for bringing us into existence and the guiding Actor in our lives, can we genuinely be good friends?
Or to say it another way. If God created us in His image and established us in friendship––in harmony with our Creator––and our relationship with Him is disharmonious, will our friendships be hostile (in time) as well?
Do I have a point?
Or is my theory bunk? Church pews are famously polished by the behinds of hypocrites who may have an inordinate share of unfriendly moments.
As I reflect on those people who have become blessings in my life, without exception, they’re spiritual. Common to all is a desire for God, a willingness to explore His wonders and a desire to practice His teachings in the course of their life to their level of understanding. They know something out there is bigger than them and the reason for them.
A foundational element to spirituality deserves a mention. Conscience. As described by Dinesh D’Souza, it is “our perennial guide and personal moral tutor.” C.S. Lewis had a varying notion. “Conscience is nothing other than the voice of God within our souls.” This is hugely important because atheists and agnostics will hear this voice, as God has never rejected them. Nonetheless, they will likely reject or ignore God’s voice as it is not central to their worldview.
I’m compelled to make one last point. Sometimes I’m a good friend, other times, not so. It’s directly correlated to my spirituality and for much of my life, I wasn’t tethered to God. When the world overwhelmed me, I became self-centered and remote; I reverted to my introverted, pensive comfort zone. I created my own high water. Reaching out became difficult because I had nothing positive to share. I didn’t want to burden others with my problems; they had enough on their plate. The potential lifelines, the telephone and computer, became radioactive and I wanted nothing to do with them. So I disappeared––which hurt a lot of folks.
I recognize why friendship is a sensitive subject for me. Some of my friendships were strained when I was separated from God. Perhaps their reaction to me today is a result of our past dynamics when spirituality was nonexistent in my life. When I was a jerk. Maybe the tension is a good example of reaping the harvest.
I have much rebuilding to do.