The Importance of Friendship

Today we have a special guest blogger, Pastor Aaron Kunce.

I believe we are living in a culture where friendship is desperately undervalued. I’d even venture to say that this is true in the church as well.

People often become peripheral. Our culture has become so individualistic, and although it is important to talk about our personal relationship with Jesus, we often miss other people. And very often, we miss the importance of creating and sustaining friendships.

I don’t think we’ve ever been in a place where people are as profoundly lonely as they are today. One of my favorite theologians, Stanley Hauerwas, once described how lonely we are using the words from a William James poem: “Our private self is like a bubble of foam on a stormy sea…”

And it is very true that many of us feel like we are floating along in the dark—isolated and unknown.

There’s a beautiful story in scripture in 1 Samuel 18 about a close, loving friendship. Read the first few verses of the chapter to get a feel for the closeness of this friendship. David could’ve been such a threat to Jonathan (and vice versa), but there was no sense of threat between them—no competition. And that’s an important mark of a good friendship—not being a threat. 1 Samuel 20 goes into greater depth describing David and Jonathan’s friendship. Take a few moments to read through the chapter.

What does it mean to be a friend? Why is it vital to have friends? Is friendship deeper than community? Thomas Aquinas said, “Friendship is characterized by the constant affective desire to do good to another.” I want to be a really good friend. And admittedly, this is challenging for me. I think it is challenging for all of us, regardless of our age, to make and keep good friendships.

Here is some practical advice:

  1. Practice “The Grover Principle.” Remember Grover from Sesame Street? Grover was upset at one point because he wasn’t getting any letters in the mail. Some people who cared for Grover gave him some great advice. They told him: “If you want to receive letters from people, you have to (wait for it) write letters to people. So, Grover starts to write: “Dear Mom…”

I think people sometimes feel this way in church, too. We often wait to “be discovered,” instead of being proactive and stepping out to serve and meet people.

  1. Pray for “the gift of recognition” (for lack of a better phrase). Jonathan recognized something in David. David recognized something in Jonathan. There was something that felt native between them.

John O’Donohue wrote a book called Anam Cara, which is the old Gaelic term for “soul friend.” In the book he says that we often don’t recognize, until someone is sick, dying, or gone, that they were a friend to us. How true. We take people for granted and often don’t recognize them for the soul friend they have been. If you were to tell me you don’t have these kinds of people in your life, I’d probably push back just a little. You probably do, you just haven’t taken the time to recognize the people who have been friends to you.

Read this long (but powerful) quote from C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves:

Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one … It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision – it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.

  1. Real friendship requires emotional vulnerability. You have to expose and share your heart to enter into a true friendship. You can’t have real friendship unless you put yourself in a position where you can be hurt. You can’t have an authentic friendship unless you’ve given a person permission to wound you. Not that you are ever looking to be hurt(!), but you have taken down your defenses. You don’t get the joy and pleasure of friendship without the risk. But what we find, is that true friendship is the safest place we can be. I absolutely love the words of Dinah Maria Craik when she describes true friendship in one of her beautiful poems:

Remember the wisdom of Proverbs 18:24: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (NKJV). We have so many opportunities to be a friend to others around us. Be friendly to someone today, as the Holy Spirit prompts you, and may the Lord bless your life with real and lasting friendships.