How much do our friends become part of us? This was my thought this morning. Many of my friends are away for the summer, and I feel like I’m in a way missing parts of myself. I initially thought this was quite weak really – that I should be so affected by my friends.
But then I realised that’s the whole marvellous thing about friendship – that you let other people have a place in your heart. Obviously, when they go, you’ll miss them – and you’ll miss the piece of your heart they fill.
I used to think that if I were mature enough I should be quite happy being perfectly alone. An almost oriental idea, isn’t it? But fortunately I have learned the value of friendship. It’s something I find myself reflecting on quite a bit, promising myself never to take friendship for granted.
But then, it strikes me how our friendships are on so many different levels. I wonder if my friendships are at good levels. Then I read in the Bible how “this is how they will know you are my disciples, that you love one another,” (Joh ) and “We understand what love is when we realize that Christ gave his life for us. That means we must give our lives for other believers.” (1 John 3:16). And upon reading that, I conclude my friendships are by in large much shallower than they ought to be.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have friends who, as I mentioned, I treasure. But how much do I love them? Would I die for them? These are challenging thoughts I find, because I’m not sure I’d be willing to die for many people, if any. Of course, I’d like to think I could rise to the heights of noble love and, like the proverbial stranger saving a child from a bus and being killed himself, lay down my life for others. But when it comes down to it, I’m really not sure I’m more self-centered than I think I am… and I already think I’m quite self-centered… but then we all are… that’s another post.
Which makes me wonder how I could become more loving a less self-centered… to be more of a true friend, who’s interest lies with others instead of myself. Of course, I should ‘be more like Christ’, and other such well-known answers. But I know saying these things is merely talking of nice ideas that never actually make me change anything.
No, it’s quite clear to me when I think about it. As I thought about Mat 25:42-46 it hit me how practical Jesus’ advice is. I cannot ‘love my friends more’ in my mind without doing anything to actually be more loving toward them. If I want to be more loving, I must love more. I must be more kind and generous in practical ways – because I cannot pretend to be more kind and generous than I actually am, otherwise I would be a hypocrite, deceiving myself.
It’s the little things in life that reveal our character. It’s in those little things that I could show love, things like getting someone a drink, doing the dishes, actually listening when someone’s talking to me… the list goes on and on.
So, I could improve my friendships by being a better friend. Nothing new there. It reminds me of a quote: “the only consistent thing about all your dissatisfying relationships is you.”
If I want more friends, I know how to go about it. But the irony is I’ve already decided how many friends I want by how I live. And so, I wonder if I really want more friends… or whether I just dissatisfied because I’m not being a good friend to the friends I have, and my friendships aren’t as close as I’d like them to be. I wonder if other people have this trouble.
After all, you can’t be close friends with everybody. You only have so much time in the day, and you can’t spend all day with everyone. So, it makes me realise it’s probably quite necessary to have some friends who are closer than others (again, hardly a breathtaking revelation). And I guess that’s the way it works: many shallower friendships, or fewer deep ones.
I wish it didn’t work that way.
Yet, you can be friendly to everybody… even strangers. And that I think is the challenge, the simple act of putting the happiness of others before one’s own, as one goes about daily life. If only it were that easy to do.
Brings me back to a comment I’ve made before about self-centeredness. It truly is the root of everything evil.
So, I think I’ll try and be a bit less self-centered, and be a better friend to those I know.