Nothing could be a looser definition of friendship as social media giant Facebook has presented it for us. Click away and you can be friends with most anybody you desire, including complete strangers. Clearly a way that could cheapen the deeper meaning of the word.
But why would it be of any significance to have regard for the word? Because in times past civilizations had always kept it in high esteem, an enviable state to earnestly aspire. Think of the classic friendship of Damon and Pythias of lore. When Judas appeared before Christ for what possibly was the last time prior to His passion, Christ addressed him with the title of friend, to add to his other titles of anointed apostle and trusted keeper of the purse. Christ had the intention of bestowing upon Judas a pinnacle of human relationships. One that made him almost at par with the divine kinship of Christ. And even Shakespeare in the impassioned speeches of Brutus and Anthony, made liberal use of the word friends to address and appease the restive and mutinous crowd after the assassination of Caesar.
Our revered elders had officiously held almost sacrosanct the concept of friendship, way beyond the BFFs we assign randomly with some of our FB friends.
It behooves us then to revisit this concept, dissect, and ultimately redefine and prioritize it, from the heights of platonic relationship down to the casualness of nodding acquaintances.
BTW, I often hear about love and friendship in the light of unconditional rigor and dedication. Thus many expect parents to shower their children with love that knows no bounds and without limits. Or among friends, taking nothing off the table to maintain and grow that friendship. I say that these are such unattainable standards, bound to suffer failure once tested to the fore. After all man is not only flawed and weak, but is intimately tied down to a hierarchy of values he has to follow.
Like that all things considered, for example, man is expected to save his own soul over and above everybody else, children and BFFs included. God has said that when man comes to Him in judgment He demands no witnesses or intercessors. One comes with the deeds he had done in life and that alone will provide the basis to convict or acquit him. That will be the only criterion for one to merit heaven, or hell. Not even the testimonies of your benefactors will mean anything. At that instance God’s mercy is shunted aside, and only God’s justice will come into play.
Thus the need to be smart and practical in the conduct of our friendships, lest we go beyond the bounds and cross over to sacred grounds where other relationships cannot tread.
Let me bring in a personal anecdote showing why we need to bring out into the open honestly and dispassionately our differing understanding of friendship.
I worked in California for a quarter century, toiling hand in hand with people from all over the world including other parts of the US. And in the process, developed work and personal relationships with all sorts of people from very diverse locations and cultures. Some relationships more intimate than others depending on common interests and orientation, and depending also on work assignments.
I worked mostly in IT which from the start was always defined under a very small department. In the earlier days at the cusp of the computer revolution it was then called EDP, that is, Electronic Data Processing. For us, most times that miniscule unit was composed of two people, me and a fellow employee that I had known at the start of our employment in the hotel industry.
In short, we got very close beyond just the work environment, exchanging info about our families and past lives. Though we had different homelands, the discovered similarities were quite striking as to make both of us share many similar backgrounds. Him coming from a small country in Central America, he was intently proud of his old country and his upbringing. Not much different from my own views with regard to my life and times in the old homeland.
Anyway, one day he confronted me with a hypothetical case about friendship, with obvious reference to our own. Supposing if, he said, he traveled to Mexico and was wrongfully detained. Not having any other viable option, he called me up in the dead of night to seek my help. Would I drop everything and immediately attend to his request?
Relatedly would I be the right person to undertake such a crucial mission? I had never been to Mexico, did not know the culture and language. Etc. The point being that there are many prior commitments that have to be assessed and prioritized; to be factored in to arrive at informed and effective decisions.
In other words, in reality one cannot be unconditional in such things because we all have prior commitments that may have higher priorities than others. True especially if one has a family to consider.
The ironclad quality of being unconditional does not fare well when juxtaposed with realities. It is bound to failure in observance because of prior commitments.
But in the middle of all of these are the countless friendships many of us hold and cherish, friendships that will not consummate beyond delightful camaraderie during joyous times, and quite rarely going beyond this during difficult times, not really requiring unconditional support and dedication.
Our fondest hope is that our friendships will not be so demanding as to be too difficult to maintain. Because again after all, we individually have very committed responsibilities within our circle of family and relations.
In ending it is well to remember also that in the arenas of love and friendship, our God is a very jealous lover and friend. He would not countenance sharing, nay, He would demand that our love and friendship be exclusively His. The eye of our intention being singular – to love and please Him alone.