Et al. presents: On friendship
"First of all, among all worldly things there is nothing which seems worthy to be preferred to friendship. [...] It is what brings with it the greatest delight, to such an extent that all that pleases is changed to weariness when friends are absent, and all difficult things are made easy and as nothing by love." - Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created light and land and oceans, and he filled them with all sorts of life. Then, he created man as steward over His creation. God looked at all He had done, and saw that it was almost all good. But something was missing. "It is not good," God declared, "that man is alone.”
But what does that mean? As most people know, God solved this problem by creating the first woman, Eve. So does that mean that God thinks every man should have a woman? Is it a simple statement of the need for romantic companionship? I would argue against this interpretation. Eve represented something bigger than mere romance. The creation account is more than a love story between the first humans; it’s the establishment of what an infinite being saw as essential components for a flourishing world. With Eve’s existence came something absolutely essential to the human experience: community.
Whether you believe Genesis is a literal account, a symbolic allegory or simply religious myth, community is an integral part of the story it tells. And it’s an integral part of our everyday lives. We can all remember somebody who has meant the world to us because of the friendship we shared. From my personal experience, a group of six friends from my hometown come to mind. We call ourselves Delta, and we’ve all been friends since our early teenage years (some of us, even longer.) The person I am today is due in part to their friendship. Delta is the symbol for change, but ironically it is one of the few sources of constancy in my life.
It’s easy to talk about things like friendship in sweeping, idealistic gestures. But I think a common difficulty, at least in my own experience, is actually making real-life changes to reflect deeper understanding. I’ll be writing a full column on this difficulty later this semester, but for now I just want to focus on some direct, actionable ways to seek out and secure closer friendships.
1. Be organized. Let me make one thing clear: I love lists. I love writing the short discussion question lists at the end of every column piece. The fact that I could make the list you’re reading right now thrills me. In fact, I might write a whole book about lists one day. To-do lists, grocery lists, socialists… alright, maybe not that last one. But most lists are great! Here’s how lists can help you find deeper friendship: make a list of five people that you want to be around in five years--five people that you trust to reciprocate your friendship. Then, look at that list every day. Set it as your phone background. Print it out and tape it to the inside of your notebook. Maybe even re-type it every week. Every time you see it, ask yourself: “Have I done anything to connect with these people recently?” If the answer is no, do something about it. Grab tea with somebody. Send someone else words of encouragement. Find a way to connect.
2. Be honest. In your conversations with these people. You can talk about sports, television and food. Relax, have fun and just enjoy the company of each other. But also talk about what you’re afraid of. Talk about who you want to be. Talk about how you can help accomplish each other’s goals. Deep friendships are fun, but they require honesty. Don’t be afraid to be who you are and go deeper than surface-level.
3. Be consistent. This is a simple point of quality over quantity. There are different types of friends, and not all of them need to be the kind in whom you invest deeply. But when you build your list (see point 1), stick with it. Don’t worry about becoming best friends with everyone you know. Instead, find a few good people and do your best to show them your love and friendship.
As an addendum to these three pieces of advice, I have a confession: I haven’t implemented any of them. In fact, I’ve been deeply convicted by friends of mine who have, because I find it so difficult to reciprocate their efforts. I struggle much too often with transforming my good thoughts into good actions. So, I’m regarding the publication of this piece as my starting line. Delta has long been a securing anchor for me. I don’t want to lose that anchor, and it’s time I do more than just hope they stick around. I also know I’ve let a multitude of wonderful friendships fall by the wayside here at The King’s College. So consider this an apology and a promise. I hope you join me in my effort.
Questions for further pondering:
1. Whose friendship has meant a lot to you? Why?
2. What are some other ways to build and maintain deeper friendships?
Please share your thoughts!