The Highest Form of Friendship
“When a friendship has the service of God for its object”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 NIV)
A true friend first loves God.
A true friendship puts God in its center;
He is the tie that binds.
True friends look at each other through the eyes of God. This means that we must first be IN God so that we have HIS eyes. The friendship must glorify God, serve God, enjoy God, bring us closer to God.
“The devil sets many snares here which are hardly detected by those who are content to serve God in a superficial way.” (St. Teresa of Avila)
From the wisdom of St. Teresa, we are reminded that when a friendship has been ensnared by the devil (in other words, belongs more to this world than to the service of God) “it prevents her from loving all others equally, makes her resent any injury done to her friend, causes her to wish she had something to give her favorite, to seek for opportunities to talk with her often, to tell her how much she loves her and other nonsense of the sort, rather than of how much she loves God. These friendships rarely serve to forward the love of God.” (from The Way of Perfection, Chap. IV,5)
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” The degree to which you are not loving all “neighbors” equally, that is the degree to which we belong to this world. Don’t berate yourself for your failure to love all equally, because that would not be loving to yourself, but do let the awareness of your failure motivate you to make genuine efforts each day to stretch your love out to more and more people.
When you resent an injury that has been done to a loved one, stop looking at the injury and look instead at God, who makes good come from everything (cf. Romans 8:28). Help your friend figure out how to serve God with the suffering he or she is enduring.
When you wish you had something to give to your favorite friend, ask yourself if the giving would truly serve God, or would it only serve to make you look good to your friend.
A good way to measure how much a friendship has the service of God as its object is to look at how conflicts are handled. When conflicts arise, if we are experiencing the highest form of friendship, we don’t look at the person, we don’t look at the person’s contribution to the conflict, and we don’t look at the conflict itself. We look at God. We don’t look at what we can do to solve the conflict, we don’t look at how to get even or punish the friend, and we don’t look at how long the conflict is lasting nor how much suffering it is causing. We look at God. What is His way to bring peace back into the friendship? What healing is He bringing out of the pain? What is the conflict teaching us that will purify us, strengthen us, and recreate us into being better distributors of His love?
When you feel the desire to seek opportunities to talk with your special friend often, offer it up as a sacrifice to God by choosing instead to give more time to friends who receive less from you. Always make no decision about when and how much time to give to a dear friend without first asking God what is His desire. Will this time together glorify Him and bring you and your friend into a deeper relationship with Him? Is there someone else who would benefit more, at that moment, from a time together as another trinity: you, her/him, and God?
“For the love of God, keep free from partialities however holy they may be, for even among brethren they are like poison and I can see no advantage in them…. Believe me, though I may seem to you severe in excluding these attachments, yet this promotes high perfection and quiet peace, and weak souls are spared dangerous occasions. If we are inclined to care for one person more than another (which cannot be helped, for it is but human…) let us control our likings firmly and not allow ourselves to be overmastered by our affections.” (St. Teresa)
A true friend first loves God.
A true friendship puts God in its center.
A friendship that reaches its highest form
is one that reaches out to others
and spreads the love of God far and wide.