A True Friend
[First written 27 January 2009]
Why do I feel the need to re-edit and post something I wrote over 3 years ago? Because, I still strongly believe that, second only to “love,” “friend” is the most misused word in the English language.
If I had a pound/dollar for every time people I hardly know have referred to me as a “friend”, I would be rich. I do not wish to offend or hurt the person who has, in the past, called themselves “friends”, but simply to set them straight.
Whenever I tell someone that I have only a handful of friends, they are not entirely sure how to respond. Some may look at it as being that I am simply less sociable, an introvert, a recluse, etc, whatever you wish to call it. But I simply see it as taking the advice of George Washington, who said, “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well-tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.”
The word “friend” is one thing that is slung around often in the virtual world of Facebook/Hi5/Bebo/etc, but very few people seem to know what it actually means. “Friend” is not a word to play fast and loose with, nor is it a term to be hastily applied to a person you happen to be acquainted with. “Friend” is a word to be used carefully, because “friends” are to be chosen very carefully.
Friends are rare, and you may live many years without finding even one true friend. “The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for.” Count yourself rich if you have found even one friend worth dying for.
A true friend is more than just an interesting person to speak with for an hour or two so as to pass the time. Rather, a friend is someone to depend on, someone to lean on, someone who is (almost) necessary for life. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, we are told, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Real friendship is lasting. It survives the changes, the storms, the crashes and the pitfalls. We always talk about our “school friends” who we forgot about when we graduated and began a career. Then we are not real friends ourselves. “The friendship that can cease has never been real.”
Friends argue, friends offer correction, friends are even sometimes (wrongly) angry at each other…and these things are all natural and to be expected in a real friendship. “Truth springs from argument amongst friends.”
Indeed, I understand that argument is a positive facet of true friendship (Pro. 27:17) and correction from a friend is something to thank God for (Pro. 27:6a). And as Christians, friends can and must always forgive one another. C.S. Lewis writes, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
I wonder, what exactly is friendship that I seem to lose one “friend” every year? Of course, some people are only meant to stay in your life for a time and a season. But I still wonder about the friendships that ceased for no apparent reason. Were we simply not bothered about keeping it going? Who knows…
True friends are open with each other, and overlook one another’s faults. Everyday, when I talk to God about my problems, one of the things I always thank Him for is friends who have seen me at my worst and still like me and for those who have forgiven me when I had no right to expect to be forgiven.
It has been over 3-years since I made a real friend, and I am not only content with that, but also happy for it. Old friends are the best. I read somewhere that Thomas Jefferson said; “I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial.” I agree.
So, to everyone who reads this, I would strongly recommend, re-examine the people you trust and call “friends” and distinguish “friendliness” from “friendship”. To love is to move towards others without self-protection, but the Bible also says, “Be shrewd as a serpent but innocent as a dove” (paraphrase).