“Besides, friendship is especially necessary for living…”
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
There are two reasons we might not give true friendship the priority it deserves. For some, it seems to us that we already have it. Or in any case, it is not evident to us that our friendships should be better and play a bigger role in our life. We have a group of people we consider our ‘friends’—and indeed in a very real sense they are—and nothing in our experience moves us to think in terms of the need or even desirability of something more.
For others of us, the hope or desire for deeper friendship—even with just one or two people—has been very present in our life. Yet our experience has taught us to reign in our desires. Perhaps the word ‘jaded’ is a bit strong, but the truth is that the hard realities of life have trained us that we more or less have to make do with what we have. And we’ll be fine since, after all, what can you expect?
Perhaps the knock-out blow for most of us is the concrete, practical difficulty of pursuing something more. We are over-committed and struggle to find time for the things that most immediately and obviously call for our attention. How would we, even if saw a real possibility with this person or that, cultivate a deeper connection given the circumstances of life?
And if that were not enough, the further fact is that despite much friendship rhetoric, little in our culture encourages deeper friendship, either in theory/understanding or in practice/habit.
So we are discouraged and feel stuck. We don’t know what to do.
But friendship is precisely what we should never give up on; for our sakes, and for our friends’, or potential friends’, sakes. By the design of human nature itself, true friendship is the unique context for us to discover, forge, and enact our real identity, year in and year out, according to our age and state in life.
Each and every one of us might do well to look critically and carefully at our present situation, and ask ourselves a few questions:
In what relationships have I continued to act as though we have more between us than we realistically do or can have? How might I adjust how I invest my energy?
What relationships are calling for me to go deeper, even though it will take effort and being intentional? Or, in what relationships—perhaps even my marriage—am I often on overdrive, giving myself a ‘pass’ due to my being busy or overwhelmed? What can I do to grow these friendships?
Today is the acceptable day. This is a time that calls for friendships of the deepest kind. The broader social order might be ailing—a reality that in many ways is beyond my direct control. I might not receive much encouragement and support.
But my friendships–that is, my friends– are there for the choosing. Have I neglected or back-burnered these people? It is in my power to change that and to start anew. And to become a beacon of vibrant life. What a gift this is.
My revised and expanded book True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness is now available. Originally published almost twenty years ago, and republished ten years ago (unrevised), this improved version from Ignatius Press has two all new chapters. Go HERE for details. This book is fundamentally about empowering people by providing the knowledge they need to be intentional about true friendship.
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Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.
I was really excited to see that you have an updated version of this book. I saw it on another website last night when I was Googling a book you had written. It spoke straight to my heart and so I have ordered it. This topic is something that I have been pondering for a few weeks after the passing of a dear friend of only 2 years – Sr. Clare, a 90 year old Catholic nun. We became close friends through doing Lenten study and her passing has left me bereft. I have been asking why was this slightly unlikely friendship so beautiful, so meaningful? I only knew her for 2 years but she was very dear to me and vice versa and I had the privilege of being with her for her last 4 days. She had such a gift for friendship so I look forward to your book/
Thank you, Cate. I will be very interested in your feedback. I like your saying that Sr. Clare had a gift for friendship. This is something very real. It is also something that we all can cultivate in ourselves, and I think the first step is being intentional about friendships–beginning with being prepared to make changes in our own lives!
I’m sure that your friendship with Sr. Clare will continue to bear fruit in your life.
A while ago you wrote an article similar to the one that I just read. In the article you wrote about making our homes as beautiful and serine as possible since there is little we can do about the problems the country is experiencing now. I want to share that article with others if you know the article to which I refer and would send the URL.
Hi Donna, Thanks for asking. I wrote this article just a few weeks ago on focusing on your households this year. But perhaps you mean something from longer ago? If this is not what you meant, please let me know!
This article is so beautiful…I have been greatly craving for this kind of book lately….I’m a teen, I would have definitely ordered it but I live in Nigeria and there’s no shipping services coming this way from US, I really wish u could make the ebook available for me to download as pdf…please..thank you
Hi Esther, Thank you for writing! I will look into the possibility of it becoming an ebook. But unfortunately right now that is not available. I hope in any case you can read the posts I have here at this site under ‘True Friendship.’
Professor, perhaps you’ve addressed this topic somewhere, that of determining what obligations we have to those friends whose friendship is more the friendship of pleasantness or use.
I found myself with an unannounced houseguest recently and her two year old daughter. Whether she self-invited or was invited by my husband, I don’t know nor does it matter, the point being I wasn’t told.
The houseguest is not a close friend; my husband seems to think that doesn’t matter, that it was more important to extend a kindness, a courtesy. I so strongly disagree that I’ve been reflecting about this for days and re-read your book. I then had to write my thoughts down in a reflection.
What do we owe to these types of friends who are not our truest friends?