Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Good and Holy Friendship (sponsored by St. Thomas)


I've been thinkin' lots about friendship lately.

What it is, what are fair expectations, what are the obstacles to it, what it should look like in this season of little ones and within the context of the vocation of marriage.  

Friendship can be a good and holy thing.  Our friends can draw us to Christ.  They can help us realize our full potential.  They can cheer us on in our successes and be our support and crutch in our pain.
  
This post sponsored by St. Thomas Aquinas, whose feast day it is today.  
He thought it was pretty important.
So does Scripture.

They can be, should be, an opportunity for holiness.

And that, I think, is why the evil one attacks it so hard.

Do you think so?

I don't have many answers to it all.  There are so many different kinds and levels of friendship, too, of course.  There are the acquaintances and the shallower friends.  There are the friends with whom you can have only certain conversations.  There are the ones that are fun but lack depth, the ones you only speak to occasionally, and then there are the ones that last.  They are thicker than blood or distance or death.  They know you as well as, if not better than, you know yourself and will defend you to the end.  These are the ones who will be there no matter what when the mask is dropped and your heart bleeds, giving what Scripture calls "life-saving medicine" and helping bind the deepest wounds of our hearts. 

I'm kinda curious what other women's experience is with friendship, especially women who are in the same state of life.  My gut and other people are telling me that there is a void here.  That there are lots of people, men and women, walking around quite lonely.  Do you feel happy with this dimension of your life?  Do you have that kind of good and holy friendship or do you feel the void sharply?  Do you feel like the friendships you do have are quality ones?  Deep?  Shallow?  Too challenging?  Pure?  Or maybe you just feel like they're impossible given your current state in life?  

Then there's the question of how social media plays into it - whether it deepens friendship, makes it more frequent yet shallower, or more likely, either, depending on how we use it.

I've also been ruminating on what makes a true friend:
Loyalty
Depth
Honesty
Genuine support
Exclusivity (not that you can't have other friends, of course, but knowing that you have a unique relationship with this person)

And the things that kill friendship:
Competition
Insecurity
Fear of vulnerability
Unreliability
Gossip
What I call "The Vibe" (i.e. nothing has happened but something is just…off.  Sometimes I think this is where the evil one loves to play.)

I'm wondering what your needs are for friendship and whether you believe that they're being fulfilled.  If they're not, why?  If they are, what is it about them that you value most?

I think sometimes we women are afraid of friendship.  Afraid of the ways it makes us vulnerable.  Afraid that it will somehow "take away" from our vocation.  Afraid that we will be hurt yet again.  But the Lord desires good and holy friendships for us (unless, of course, you're called to the hermitage…none of those hanging out here, I presume).  It is a gift from Him to share this life with others…we are made for communion after all, not only with Him but with those around us.  

I've learned not to be afraid to pray for the gift of holy friendship for it's growth and when we are given the gift, for its protection.  It's not silly or trivial or immature or somehow selfish to desire good and true friendship.  It's a holy and beautiful gift from Him.

St. Thomas Aquinas, please pray for us that we may be blessed with good and holy friendships.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Want to share?



"Pleasant speech multiplies friends,

    and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies.
Let those who are friendly with you be many,
    but let your advisers be one in a thousand.
When you gain friends, gain them through testing,
    and do not trust them hastily.
For there are friends who are such when it suits them,
    but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
And there are friends who change into enemies,
    and tell of the quarrel to your disgrace.
And there are friends who sit at your table,
    but they will not stand by you in time of trouble.
When you are prosperous, they become your second self,
    and lord it over your servants;
but if you are brought low, they turn against you,
    and hide themselves from you.
Keep away from your enemies,
    and be on guard with your friends.
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
    whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
    no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
    and those who fear the Lord will find them.
Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright,
    for as they are, so are their neighbors also."
Sirach 6:5-17



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17 comments:

  1. Friendship is hard for me. I fail to realize the different levels. in my mind, if I am putting in time and prioritizing a person, then I assume it's going to be a deep relationship. However, I end up burning people out or I overwhelm them with my personality. acquaintances don't really make sense to me but I think reading and commenting blogs have helped me understand how to be an acquaintance. My fear with acquaintances is that I am short changing them that I am taking advantage or wasting their time or mine. Does that make sense?

    I have one or two really good friends and my husband. our lives in the military have really added a challenge to making lasting friendships. Most of the families we meet really only want to maintain friendships while they are at that post or for that deployment. Those relationships tend to be intense but short lived.

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    1. I think that makes total sense, actually. It's hard figuring out the differing levels and sometimes it's tricky for me, too, and I get my hopes too high up for a new friendship when it's not really where God might be wanting to work. The acquaintance thing can be hard and so is the whole 'ebb and flow' of certain friendships, too, depending on the season and where both people are in life. Military life must definitely add a whole difficult dimension to that.

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  2. mike and i were just talking about this the other night, in part due to some of the talks the men are listening to in their group. we both feel it is extremely important. i for one feel a bit lost if i don't have at the very least one good friend that i can call up at a moments notice and talk to about life. mike is awesome but he cannot fill the void where feminine relationship is needed. so i definitely think what you say is so, so true. good things to think and act on!

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    1. Thanks, Nicole! I definitely value our talks :)

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  3. What a thought provoking post! I often do feel isolated in my vocation, even knowing many other moms it's hard to take time away from our families to deepen the friendships. Social media is a huge culprit too. It makes things easy but not every friendship should be easy.

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    1. Yeah, I'm leaning toward thinking that social media is kind of making friendships 'easier', too, but at the cost of their depth and sometimes even their integrity. Definitely not all the time but I do see that as a very real possibility.

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    2. I agree. When you can see someone's everyday happenings it makes it less pressing to call them or plan a visit since you've already seen the online version. And with acquaintances you would already know the answers to the safe questions if you did see them. Today we live in a world of convenience. Social media is convenient: forging new friends or isn't.

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  4. Great post Mary - as a stay at home, homeschooling Mom I find the biggest obstacle to cultivating true friendships is time. I am blessed with a few good, faithful and faith-filled friends who I can share from the heart with - there just never seems to be enough time to get together. Still, I am immensely grateful for the time I do have with these friends! Happy feast of St. Thomas Aquinas!

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    1. Oh, yes. Time. This past year has found me going out in the evenings more than I ever did before just because I needed that time but couldn't find it anywhere else. But the late nights can be hard. The concept of eternity freaks me out a little bit BUT I love the idea of having as much 'time' as we want to be with those people who we never get enough time with.

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  5. Great post! I have been thinking about friendship, too. My saint of the year this year is St. Aelred of Rievaulx, and he has a lot to say about friendship. A quote of his that I have been pondering is "Friendship is the path that leads very close to the perfection which consists of the enjoyment and knowledge of God."
    I am especially thinking about it in regards to my boys. Lately, with the cold weather and illness that has been going around, they have been feeling lonely.
    And yes, I think you are right in saying that a lot of people feel lonely.
    I am sorry that my thoughts are so scattered. Since I am still pondering all of this, I really don't have any clear answers. I know I will be back to reread this post.

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    1. We've been working through that here, too, with our kids. I love that they play well together (mostly) but my oldest is wanting to stretch out and find those good friendships, too. They're so important, especially in the years coming up!

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  6. Your post Mary is incredibly timely. This is something that I have actually been pondering over the last few days. I have always struggled with friendships and often feel lonely. My Dad was in the military and I watched as my sisters where torn apart by moving away from friends or friends moving away. I then didn't become close to anyone because I was afraid of being hurt. Another thing was that I was more mature than kids my age, so the games they would play would bore me. I also wasn't the nicest kid around. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I started building real friendships, but even then I struggled with insecurity and fitting in it seemed. I got married a few years before any of my friends and by the time they started getting married I was on child number 3. So there was a period of time where we didn't have much in common or I wasn't available to just hang out. I've since been able to reconnect with most of them and have made more wonderful mom friends, but I still struggle to build deep friendships and battle insecurity. My sisters are my best friends, but they all live in different states, so it makes it hard not having someone physically present. I should follow your example and pray about it.

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    1. Growing up with that military lifestyle must be so hard. I've heard it can make family attachments stronger but like you said, often there are no deep friendships that develop. I've struggled with insecurity, too, always second guessing my interactions. I got married before most of my friends and moved away and while it didn't feel like it at the time, looking back I can see I would really have benefitted from some more solid female friendships. Yes, pray! I hope God blesses you with some good friendships and soon.

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  7. Gosh, Mary. I have so many thoughts swirling. Friendship for women and all is so very good. I see it with so many friends of mine. They really do make me such a better person, sharing wisdom and goodness that just inspires me. I have friends that I wish I could spend more time with because I know that a friend is what they need (even if they don't think so) and I have friends that kind of make me tired because I am fueled by my introvert alone time and sometimes can get tired with the more energetic friends of mine (Not their problem. Mine!). At the end of it, there is so much good. I miss my friends when we end up getting cooped up for whatever illness sets foot in our house and we haven't even started full on homeschool. My boys are still young. But, friendship is something I cherish. I know that. When it's missing in my life, I feel it. I miss the community of womanhood. But it definitely makes me more grateful for them (something I need to share more often!). My challenge is I can be so phlegmatic I don't take the first steps to engage or set a play date. Time passes and then I get sad about it and start thinking the friendship has changed, can feel insecure, etc. But thankfully a lot of my friends are pretty gracious. But time is something I wish I had more of. Time to embrace friendships across a number of levels and time to be with family and time for self. It's a hard balance to figure out with kiddos, random late work hours for the husband, injuries, illness, etc. Excited to see more posts that come from this. :)

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    1. It sounds like you are so blessed in your friendships! Time and energy is such a factor, isn't it?? Wish I could chat over all this with you in person!

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  8. Thank you for this post! Like you, I got married earlier than most of my friends and then moved away, which made keeping up the friendships more challenging, especially since before getting married I'd never moved at all! Now we're moving about once a year, which makes it hard to balance getting new friends and staying in touch with the old ones--especially since we're international now. Do you have any tips on that?

    --Annika

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    1. It sounds like your situation is a harder than mine was but social media is definitely a great tool in these circumstances. Maybe setting up a private Facebook group for old friends? And I've definitely learned you have to put yourself out there, as scary as it is, to make new friends. Inviting people over, setting up date nights, or starting a women's group…it's hard but can be so worth it for the payoff.

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