Sunday, March 25, 2007
Friendship is Holy
"Friends are people who love us in spite of ourselves." ~ I have no idea who to attribute this quote to so if someone can please comment on the source, I will update the author. It's one of my favorite quotes, and it happens to be true.
"You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family." That's another one pertinent to today's topic.
God, in all his wisdom and in his plan involving free will, knew that we would sometimes struggle with and against our families, and so He gave us the gift of friendship...that is, forging bonds with others outside of the family. We can't always take our every day struggles to our family without affecting family life; and so a friend is someone with whom we can speak candidly about most, if not all things, and thus share the burden. Likewise, that friend is someone who is willing to share that burden. Is that not a HUGE gift?
I was watching "Monsters, Inc." one night, and in the beginning when Mike, aka "Googleybear"(the little green guy voiced over by Billy Crystal) is covered with a logo on the company commercial, he first expresses what seems to be great disappointment. Sully, aka "Kitty!" first begins to comfort Mike, and then Mike expresses his true emotion by proclaiming excitedly, "Did you see that!? I WAS ON TV!"
Sully sighs in relief and smiles at his optimistic friend, even as Mike answers his phone and speaks excitedly to the person on the other end as though the call is for him. When Mike tells Sully that the caller is his (Sully's) mother, Sully simply rolls his eyes and lets his friend, who really was snubbed, enjoy the limelight he never had to begin with.
That's a great example of friendship. That's a great example of a friend loving a friend in spite of himself.
I'm sure I've been on the wrong end of the eye-rolling myself plenty of times and that scene never fails to make me grateful to my ever-patient friends.
Friendship is a special gift from God and should be cherished. Even those friendships that come to an end for some reason have value for if we reflect upon them, we see that somehow we were blessed during that time period. Maybe we grew somehow, or maybe that person helped us to identify a particular flaw that we would not otherwise have recognized. Only God knows how these relationships are orchestrated for He is the author of all orchestration in this symphony we sometimes only recognize as the chaos that is our lives.
Several years ago, I broke up with a long-term boyfriend and this breakup was devastating because I had thought I wanted to marry him. In the few months after the breakup, I tried to pretend that it was fine and that I was enjoyng my newfound singlehood, but at heart, I was sick. I was sad, and I was a wreck. My friends knew it, and they also knew better than to force me to fact that...because I wasn't ready.
So it happened that I met the new girlfriend. She was a little taller than I, but looked somewhat similar. Her hair was darker, but about the same length as mine. Her history was similar to mine in many ways, and she drove a similar type of car.
It was scary. It was like she was me...but a better version. Had the resemblence not been so strong, I don't think it would have hurt as much. But as I saw it, I was traded in for a prettier model and even as I smiled and as she and I spoke very cordially, my heart was breaking.
Then I made the stupid comment of all stupid comments...I revealed to my friend how I really felt. I told her that at least the ex had traded "up" and took a "step up" from me. I really felt this way, and I expressed it because I was pretending to be strong; pretending that I didn't feel the knife twisting in my back.
I still can't believe that I said this, but I really ended that relationship feeling like a doormat and the feeling remained for a long time.
My friend let that stew, and a few weeks later, when the ex (only six months after he and I broke up), mass emailed his engagement announcement, my friend and I had a little heart-to-heart. We watched "When Harry Met Sally" and in that particular scene in the movie, I went through a box of kleenexes. I suddenly understood in a very deep way what it was all about.
The next time we were alone, my friend brought my comment back to the forefront. She told me that she could not believe I would make such a comment as to say the new fiance was "a step up" from from me; she said that hearing me say such a thing hurt HER so badly that she couldn't even respond at the time.
My friend told me, "You made me so angry the other day! You made me so angry when you said, 'she's a step up.' There is no step up! How can you think someone could be a step up from you? He's not good enough for you! Don't ever say that again, that someone is better than you!"
By this point we were both crying. She was angry with me, and she wanted me to understand why. And through her lecture, and her anger, I understood what it cost her to have waited to respond to my stupid self-indulgent lie to everyone.
She finished her tirade with, "Any step away from you is a step down."
I am still very touched by the sentiment expressed by my dear friend. In that one sentence, not only did she help me to realize how much she loved and respected me, but it took courage to make such a comment. And it took courage because by saying what she did, she made me realize how far I had fallen and how worthless I was portraying myself to be.
It takes a real friend and the intervention of the Holy Spirit to make us face up to difficult truths so that we can overcome the difficulties in our lives. My friend helped me to find my self-respect again, and before our conversation, I hadn't even realized that it had been lost.
True friendship is an extremely valuable gift from God, for He chooses these people to speak on His behalf. He chooses the people who will share the burdens in our lives, and each and every one of us needs to take this to heart.
We have all been on the receiving end of a great friendship...do we take care to remit the favors to our friends? We have to consider our own roles in these friendships for it's not about what we get out of it or how the friendship benefits us...but about how we mutually benefit each other.
Going back to the example I provided, I am reminded of this for the friend who called me out of my self-pity and my denial was the same friend I had defended against an abusive boyfriend, and in fact, I had been there for her throughout the relationship. When I look back over the years, I realize that our friendship was a special gift for what we experienced from each other we both gave back and continued to give.
To this day, though, I think she did a better job of giving.
In any case, take some time today to consider all of your friendsips and look for the blessings in them. Were you a blessing to a friend? Did their presence in your life bless you in some way? Think about that, pray about it, and thank the Lord for this awesome gift He has provided to all of us.
May God bless and keep you all, and may all of your friendships be true.