The Dancing Puritan

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Killing Friendship

We are a fractured society. Though we are well-connected virtually we are not so much so personally. How many of your virtual friends would actually show up if you needed them? Friendship is more than simply having someone who will show up in an emergency. There are lots of folks who will do that, they are just a 911 phone-call away. Certainly a true friend will be a friend in an emergency but true friends are more than emergency friends. True friends are day-to-day blood-brothers (or sisters).
C.S. Lewis and his friends
The mark of Friendship is not that help will be given when the pinch comes (of course it will) but that, having been given, it makes no difference at all. C.S. Lewis 
There are numerous studies that indicate friendship is on the decline.

In 2006 the Seattle Times reported:
Americans, who shocked pollsters in 1985 when they said they had only three close friends, today say they have just two. And the number who say they have no one to discuss important matters with has doubled to 1 in 4, according to a nationwide survey released today. Link

C.S. Lewis argued in The Four Loves that friendship is not considered necessary for survival, and that is one reason it is not properly valued.

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. C.S. Lewis

The problem is not new, though there have been times in history when friendship was more valued.

Ecclesiastes 4 gives evidence of at least four friendship-killers.

Oppression (1).

The oppressor is in power and uses his power for selfish gain. He might be in power politically or religiously. He may be the family patriarch or matriarch. He has gained the upper hand and uses his position to press another person under his thumb. The husband who has a wrong-headed view of his authority in the home may oppress his wife into an unhappy submission.

Envy (4).

Gore Vidal
When a person is envious of his neighbor, the possibility of friendship is destroyed. How can the command to love our neighbor be fulfilled when we envy him? The envious person has no ability to rejoice over his neighbor's success or to weep over his loss. He views his neighbor as a competitor, not as a friend to be loved, helped, and treasured. Three quotes by the famous, controversial and prolific author Gore Vidal (October 3, 1925 – July 31, 2012) will illustrate:

Envy is the central fact of American life.

 It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.

Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.

Laziness (5).

Friendship, like a garden, requires cultivation. Sometimes what is required is as simple as a phone call. At other times it may require a meeting, at an inopportune time, at the coffee shop. Occasionally it may call for money. Friendships can be hard. Charles Spurgeon wrote, "Set a stout heart to a stiff hill, and the wagon will get to the top of it." The same counsel is applicable to the challenges of friendship. When there is a hill of difficulty to climb then "set a stout heart" to the hill.
We often miss opportunity because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work. Thomas Edison
Workaholism (7).

Hard work is a virtue. However, there is a kind of work that is sinful and that kills friendships. David, in Psalm 127, speaks of work that grows out of "anxious toil." Meaning that some people work out of fear and due to a lack of faith. Ecclesiastes mentions another kind of sinful worker. He works because "his eyes are never satisfied."
One explanation for friendship's decline is that adults are working longer hours and socializing less. That includes women, who when homemakers tended to have strong community networks.   Seattle Times 

There are many other ways that friendship is killed. Gossip, neglect, deceit, and disloyalty are all friendship killers.

The Bible indicates that we need friendship. "Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him'" (Genesis 2:18). The first application of that pronouncement is marriage. God created marriage as a primary means of providing for man's need of human companionship. However, marriage is not the only solution. It is a primary solution for most people. Yet God has also provided the opportunity for friendship. The benefits of friendship include comfort, productivity, help, warmth, and protection (among other things).

The bottom line is, don't kill friendships! Invest. Cultivate.

Where does it all begin? It begins by being reconciled to God through faith in Christ (Romans 5:6-11).