Last winter I did a series of posts on Gospel Friends — what God was teaching me through the people in my life and his Word. In the past couple of days I’ve learned a lot of new things about Friendship that has opened my eyes to some deeper sources of struggle.
I’m currently reading C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves and the chapter that has shaken me up the most is his chapter on Friendship. The book consists of Lewis describing four different forms that love comes in and Friendship is one that he says most people don’t consider to be a “love.” He calls it an “unnecessary” love in that it is more for our pleasure and enjoyment than for our survival as humans. This form of love is also, according to Lewis, one of the loves that separates us from other created beings.
The definition alone got me thinking. Friendship is defined as the deeper connection between 2+ people that separates them from the rest of a group. He gives the example that men used to gather together to discuss hunting strategy, go hunting, then recap how it went and things that helped or didn’t. This he calls companionship. I compare it to a group of students gathering to work on their homework for Physics or something (that was my most common study group I think). The people are not “friends” but companions with a task in common. Friends form when within the group, say the hunting group, 2+ people realize they have a deeper connection over their admiration of nature. This creates a little bubble within the group in which they delve into a deeper relationship that others do not participate in. Lewis refers to this as the “You too? I thought I was the only one…!” situation.
There have been many things throughout this chapter that have caught my attention and has me evaluating my current friendships — wondering what our deeper connection piece is that makes us “friends” and wondering if I have viewed these relationships in a God-honoring way.
Concepts I’m considering:
- Adding more people to a group of friends is a good thing because they each bring out a different piece of the other people in the group. Without them, that piece is not seen. More of each other can be enjoyed when more are present. Therefore, there isn’t jealousy among friends but instead an appreciation for the different sides that surface in each others’ company.
- Friendship is blind to the “status” of a person (single, married, student, lawyer, etc) because it more about the thing you are doing together than about where the other person comes from.
- Friends will automatically be there to help in times of need — not out of obligation but more out of an automatic response.
- Friendship can lead to a feeling of superiority among a larger group of people (as well as segregation/favoritism)
- There are some things we look for in Friendship that seem good but are actually not Biblical.
I’m not going to elaborate on the first point except to say that this is semi-life-changing for me. I’ve given the devil a foothold over and over again by believing that because there was something two of my friends enjoyed together without me or that I could not “call out” of them by myself, I was not really friends with them and was actually just a pity friend they allowed to tag along. Lame. Lame. Lame. I’m thankful for good friends who are gracious and let me confess these things that lead to bitterness and strengthen our relationship so I stop losing friends over these things. That was more elaboration than I’d anticipated…sorry.
As for the second point — relationships that form because there is a common status or season in life are still good things. Mentorship, accountability, etc can happen and can be very rewarding. But this hit a familiar spot within me because there are times where it seems that people I call friends aren’t really “friends” in that we enjoy a deeper connection that makes us want to spend time together. Again, this isn’t a bad thing but it changes up the expectations a bit doesn’t it?
I liked the way Lewis described the third point. He said something like, A thank you is met with a “don’t mention it…really” because the circumstance is more of an interruption than a highlight. The response to a challenging situation is to automatically help — not out of obligation but just because…of Friendship. So the help is not viewed as a “look at what I did for you” but as a norm.
The fourth point was a great point of conviction for me. Everyone knew that group in grade school (or even college) that was the “cool group.” As someone who was the “new kid” many times, I can speak first hand to the obvious superiority complex of this group and how good they feel about themselves when they step down to help and guide the poor, socially awkward, new kid. The horrible part of knowing this first hand is knowing that I turned around and did the same thing to everyone else once I got into their group. I never really felt a part of the group but I was enough that I felt superior to others. My self-consciousness and self-pitying tendencies have led me to continue to do this even now. I fear having more enter my friendship circle (thinking I will soon be kicked out) and I am still pretty socially awkward (so being surrounded by my friends and making sure it is clear that I’m with them brings some security). This leads me to exclude people. To see the gate to being my friend as closed and to get nervous when I see others in my group reaching out. Again I say, LAME LAME LAME! (Heavy, heavy conviction). I’ve even had the audacity to point out when others are doing this. Hello speck, meet plank.
That last paragraph touched on what I’m getting at with the last point. As Christians, there are some specific things outlined in Scripture that should be a big, central piece to our “deeper connection.” Proverbs and Hebrews talk often of the importance of sharpening each other, spurring each other on to love and good deeds, helping protect each other from the deception of sin, etc. I believe that these things should be the foundation of true, Gospel friendship. Sports, crafts, baking, photography, reading, motherhood, ideas, etc. are all great things…but are we willing to go deeper than that? Are we willing to be vulnerable? God has given us, his children, AMAZING gifts in each other. Relationships that become mediums through which we can rejoice in Him. But that’s an important word “through.” The relationship itself is NOT what we should rejoice in. It should be bursting with the Gospel — grace, forgiveness, repentance, love, joy, servitude — and that should lead us, as friends, to an overflowing worship of God together. Can that all happen while we share our enjoyment of _____ activity?? YES!! I believe that should enhance it! The point being that we are worshiping our Savior together…which, I think, should lead to further INclusion of others because with more people, there are greater ways to rejoice together in our Lord.
This had ended up to be very, very long. I commend you if you had the patience to read all of it. I highly recommend The Four Loves. His discussion on friendship has led me to be oh so thankful for the friends God has given me. Though it also has me wondering what the deeper commonalities are — I’m afraid I often force us to just talk because I am frankly short on hobbies.
I do work out with one great friend. Always looking for more! Anybody want to be a new weight-lifting partner???! I may look incapable of physical activity, but that hasn’t stopped me yet=) [I’m not being sarcastic, really, I’d love to lift with you, even if you haven’t spent a lot of time in the past doing it…I’m still a newbie too. And if you are advanced, you can teach me!]