Eldest son Matt posed a series of questions recently that I have addressed in two previous blogs. I just received a follow-up from him that I will address in the days to come. It is fun, challenging, and a little annoying to have your progeny make you think this deeply. Matt is a bit uncomfortable with the public nature of the dialogue and I can understand that. I have several years of public declaration that I am an idiot saved by grace who is currently engaged in a fumbling, bumbling stagger to the finish line. It is a relief to acknowledge that simple fact and I found that, for me, that declaration was a turning point in my journey.
Today the question posed by Matt involves friendships.
Why can’t all friendships feel this freedom and openness and even honesty about our ugliness?
Real friends are a treasure. I know you have probably read all of the works of 17th century French classical author François La Rochefoucauld. In case you missed this quote I will refresh your memory.
“A true friend is the most precious of all possessions and the one we take the least thought about acquiring.”
That is so true. The kind of friendship that you desire will be, if not rare, at least unusual. You will have many good friends and that is a blessing. But you will have just a handful of real friends. Friends that you can tell anything and not be rejected. Friends that you can call at any time for any reason. I have just a handful of friends in that category. Relationships like that take time. It takes investment. And I think you have to go through a variety of experiences together to really go to the next level of friendship. You don’t really know a person until you go through adversity with them. That is not something you can plan or force.
I admire your desire for openness and honesty about the ugliness in all of our lives. That is a risk. Not everyone can handle that. But if you are willing to take the risk you will find friends that are willing to go there. And they will be in that trusted circle of real friends. I know you are a fan of writer Henri Nouwen (in addition to La Rochefoucauld). This thought from Nouwen captures the heart of friendship that goes beyond backslappin’ and bad manners.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
You can’t force that. But you can help the process by being a friend. It is no surprise that Proverbs contains some great thoughts on friendship. Solomon recognized that not everyone who starts out as a friend remains a real friend.
There are “friends” who destroy each other,
but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24
The need for honesty is expressed in this familiar proverb.
As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17
I think that is what you are looking for in a friendship. Beyond the fun times you want a friend who cares enough to challenge. And that is when you discover the state of your friendship union. Later we find this interesting nugget.
Wounds from a sincere friend
are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:6
That is a hard truth. But that is the friendship holy grail that you are seeking. Finding a friend like that is worth the risk and it is a risk. You will likely be disappointed and even hurt along the way. But finding that small number of real friends is worth it. All friends are a blessing. Real friends are a treasure. I will wrap this up with a quote from one of my sentimental favorites, the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”.
Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.
Enjoying the exchange,