Aristotle, Buddha, and Christ said friendship is the most important thing. What on earth does that mean?
And sure, define friendship.
Before verifying that they really did teach that, let’s check-in:
How are we doing with our friendships? Do we have a friend that we can bare our fears and aspirations to, this person who will look at us with kind eyes and confidence in our ability to wrestle the invisible?
Let’s do this backward…who am I am a friend to?
Who reaches out to me?
What kind of connection do I offer that person?
Whatever is hard about the relationship; can I soften around that history?
Do I feel compassion for this person’s predicament, for the discomforts of their life?
T-shirt philosophy, we’re good at. “In a World in Which You Can Be Anything, Be Kind.”
I can tell you, when I practice softening in my conversations with my family and friends, it feels like I inadvertently stepped off a plateau in a hang glider, perhaps barefooted.
I don’t always emerge unscathed. But the more I do this, the more trust I build, seeing that whatever my ego would have tried to mangle the interaction into would be boring.
So, what about ourselves? Do we let ourselves be listened to by anyone? I recently told a home truth about my life to two college friends. It’s good. They can now see my unsteady flight across my true concerns. I know they will be there for me to cry or rejoice no matter what. Obviously, we discern who in our life is at this level of wise and stable connection. We should all have one person besides our significant other, who hopefully is also a true friend.
So, to back up my advertisement for friendship with an appeal to authority, I give you:
Aristotle: “Nothing in life is more necessary than friendship.” from the Nicomachean Ethics
Buddha: When asked by his follower Ananda if perhaps holy friendship were half of a holy life, the Buddha answered, no, it is the whole of the holy life.
Christ: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Lattés and IPA’s promote friendship. Texting promotes friendship. Prayer promotes friendship.
What does it mean to listen? How often do we reach out? What is allowable to ask of a friend?
When we feel empty, that is the best time to give a morsel of love and tenderness to a friend (relatives count). We may not have energy or resources for more than a heart emoji, a poem shared, or a 30-minute call. These morsels of love keep us and our friends warm, spiritually alive.
It takes confidence in our own stability to be there for our friends and confidence in their stability to let them be there for us.
Pope Francis, in a written piece on joy, says “If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents.”
From Roshi Joan Halifax, ”If we manipulate others into not sharing so we don’t have to hear, so we don’t have to listen, or if we react with horror or abandon the scene, we stifle our empathy and rob ourselves of this fundamental virtue of humanity.”
Joan Halifax has said that confidence, another word for faith, is the most important thing for all on this scary planet right now. Confidence helps us continue stepping forward and helps us stay quiet so we can acknowledge the noise around us. Confidence emboldens us to feel the anguish or loneliness in our hearts and trust that its DNA is pure love.
Thanks to Fran Hogan for picture (unsplash)