International Friendship Day is a good reminder of the importance of friendship, which is hugely important for a number of reasons but let’s start with the downside of the lack of friends. I think it’s a good audit to ask yourself how many friends you have today and whatever number you come up with, is that more or less than the number of friends you had 10 years ago and then 20 years ago (and so on depending on your age!) If the number is less, then imagine projecting that forward and then ask yourself, what would be the effects of this dwindling number? Unfortunately, the world we have constructed does not make it easy to have a multitude of friends in our dotage but at our end of days wouldn’t it be nice to be surrounded by friends and family, especially family that is friendly!
When I was young, feeling friendless, I asked a teacher how to make friends and his reply was swift and simple. Find someone and give to them. This is the essence of friendship; it is based on giving and our acts of friendship lock in this most important principle. It establishes and then anchors our giving and then from our giving we learn who we are for it is through our giving that we discover ourselves. In A Course in Miracles Jesus speaks of his desire to be known as The Friend.
From our giving and the subsequent friendships then comes a feeling of inclusivity and finally a sense of bonding. This will then establish our sense of safety. We will all get into troubles at some time and when we are troubled and without friends we are truly in danger as there is no one there for us. Daily we hear of people living with loneliness, depression, fear, and a sense of exclusion to the point now when 1 in 7 of people in the UK are on antidepressants. Wouldn’t a few steps towards building friendships be equally helpful?
We need to learn tolerance and acceptance of others, and generally we do this naturally with our friends as we forgive their mistakes, as we share ourselves with them. Our family and friends offer us great opportunities to learn about forgiveness, which creates the inclusiveness that friendship is based on. When we value our friendships over and above our past pain and need to be right then they will flourish. There are times when it is true to walk our path with close connections to others, and it can also be true that those paths diverge. Yet even when the physical closeness ends the friendship does not for that continues in our minds, the appreciation, the gratitude, and the love which in truth is eternal.
Friendship with others is a great first step and the second important step is then friendship to yourself. Catch yourself in your self-attacks and ask yourself: if your best friend acted in this way what would you say to them, would you chastise them or would you love and encourage them? We need to learn to become a good friend to ourselves that includes only acting and thinking in the way a good friend would.
Once we begin to master this then we can learn to become a friend to the earth. Many of our environmental issues are a direct result of a lack of friendship to the planet that gives us so much starting with our very existence, and then sustaining life through our breathing and eating. Many of us have failed to learn the lessons of our giving and substituted it with our taking and from that all our suffering comes.
Let’s all remember friendships past and present this Saturday. And maybe ask this question, ‘how good a friend is she or he, this one or that one?’ Whatever the answer, that is also a measure of how good a friend we are. And then, can we reach through any doubts and excuses to give even more in the spirit of friendship?
Jeff and Sue