A misguided rush for romance but not friendship

A misguided rush for romance but not friendship
A Parent’s Perspective

I love the C.S. Lewis quote about friendship: “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” In his book The Four Loves, he examines the four types of human love-affection, friendship (philia), romantic/sexual desire (eros) and charity/God’s love (agape).

On the official C.S. Lewis website, friendship is referred to as “the love dismissed”. The one most ignored in the modern world. It’s suggested that maybe friendship is viewed as the love that requires a lot of our time and effort and maybe the one that’s least celebrated. We see this, even in Christian circles, where a great romance is cause for celebration while a wonderful friendship is not talked about much and rarely celebrated. There’s often a rush to find romance and to attain the high of falling in love but, in the intense focus on romantic love, the great value of good friendships can be overlooked. It’s not unusual today to see children as young as 13 or 14 talking about going on a date or pairing off. One of the problems with this early dating is that it fast forwards a relationship in a way that’s not reflected by the teenagers’ stage of development and maturity. How many times have budding friendships been ruined by the introduction of a romantic element that young people are not yet ready to cope with? Often, relationships in the early or mid-teens are characterised by their passion and fervour, with ample amounts of drama and unpredictability. At a time when the young people should be spreading their wings and building good friendships with others, they only have eyes for each other.

In authentic friendship, romance and the exclusivity of being a couple are not the focal points of the relationship. Lewis describes that wonderful moment of connection when one person says to another “What! You too? I thought I was the only one”.

It’s no surprise that he thought that friendship exhibited a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to Heaven where each soul will be united in their unique visions of God. He spoke about how God reveals to us the beauty of others believing that we don’t choose friends but that friendship itself is chosen, a gift given to us through the love of God. In ancient times, friendship was often viewed as the superior way to achieve happiness. Given these lofty views of the blessings of good friendships, do we spend too little time and effort pursuing and nurturing these most joyful of relationships?

How do we foster these Christian friendships and encourage them in our children?”

Jim Rohn, the author and motivational speaker is often quoted for having said that we’re the average of the five people that we spend the most time with. This has been broadened out to include a much wider sphere of influence with some studies even suggesting that having happy friends makes you happier. True Christian friendship goes beyond natural affection and fondness, striving to build a relationship based on our common journey to holiness. How do we foster these Christian friendships and encourage them in our children? In True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness, philosopher, Dr John Cuddeback, says that true friendship and a life of virtue go hand in hand and are the key to human happiness. Being virtuous, he says, simply means that we “act from a desire for what is truly good and noble”. In a virtuous friendship, each person is valued by the other for who they truly are. Many friendships are based on shared interests or a desire to share good times together. This is fine but, if we only see another as a source of fun or a useful study partner, we are missing out on forming a deeper friendship which Cuddeback describes as “one’s desire, extending beyond private fulfillment, is for the fulfillment, the flourishing of the friend”. A true friend wants what is best for the other, for the other’s own sake. Many of the petty dramas we see in childhood friendships are based on the fact that small children often want to exert control and haven’t yet learnt about mutual self-giving. Friends, at this age, can be viewed as merely players in a game with cries of “It’s my game!” or “I’m in charge” if companions break the perceived rules of engagement. As children get older, we help them to reach the point where they understand that good friends must be united in doing good for one another.

Let us pray every day for good friends for ourselves and our children”

John Cuddeback refers to true friendship as “an art” and that, “like great music, is a masterpiece” happening because people know what they want and “develop the skills called virtues, necessary to achieve their great goal”. As parents, we wish that our children will have friends who will assist them in their struggle to become the best version of themselves. Peer pressure is often viewed negatively but positive peer pressure from good friends is a great benefit on the uphill road to greatness. A good friend who can share good times, great conversations and who shares the quest to find justice and truth is a treasure beyond compare. St Maximilian Kolbe spoke of friendship saying: “God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle. In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.” Let us pray every day for good friends for ourselves and our children. There are few better gifts.