Monday, August 30, 2010

Thoughts on Friends: A Commentary

Yesterday, a young friend of mine, Kalie, posted a blog on "the importance of friends." This is a topic upon which I have been reflecting for the last couple of years. Kalie basically qualifies her friends categorically: romance, best friends, seasonal friends and, I assume, just friends. These are fairly common categories and I appreciated her insight into each one. One of the categories struck me however, "seasonal friends." She states:

Sometimes friends are just for a season. This is kind of difficult for me to accept, because I really like permanence. I usually tell my close friends that they are stuck for life. It's true, because I really hate letting friendships subside. But, I truly have seen God place people in my life for a time, when I needed them or they needed me. And then we drifted apart, and you know, I think that's okay.

I agree with Kalie - I really like permanence too. I want to know that my friends will be there for me. I wonder, if I could ask her, if she is really "o.k." with this state of 'seasonal' friendship... I don't ask this question to be critical, but because it is something with which I am really struggling right now. As a man (now I'm qualifying!), I like things black and white, yes and no. Are you my friend, or not? Thus the idea of "drifting apart" is a bit repugnant to me. I want my friendships to work and I like investing in them. Indeed, earlier in her post, Kalie makes a statement about the very nature of friendship maintenance:

It[friendship] requires love, work, time, investment, giving of yourself, vulnerablility, honesty, kindness, acceptance and usually forgiveness from time to time.

I absolutely agree with this statement. So I wonder, are 'seasonal friendships' really friendships? Doesn't this mean that we have not actually invested in these relationships as we should, by definition, in order to maintain them as friendships? What's scary about this to me is that - taken to its end - it could mean that we sometimes enter into pseudo-friendships in order to get things from one another. It's simply a beneficial way of entering into a relationship to get something we want and then letting go once we have received it. But is that friendship?

Now I understand drifting apart - life circumstances take us all sorts of places - but does this mean that we are 'seasonal friends'? I also agree with Kalie that God brings people into our lives for a reason and then, for whatever reason, we are taken out of close proximity with them - but does this necessarily mean that they were a seasonal friend?

30 years ago, Sue and I were trombone players from competing schools. We became friends. We even went out on a couple of dates - by that I mean two. Once with another person and once to the "Rooster Days" fair in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Friend dates, if you will. She truly was a great friend to me. Then I moved to Houston. We went off to college and life took different turns. Then, 30 years later, she found me on facebook. We've reconnected. We've shared stories of marriage, family, careers and faith. It was as if the 30 years just dissolved away. I could say the same of my friend Brent. Since we reconnected about 5 years ago, we have kept a steady, regular, twice a year or so correspondence and have even visited one another several times. Although, it would seem that these two could qualify as seasonal friends, I don't think so. I think we are simply 'friends'.

If I might add to Kalie's assessment, I would say this:

I believe 'friendship' is something we choose. It is rudimentary 'phileo' - brotherly or friend love. It is a choice we make to care. Due to time, context and character similarities (or dissimilarities) we 'become' friends with people. The power of these friend/relationships ebb and flow. A best friend today can be just 'a friend' tomorrow, depending on time, context and character change. Nevertheless, they remain a 'philadelphian' until we choose to release them from that relationship. [But is this really possible? Once your heart has invested in a relationship of any kind, can you actually 'release' them? I say this because I have this sneaking suspicion that 'love' makes them a part of you...]

I believe that Christ asks us to 'befriend' our neighbor, in spite of our differences so that our world will be transformed into the Kingdom of God. But Kalie is right - to have this type of friendship - or really any type of friendship - requires, "love, work, time, investment, giving of yourself, vulnerablility, honesty, kindness, acceptance and usually forgiveness from time to time." But isn't this what the Kingdom is all about?

Kalie, this old professor thanks you for making me reflect once again on the deeper things of life!


  1. Dr. Smith,

    I've never had anyone write a commentary about my blog before. I must admit it made me quite nervous as I read along. But I agree with what you have said. I still care about my friends, even when we have drifted apart, and there have been times when my "seasonal friendships" have been renewed, like yours have. I love each of my friends and they do stay with me even if we are not as close as we once were. I hope my friends know that if they needed me, I would be there for them - no matter how long it's been since we've talked, how far away they live or how much has happened to us in between.

    Thanks for your insight! You keep me on my toes!!

  2. You're the best Kalie! Obviously, God uses our friends to help us to think through issues and to see pieces of the 'puzzle' that we cannot see by ourselves. I just bought several theological books on about "friendship" - I feel an academic paper on friendship coming on! ;-)

  3. Pick me; pick me! Or not.


  4. Brother Hamilton, I think we are linked at the hip...

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