In life, we all have people we call friends. Surprisingly, a serious consideration of the true meaning of friendship, qualifies most of these people as nothing more than acquaintances.
This is because a true friend is really hard to find. Friendship is one of the central human experiences built on a co-operative and supportive behaviour between two or more people.
This human relationship must be built on love, respect, mutual knowledge, esteem, affection, trust and loyalty, to mention but a few. A true friend is another self. He or she sticks by you in moments of pleasure and hardships.
Without any reservation, you will share your thoughts and feelings with a friend, especially in time of trial and he or she will act as a source of sympathy and encouragement, because he or she will always have a willing ear for both your troubles and pleasures.
A real friend is a devoted friend, and he or she should be always there for you. From our experience, we know that it is not always easy because our friend might need us when we are in a contrary mood.
It is therefore a complicated phenomenon which requires us to be careful in dealing with our friends, and more still in the way we choose them, if friends are really chosen!
The power of friendship is rather mysterious; a true friend can restore you from the ashes just as a friendly hug may help you to find a way out of the most difficult situations.
On the other hand, it is a very delicate relationship, and there is nothing more painful and more disgusting than betrayal of a friend.
All the above bring us to a legitimate question; how can we find true friendship in this often phoney, temporary world? How can we recognize potential friendship?
The signs for friendship may include a mutual desire for companionship and perhaps a common bond of some kind. Beyond that, genuine friendship involves a shared sense of caring and concern, which allows the development of unconditional love, so that we may love our friends no matter what might happen.
When our relationships are conditioned by some other factors, then they are not worthy the name of friendship. Our daily experience shows that some relationships are built on a supply and need factor.
Others are built on common interests as professional, or academic. Still others may build on pure attraction or sheer respect.
People with such friendly relationships may manage to stick together especially when things are pleasant or going well, and that is why they are commonly referred to as fair-weather friends. You cannot rely on them on matters of emergency, because when problems arise, they tend to disappear.
The fair-weather friends do not want to practice the self-sacrifice involved in true friendship, yet according to the way this theme is treated in the Bible, true friendship cannot endure without it.
When Jesus Christ was defining true friendship, he put the element of self-sacrifice at the forefront: “Greater love has no one than he who lays down his life for his friends.” (Jn:15:13ff) By these words, Jesus gives himself up as the example per excellence of what is meant by true friendship.
Elsewhere in the Bible, we read of the son Jonathan, who, in spite of his father Saul’s pursuit of David with an intention of killing him, Jonathan stood by his friend. That is what should characterise friends Cfr. 1Sam. 18:1-4.
Finally, St Paul tells us to recount our friends and see who among them are true and genuine friends according to the standard given by Jesus. The standard that he set as the test for true love among friends is the very love that he gave us.
While we were still sinners; hence in need of a redeemer, he died for us so that we may be forgiven. No friendship can be more genuine than laying down your own life for the one you love. Such a friendship is hard but still possible.
We have seen and heard people who died because they refused to reveal the hiding places of their friends during the Genocide. That is the best example of true friendship, though hard to find.