The Role of Friendship in my Own Spiritual Growth

by Deacon Sam Trujillo

www.deaconden.org  …”True friendship, I believe, comes from our love for God and God’s love for us. For I truly believe that God puts certain people on our path or we encounter them on the same spiritual journey”….

These are friends that extend out their hands and help us with their encouragement, support, and belief in us along the way.

Aelred of Rievanix (12th Century) believed that the love of friendship springs directly from God, coming closer to the love of the Saints in heaven than most other loves.  True friendship that combines charity and goodwill is possible only between those who resist the sin and greed that would destroy it. It is “mutual harmony” in affairs human and divine coupled with benevolence and charity.  (Spiritual Friend, Chapter 2 on mutual friendship).

In the world book Dictionary, a friend is described as follows: 1. A person who knows and likes another; a friend should bear his friend’s infirmities (Shakespeare) 2. A person who favors and supports.

The first part of this definition is rather cold. It should say a person who knows and loves another.  Shakespeare’s definition of a friend is more in tune with spiritual friendship, “a friend should bear his friend’s infirmities” and is more in harmony with Jesus’ view on friendship. (John 15:12-15)  “This is my commandment; love one another as I have loved you”.  A person can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friend; you are my friend, if you do what I command you.  I shall not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know his master’s business:  I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learned from the Father.

A true friend shares everything with his friend and loves him. To love another as Christ has loved us is the foundation of a solid and authentic spiritual friendship.

Without love I don’t believe you can establish any type of friendship relationship. It certainly goes beyond just liking someone.  I quote Friends by T. London:

“If each of us is fortunate, we will have a few friends in this world, whose belief in us is strong, whose love for us is true. Please, when you think of those who wish only the best for everything you do, be sure to remember our name as one who believes in you.”

Friendship has played an important role in my own spiritual growth, since it served as a catalyst to bring out the best of me. Believing and encouraging one another is a powerful force that manifests itself in the change and transformation of the individual, and the development of one’s talents.

Without friendships it seems rather impossible to grow, since a friend is someone who helps us to know ourselves. Without this dimension in our life it seems to me that we would have a problem with our identity.  Who am I?  Without these friends we would have no one to listen to us, no one who would show true concern and compassion in our times of need.  We can tell anyone about our needs and pains but there are very few who really listen and care, who bear our infirmities.  These are our friends.

Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand. A faithful friend is a sure shelter, whoever finds one has found a rare treasure.  A faithful friend is something beyond price, there is no measuring his or her worth.  A faithful friend is the elixir of life and those who fear the Lord will find one.  Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends, for as a person is, so is his friend.  (Ecclesiasticus 6:14-17)

Friends have a tremendous influence on one’s self. Either for good or for bad.  If we want to grow spiritually, we should have friends that are interested in spiritual growth and share the same interests that we do.  They help us grow by being there at critical and trying times in our life, when we need someone to turn to.  And many times they have been through the same crisis and can understand us.

To Aelred, true friendship is a path of mutual equality and intimacy reaching toward God. The unity it can create is foretaste of the joys of heaven and even an image of the being of God. (Spiritual Friend, Chapter 2, being of God).

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