March 8, 2013

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Friendship began in the Garden of Eden between God and us

Cynthia DewesRecently, a club to which I belong had a meeting focused on the subject of friendship. As we talked, I thought of the approaching Ides of March when poor old Julius Caesar cried, “Et tu, Brute!” as he realized that his friend Brutus had betrayed him. Happily, most friendships don’t end that way.

Friendship is one of the major ways to express love. Of course, from infancy we love our parents, siblings and other relatives. And as we grow, we begin to love others for whom our parents show respect and affection, i.e. neighbors and family friends.

But eventually, as we experience more of the world through school, sports and other opportunities, we begin to know love for our own friends.

During our club’s friendship meeting, we discussed the differences between men’s and women’s friendships. What we concluded agreed with a book I once read titled Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. That is, men seem to have fewer close friendships than women, and their friendships tend to center on shared interests like work or sports. But women’s more numerous friendships are apt to be intimate sharing of confidences, feelings and emotional support.

My own experience reinforces this conclusion. While my husband has a few close men friends who share his interests, I have many women friends to whom I feel close emotionally. Of course, we both have friends of both sexes for different reasons, some of whom we share.

Still, my husband is my best friend, and I believe that I am his. We can and do share feelings, doubts, questions, laughs and every other imaginable subject that may arise between people. We are best friends because we trust each other completely. Even when the beloved points out a truth that hurts, we understand that he or she is presenting it out of loving care for us.

It’s interesting to me that my friendships, other than the “best” one I’ve mentioned, are based on so many different things. Other women tell me this is true for them, too.

With some people, I can discuss intellectual topics, such as books, music, religion or ideas in general.

With others, it’s talking about what’s going on in the parish, or what we’re fixing for dinner. We share stories about our kids, our current problems, our plans for vacation.

With some friends, we can talk about all these things and more. But with each friend, we share affection and respect. So then, what does it take to create such friendship?

First, I believe it requires openness to others, an expectation that they are well-intentioned. We expect them to be as interested in us as we are in them. We expect to share ourselves with them in every way, from a mere recitation of our latest doings up to and including baring our secrets.

Making real friends requires the right motivation. I believe friendships based on making money, besting someone else or casual sex are not real friendships, but tacky use arrangements. In the end, they won’t satisfy the human need to connect with others.

Luckily, we have a model of friendship to copy. Whether we’re religious or not, it’s God’s friendship for us that’s the model for the real thing.

It comes from God’s loving concern for our good, our joy. It’s the basis for Jesus’ teaching to love one another as God has loved us, and to treat others as we wish to be treated.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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