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Is Friendship the ultimate Personal Investment Opportunity?

Four personal experiences of friendship


Most of us depend on the support and help of family and friends to get safely through life. We all need someone with whom we can share secrets, weaknesses, hopes and dreams. Components of friendship include mutual trust, respect, understanding, encouragement and affection. Friendships are also fragile. No one is perfect. So, forgiveness and honest apology are important.

One writer refers to two kinds of friendship. One, called 'psychic' friendship, relies on the natural affinities, responses and capacities of those involved, including like-mindedness, attraction of opposites and shared interests. Affection found in 'psychic' friendship seeks immediate contact with the other person. The other kind is called 'spiritual' friendship, with spiritual interaction that depends on moral and spiritual principles that are not always fully appreciated. All friendships are a mixture of both kinds, but tend to belong more to one than another.

Friendship that says "I need you" is basically selfish and possessive, stifling freedom, encouraging fear. "I want you" clearly selfish, also promotes fear, when unrestrained desire pressures others. Sexual passion belongs within a mutual and healthy love relationship.

Lust, unrelated to care and commitment, generates enormous negative, destructive tension. Easy sexual relations of all kinds, instead of making supportive and intimate friendship more available, have helped destroy it, despite the longings people feel.

"I care for you" expresses something different and is far more constructive to friendship. Selfish love creates fear and builds barriers. Selfless love dissolves fear, creating space for security and fun. A giving friendship is good for all, bad for none, releasing people's potential, encouraging greatness and building confidence, like sunshine ripening fruit. Whether unselfish activity comes from God's influence, is an open question. I am coming to believe that they are inseparable.

Some reject God, having experienced hurt, failure, injustice or rejection, but life keeps on introducing experiences that speak of hope, joy, beauty, mystery and the unexpected. What if divine friendship is a possibility after all? It may be risky to experiment openly with this mystery long enough to listen for the 'voice within', but what can we lose? What if we discover a warm presence surrounding us and begin to experience the transforming friendship of God, without strings attached?

Those who would give friendship need to know they are loved, and be secure in that love. The quality of divine love is capable of melting and healing all past hurts and heartaches and opening us up to creative friendship for all.

Ian Parsons, Australia

Friends in High Places

I was the prefect on duty at my all girls English boarding school. Susan, obnoxious, rebellious, popular and feared among her peers, was at her rudest that evening. I told her to report to me after the meal. I sifted through all the possible punishments I was entitled to deliver. Nothing threatened Susan. I sat in a corner and prayed, not something I had tried before in this sort of situation, and I asked God to give me a clue. Susan slouched up to me, her henchwomen looking on and giggling. I took her into a side room and closed the door. Looking her in the eyes, I asked gently, "Why are you so unhappy?" The truculent sneer vanished and she dissolved into tears. She cried and cried. Then she began to tell me about the break up of her parents and the uncertainty of her future which might involve leaving school. We talked for a long time. We talked of her preciousness to God and a security found in relationship there. We talked of how she might prepare herself and how she might help her parents whatever lay ahead. Susan was taken out of school three weeks later, but in that time she was a changed person. She was peaceful, smiled a lot and was free to make real friends. I was asked by some what I'd done. And I could honestly say I'd done nothing but ask a simple question, which popped into my mind when I took a few minutes space to listen.

Jean Brown, Adelaide

Identity through Integrity?

For myself to write about friendship was like being given a key but not being able to go through the door. I have had to look deep within myself to convey the sense of my experiences. I guess I never believed in myself; I could not listen to myself, so I listened to others. It became easier to let other people become dictating shepherds over me. A bewildered lamb follows anything which helps it to be needed, it doesn't question which way to go, it just follows its leader. Fashioned by those I followed blindly, I did not impress myself, so I lived to impress others. I never met my real self, as I never allowed myself to be who I really was.

During my early years of High School, I spent a lot of time with a group of friends who seemed to have everything that I wanted. Freedom without responsibility, good times and popularity.

After a year with these supposed friends, living their lifestyle, I felt very disillusioned and alone. No-one was there for anyone when the good times ended. These friendships and one in particular, were very destructive and unsatisfying. Though my parents were always there for me, I had shut myself off from them and didn't listen.

The pain was indescribable when I realised the friendships I had maintained for so long were nothing but a delusion. I stood alone and my house built on sand blew away. For the first time I saw myself alone and scared. To avoid further personal destruction I felt that drastic changes had to be made, such as a change of school, a change in all social activities and making time to be by myself. I needed to discover what real friendship was all about.

Had I not made these changes, I may never have learnt to think for myself, to look inside and discover the underlying insecurities that, if not healed, would have travelled through my life with me, expressing themselves in selfishness, jealousy and anger. I now feel liberated and free, all because I 'dared to be real'.

Follow the foundation of truth and honesty and you will never be alone. You will befriend yourself and feel safe within God's walls of security.

I now have the most beautiful friendships. No one follows anyone, we walk in a large flock, side by side with the true Shepherd who leads. There is respect, space is given for individuals to grow, forgiveness is granted and thoughts are owned. I now have an established identity in the rock of God's friendship, so I can go back to those sands of delusion to help others and still learn more of myself. Finally secure in the heart of friendship; the friendship of God and my fellow man.

Elspeth Herring, Australia

REALITY - The Price of Friendship

"You don't seem to have any friends", was the shrewd observation of my Dad. I was a precocious 12 year old, a 'stand-out' with adults, a 'turn-off' with my contemporaries and desperately unhappy. My Dad was a theatre manager and said that I could always have a couple of free seats to his movies if that would be a help.

I am not sure what sort of 'friends' would have resulted from this ploy, but what happened a few days later was a disaster. The school bully, ringed by a group clamorous for blood, was promising to belt me up. So I whispered I would get him a couple of free tickets.

When Dad discovered why I wanted the tickets, he was shocked he had produced a coward - and I felt I had lost his friendship too! He paid for me to have boxing lessons for six months. I tried to bury my shame by becoming aggressive, loud-mouthed and by looking for fights to compensate for the one I had run away from.

It was not until I was in my late teens that a 'spiritual experiment' led me to the secret of real friendships. I was truly honest about myself and accepted that I was fully responsible for my unhappiness, not circumstances and other people. Strangely, the thing I found hardest to be honest about was buying my way out of that fight.

The preparedness to be honest about my fears and failings produced unexpected friends who have stayed with me through life. Real honesty also seems to bridge the so-called generation gap. Our sons were always more interested in my current difficulties (aka disasters) rather than some 'great spiritual discovery' from yesteryear.

Friendships are born out of taking risks, whether it is being more honest about yourself than is normal - or being prepared to reveal how you found a friendship with the 'King of Kings'.

Jim Coulter, Australia

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Publishing permission refers to the rights of FANW to publish the full text of this article on this website.