The Simple (and Hard) Question to Ask Yourself About Your Friendships
Sry friend, I’m crzy busy right now (>_<) can we reschedule?
I sent the text and set my phone aside, returning to work. My friend and I had been intending to get together for a while now, and once again I’d asked for a rain check. Life had just gotten so busy for both of us, and I wasn’t really feeling up to it anyway — so I didn’t think much about postponing yet again.
While we texted back and forth to reschedule, though, my Shoulder Angel decided it was time to hold a Conscience Call inside my head:
Shoulder Angel: When’s the last time you had a real conversation with your friends?
Shoulder Angel: When’s the last time you made an honest commitment to spend time with your friends, instead of just saying “maybe” so you could back out later?
Me: Do I have to answer that?
Shoulder Angel: Do you know what your friends are struggling with right now?
Me: Well, to be honest….
Shoulder Angel: How many calls and texts from your friends have you avoided this week because you were “too busy” to answer?
Me: I plead the Fifth!
My Shoulder Angel was being ruthless, but that spontaneous Conscience Call sure woke me up. It forced me to step back and ask myself a simple, yet hard, question:
When was the last time I was really a friend to my friends?
I hadn’t thought about it much, mainly ’cause I was so busy being…busy. Unlike grade school, where I saw my friends all the time on a daily basis, I’d reached a point in my life where keeping up with the friend group required, like, actual effort. Time had become a precious resource. And with each of us holding a never-ending list of responsibilities — work, school, families — we’d all grown reluctant to sacrifice even the tiniest bit of it.
But time itself wasn’t my problem. Instead of looking forward to hanging out with the group, I sometimes dreaded the time I was taken away from doing my own “important things.” Being a genuine friend to my friends didn’t seem like a real priority; I didn’t care enough to make it one.
And that was my problem. I’d stopped truly caring for my friends.
“The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.” Elie Wiesel said that, not me — but his words have stuck with me my whole life. The biggest vice we commit against each other on a daily basis isn’t hatred: it’s apathy. The moment you stop caring, you stop loving.
The good news is it can be turned around. Even in the crazy-busyness of our lives, we can learn to care again. And there’s no one better to teach us true friendship than the Teacher Himself….
True Friendship: Lay It Down
During the Last Supper discourse in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples the most poignant definition of true friendship you can’t find anywhere else: “No greater love is there than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).
Like most of Scripture, this is a single verse of layered meanings. Literally dying so that others can live is indeed the noblest act of love anyone could express.
But when Jesus says to lay down one’s life here, He’s talking about something more than a physical death. He’s talking about being selfless. By telling us to lay down our lives, Jesus is really asking us to remove our “self” from the equation so that we can fully love as we ought.
As a new school year begins and you’re caught up in a whirlwind of busyness, here are some things to do so your friends won’t get left behind:
- Take the time. It’s so obvious that it’s almost easy to miss — but the number-one reason why my friendships fell to the wayside was because I didn’t set enough time aside to check in on them. It’s so critical to give your time to the people you love, especially as you grow busier.
- Honestly commit. For the next month, try this: Take the word “maybe” out of your vocabulary. In this age of noncommittal indecisiveness, a direct “yes” or “no” is refreshing. It will also force you to evaluate your choices about your commitments. We all have responsibilities, but if you find you can say “yes” — and mean it — then say “yes.” And don’t let yourself back out.
- Serve. When we are called to serve “the least of these,” we often imagine strangers. But “the least” in your life might be a friend who’s struggling with something: a loss in the family, a tough time at work, a painful relationship. Reaching out to your friends in these times is laying down your life for them. Our lives get messy; true friends are the ones who help us in the muck.
Serving your friends can also be something as simple as helping them out with a project, bringing them dinner, or being in the audience for their performance. It may seem simple, but they are other ways to serve friends in love.
- Forgive. A priest friend once told me, “You can’t put all your faith solely in other people. They will all let you down eventually.” While that sounds like a total downer, it’s true. Our friends will disappoint us…and we’re also going to disappoint them, too. We’re only human. What’ll make us different as friends, and as Christians, is how well we choose to love our friends beyond those moments of disappointment.
- Be a good role model. “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man” (Proverbs 27:17).Translation: We are each other’s supporters and role models. It’s our job, especially in matters of faith, to help our friends along The Way.
Notice something about the saints? They often go in groups. (I’m looking at you, St. Francis, St. Clare, and St. Anthony. I’m also looking at you, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.) Saints of the past were often friends with each other. If we are models of true Christian friendship, then we should strive to help our friends reach sainthood!
What other ways can you lay down your life for your friends? Share in the comments below!