The Quality of Friendship


“The rule of friendship,” the Buddha said, “means there should be mutual sympathy between them, each supplying what the other lacks and trying to benefit the other…” The words ring true. Friendship is not as much a matter of happenstance as we are inclined to think.
 
Perhaps one of life’s most precious lessons is that we must learn to choose our friends as well as to find them. The corollary of this insight, of course, is that we must learn not to allow ourselves simply to fall into alliances and acquaintances that come and go like starlight on the water, exciting for a while but easily forgotten. We must learn, in other words, not to make life a playground of faceless, nameless people—all of whom are useful for a while but who never really touch the soul or stretch the mind or prod the conscience.
 
On the contrary, the realization that friendship is one of the great spiritual resources of the human existence drives us beyond the superficial to the meaningful. It leads us to create relationships that count for something, rather than to simply wander from one casual social affair to another.
 
It may, in fact, be the friends we make who most accurately measure the depth of our own souls. For that we are each responsible.
 
To grow, then, requires that we provide for ourselves the kinds of relationships that demand more of us than continual immersion in the mundane. It requires us to surround ourselves with people who speak to the best part of us from the best part of themselves. It means that we must actively seek out as friends those who have something worth saying. And then we must learn to listen well to them so that they can hone our own best intuitions, challenge our least profound assumptions, point out directions that take us to another level of thought and care and determination. At times when life is most unclear, most confusing, we need … this quality of friendship. But only an awareness of our own limitations can possibly prepare us for it.

            —from Friendship of Women: The Hidden Tradition of the Bible, (Blue Bridge) by Joan Chittister

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