Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What Are Friends For?

Published in the Fiji Times 13/1/10

My late father once said to me, “Have many acquaintances, but only a few friends.” According to my Facebook Profile, I have 1,061 “friends” – some who I have only met through this online social network. If I were to take the title of the Terence Hill and Bud Spencer movie, “He who finds a friend, finds a treasure,” to heart, I would consider myself quite wealthy! When my father died I found out that he had not followed his own advice, as those who in expressing their condolences considered him a friend were literally in the hundreds.

This past weekend I was co-celebrant in the wedding of the president of a prominent Suva-based club. At the wedding rehearsal, the day before I was informed that the groom, instead of having one Best Man and a number of Groomsmen, would in fact have one Groomsman and four Best Men. Today one of my closest friends, Sevanaia Tora, Fiji’s original Disc Jockey, percussionist extraordinaire and incidentally the Best Man at my wedding, celebrates his birthday. From all your soul brothers, and soul sisters: Happy Birthday Yo!

As I reflected on my own wedding and my choice of best man and the impact that my friends have had in my life, I realised that perhaps we use the word friend too loosely, or perhaps without an understanding of the gravitas associated with this word.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “friend” has its roots in the Old English word “frēon,” which means” to love,” and “frēo,” which means, “free.” It defines a friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem;” “one that is not hostile;” “one that favors or promotes something (as a charity);” “a favored companion.” There is also “Friend,” which refers to someone who is “a member of a Christian sect that stresses Inner Light, rejects sacraments and an ordained ministry, and opposes war,” known in some circles as a ”Quaker”. I do not know how many readers would consider their “friends” in this last category, but you never know.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the poet, novelist, musician, and playwright wrote, “Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance.” From experience I understand this to mean that a soul connection doesn’t need to grow, it can just be a transmission of the divine spark of love. The Christ said of friendship, “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends” (John15:13). How many of us would be willing to lay our lives down for our friends? We are quick to accept this responsibility for our family members; but for our friends? When we talk about laying down our life, we usually assume it means to die a physical death. But this isn't necessarily so in all cases. For we can put our life on the line by standing up for what we know is right, and in many cases this might seem harder than dying. It takes real courage to take a stand that is unpopular. Those for whom we stand are our friends, whether we acknowledge them or not. Even taken metaphorically, this statement by Christ requires us to re-evaluate the way we value friendship. It also calls us to revaluate who we consider to be our friends.

Our friends are those who accept us as we are, not as we see ourselves or wish we could be. They are those who look beyond our foibles recognise the spirit of goodness, the capacity for loving and being loved (however we chose to express it). Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them."Too often we set criteria for friendship based on material and social compatibility. In doing so, we deny ourselves the opportunity to engage with people who are not only like-minded but kindred spirits. We miss out opportunities to foster understanding, for it is our friends who truly understand us.

It is our true friends who rally us on, offer us a shoulder to lean on, or cry on. Our true friends encourage us, challenge us and admonish us out of their concern for us. Our truest friends can be our biggest critics if they see us taking a wrong turn. Our true friends act out of their love for us, not merely in response to our love of them. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

May the rest of your week be blessed with love, light, peace and joy of true friendship.

Rev. James Bhagwan is a member of the Faculty of Davuilevu Theological College and is an Associate Minister at Dudley Methodist Church in Suva. This article is the opinion of Reverend James Bhagwan and does not necessarily represent the views of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, any other organisation or institution Padre Bhagwan is affiliated with or this newspaper.
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1 comment:

  1. "Our friends are those who accept us as we are...."

    Very True Padre. Well said.

    God Bless