Has Anybody Seen All My Wasted Friendship?

A few months ago [1], I listened to a recording that a friend of mine had made about wasted love. To be sure, I have known a fair amount of that in my own life, at least in the sense that I have known plenty of love for others who did not share it for me, and been loved in ways that I did not share for them. As a single man who has often tended to get along far better with women than with other men as friends, I have faced the difficulty that often attends such friendships, the romantic tension, the accidental nature of flirtatiousness, the setting up of expectations on the part of one party or another, the drama over the vagaries of implicit communication, signals read that are not sent, signals sent that are not read. In these matters I consider myself, not proudly, well-practiced, though not particularly expert, and I see many other people around me in the same situations dealing and struggling with the same difficulties themselves. In my more melodramatic times, and there are admittedly a lot of these, I view it as a cross to bear when things go wrong, and in my less gloomy times, I view it as a challenge to overcome by being more skilled at direct and explicit communication.

The Bible has a lot to say about a friendship, and much of it speaks to the difficulties of our contemporary world. The historical books of the Bible like Genesis and 2 Samuel and Esther, speak of friends in an official sense, as a king or vizir would have his official friends who were privileged and honored counselors. The book of Job speaks of friends in an almost ironic fashion, given the critical nature of those friends. The Psalms speak movingly of the misery at being isolated from friends, that mourn the treachery of some of David’s friends, and that compare friends to loved ones. In the Proverbs we have pithy but sensible advice about friends and friendship, not being a co-signer on a friend’s loans, choosing friends carefully, having more friends if one is rich and can dispense favors than poor and needy, avoiding the sort of whispering and gossiping that separates friends, being a true and loyal friend to others, being friends that stick closer than brothers, being gracious in our words so as to befriend the powerful, sharpening our friends through wisdom, and so on. This is immensely practical advice, and it is little wonder that the Psalms and Proverbs are read today with regards to their insight on friendship.

The Bible also contains a somewhat lengthy examination of a friendship that demonstrates the essential difficulty of friendship in our contemporary world. David and Jonathan were friends to such a level that they were closer than brothers, and David admitted for Jonathan, especially after Jonathan’s death in battle on Mount Gilboa, a deep love for his friend and his friend’s faithfulness. Our contemporary era has viewed this love as necessarily sexual in nature because it cannot conceive of a deep and powerful love that does not involve sexual attraction or behavior. And this contemporary zeitgeist puts a great strain on friendships in our present world. The Greeks divided love into four categories, three of which are well known [2]. Specifically, romantic love is noted by eros and the love of friends, fondness, is viewed as phileo. It is true that these loves can be found together, but they need not. There are many friends I have had personally, of all ages and both genders, that I viewed with no physical, romantic, or sexual attraction. The longing simply never arose on my part, even though I was not bothered at being attractive to others. There are many other times where I had romantic longing for those who simply viewed me as a friend and found my own longings to be irksome or problematic.

It is important to note, though, that the blurring of lines in friendship with romantic tension is not the only such blurring that can occur. Almost as often as this blurring in my own case has been the blurring of friendship with a paternal feeling of care that is characteristic of the Greek love storge, whether I have been the friend of people in my parent’s generation who viewed me as a sort of surrogate or adopted son, which has occurred quite often in my life, or in cases where I have seen my own younger friends in an almost paternal or more often an avuncular role. These are blurred lines too, but they do not trouble us. When we recognize that we are called to be friends of others, and to see them as brothers and sisters, and to view them with self-sacrificial love (agape, the fourth and highest of the four loves in Greek), it is natural that we should see those lines blur, especially as we seek romantic love with one partner for life. It is conceivable that we could have all four loves for the same person, and that our interactions with them would be layered by a variety of different motivations. Yet be that as it may, we as Christians are called to be self-sacrificing even for those we are not fond of, or may actually have difficulties or enmity with, and it is the absence of that agape, where we look for the best interests of others and not only ourselves, that tends to cause more difficulties in our life. It is not so much that we have too many kinds of love in our relationships to avoid relationships, but that we do not often have enough love [3].

Perhaps a personal story will illuminate this matter. Whether I was romantically interested in a female friend or not, I have never viewed my friendship with other people as a merely tactical goal, because I was seeking to use that friendship to get romance. If I have enjoyed the company of others, hours spent in lengthy conversation, those hours were not spent in seeking to bind someone to me with emotional intimacy so as to free the way for the physical intimacy I was really looking for. If the hours of fond conversation went anywhere, and they generally have not, that would be fine, but the romance is something that would have to be conducted similarly openly. If the hours of conversation did not go anywhere romantically, I did not view the time or the friendships as wasted in the least. I am only looking for one wife, after all, and that for life, but I would be quite content to have dozens or hundreds of close friends with whom I could spend hours of scintillating and witty dinner conversation, playing games, going to museums or fortresses or gardens, sharing books we have read, experiences in life, thoughts or concerns or questions, prayers for well-being, and so on.

To put the matter bluntly, I cannot think of a single friendship in my life that I have felt was wasted simply because it did not lead to an epic romance and the long-awaited arrival in marriage. On the contrary, there are many romantic endeavors that I have felt wasted because they did not lead to a lasting friendship, and because those young women who I was interested in, or far more rarely, who were interested in me, did not value my own friendship and sincere respect for them because they were either solely looking to find a husband or thought that I was only looking for a wife and saw nothing else of value in them. It is being sold short by people who misunderstood my motives, or had very limited and tactical motives themselves, that has been the waste, not the absence of love blooming from a warm friendship. In short, I have not had any wasted friendship, and have never viewed a friendship as failed because it never became anything more. If I have been a failure so far at finding romantic love, that failure can at least be explained by the harrowing constraints from my own deeply complicated and traumatic personal life and the limitations of my wounded heart, and that of the others with whom I interact with. Yet such a failure has not meant that I have viewed the friendships as failures themselves. And even in those cases where I am estranged from friends, I have considered such situations to be a matter of misunderstanding and the need for better communication, not the absence of fondness or kindness in my own case. Even such situations as that are not wasted, for they have helped to make me the man I am today.

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/02/17/has-anybody-seen-all-my-wasted-love/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/04/21/book-review-the-four-loves/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/not-worthy-an-examination-of-the-relationship-between-love-grace-and-works/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, History, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Has Anybody Seen All My Wasted Friendship?

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