RECENTLY, a group of friends and I had a really good discussion about the importance of “being there” for our friends. A friend is both available and approachable, ready to listen compassionately and offer thoughtful advice.
No doubt, these are marks of true friendship, especially in our era of ubiquitous “friends.”
However, this morning I read something from St. Neilos which gave me pause:
How, then, do they rashly take upon themselves the direction and cure of others, when as yet they have not cured their own passions (1), and when they cannot lead others to victory, since they have not yet gained the victory for themselves? First we must struggle against our own passions, watching and keeping in mind the course of the battle; and then on the basis of personal experience we can advise others about this warfare, and render victory easier for them by describing the tactics beforehand (2).So, as critical as it is for us to “be there” for our friends, we must ask an important question: Who, exactly, is it that is “there” for my friend? The quality of the “who” that I bring dictates the quality of my listening, the quality of my advice.
|Training partners Mo Farah and Galen Rupp|
pushed one another to Olympic gold and silver, respectively.
That is, the value of my friendship depends on the quality of the person that I offer.
When, with God’s help, I work on myself, it is for my self initially. But it seems to me that this “work” is ultimately for all those whom God puts in my way.
Happy New Year.
(1)The “passions” are harmful and destructive impulses (e.g., hot anger, hatred, the rush to judgment).
(2) St. Neilos. “Ascetic Discourse.” The Philokalia