Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ditching Your Friends


FRIENDSHIP CAN be complex. People don't advance at the same pace and, so, they sometimes become separated. It is so in running and in the spiritual life. When you care about someone, sometimes you have to let that space happen.

In On the Priesthood, St. John Chrysostom recalls a friend who left him behind, but not out of spite:
Our balance was no longer even, but his scale mounted high. I, on the other hand, still entangled in the lusts of this world, dragged mine down and kept it low, adding weight to it with those whims in which young people are tend to indulge. For the future, our friendship indeed remained as firm as it was before, but our communication was interrupted. This is because it was impossible for persons who were not interested in the same things to spend much time together. But as soon as I also began to emerge a little from the flood of worldliness, he received me with open arms. Still not even then could we maintain our former equality: for having started before me, and having displayed great earnestness, he rose again above my level, and soared to a great height.

Being a good man, however, and placing a high value on my friendship, he separated himself from all the rest (of the brethren), and spent all his time with me. This is something he wanted to do before, but had been prevented, as I was saying, by my lack of seriousness. This is because it was impossible for a man who attended the law-courts, and was in a flutter of excitement about the pleasures of the the theater, to be often in the company of one who was nailed to his books, and never set foot in the mall. Consequently when the hindrances were removed, and he had brought me into the same condition of life as himself, he gave free vent to the desire with which he had long been laboring. He could not bear leaving me even for a moment...(*)
Note that the friend, though he left John behind, placed "a high value" on the friendship. How does this make sense? How do you love someone and ditch them at the same time? Messed up? Maybe the lesson is this: To love someone is to have the courage to advance without them. You spend time doing what is good and right, hoping and praying that, as in race ("Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it."1 Cor. 9), he will see you, long to be with you and to be like you. She will be inspired by your training and the fruits it brings. You will run shoulder-to-shoulder in zeal and the love of God.

And, like a race, real life is a dynamic situation. She is bound to fall off pace as her legs become tired. Will pull you her forward?
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St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood, Bk. 1, par. 3, 4

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Nader. It takes a lot of wisdom to leave people behind and yet keep the relationship.