"Besides, friendship is especially necessary for living. . ." - Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
There are two reasons we might not give true friendship the priority it deserves. For some, it seems to us that we already have it. Or in any case, it is not evident to us that our friendships should be better and play a bigger role in our life. We have a group of people we consider our 'friends' — and indeed in a very real sense they are — and nothing in our experience moves us to think in terms of the need or even desirability of something more.
For others of us, the hope or desire for deeper friendship — even with just one or two people — has been very present in our life. Yet our experience has taught us to reign in our desires. Perhaps the word 'jaded' is a bit strong, but the truth is that the hard realities of life have trained us that we more or less have to make do with what we have. And we'll be fine since, after all, what can you expect?
Perhaps the knock-out blow for most of us is the concrete, practical difficulty of pursuing something more. We are over-committed and struggle to find time for the things that most immediately and obviously call for our attention. How would we, even if we saw a real possibility with this person or that, cultivate a deeper connection given the circumstances of life?
And if that were not enough, the further fact is that despite much friendship rhetoric, little in our culture encourages deeper friendship, either in theory/understanding or in practice/habit.
So we are discouraged and feel stuck. We don't know what to do.
But friendship is precisely what we should never give up on; for our sakes, and for our friends', or potential friends', sakes. By the design of human nature itself, true friendship is the unique context for us to discover, forge, and enact our real identity, year in and year out, according to our age and state in life.
Each and every one of us might do well to look critically and carefully at our present situation, and ask ourselves a few questions:
In what relationships have I continued to act as though we have more between us than we realistically do or can have? How might I adjust how I invest my energy?
What relationships are calling for me to go deeper, even though it will take effort and being intentional? Or, in what relationships — perhaps even my marriage — am I often on overdrive, giving myself a 'pass' due to my being busy or overwhelmed? What can I do to grow these friendships?
Today is the acceptable day. This is a time that calls for friendships of the deepest kind. The broader social order might be ailing — a reality that in many ways is beyond my direct control. I might not receive much encouragement and support.
But my friendships — that is, my friends — are there for the choosing. Have I neglected or back-burnered these people? It is in my power to change that and to start anew. And to become a beacon of vibrant life. What a gift this is.
John A. Cuddeback. "Our Pressing Need for Friendship." LifeCraft (January 27, 2021).
Reprinted with permission from the author, John A. Cuddeback.
John A. Cuddeback is chairman and professor of Philosophy at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. He is the author of True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness and Aristotle's Ethics: A Guide to Living the Good Life. He and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children — and a few pigs and sundry — in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. He blogs at life-craft.org.Copyright © 2021 John A. Cuddeback
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