Friday, September 5, 2014

Friendship and the Cross

A friend of mine sent me a link to this very interesting article, "Why It Doesn't Matter How You Feel about your Friends".  The title refers to the fact that warm and fuzzy feelings in a relationship mean nothing if not backed up by something more than that.

It doesn’t matter how you feel in your heart about your friends—what matters is showing those feelings through words and actions.

This ties in to what I have written before, regarding the difference between Intimacy and Friendship.
I eventually saw [what] was the most important element of the love of friends - sacrifice. 

In other words ...

We may know our co-worker in the next cubicle "intimately", better than we know our children, but we may have no concern for him or her in the slightest.  We may know (in the biblical sense) the girl we're sleeping with this month, with whom we're sharing physical "intimacy", but we certainly don't want her staying until morning.  We may enter into an artificial or contrived "intimacy" with fellow actors or poets in rehearsal therapy sessions, or with fellow super-Catholics or lit majors who share our religious delights, but if we really don't give a crap about the other - well, then, it's just not friendship, and it's just not love. 

I have had friends I thought I was quite close with simply vanish not only when things got tough, but simply when things got inconvenient, not wanting to put themselves out in the slightest or alter pre-made arrangements that were entirely to their own advantage, even to work in a friendly visit or something similarly innocuous.  Once I flew all the way to Seattle on business (as far from St. Louis as you can go and still be in the lower 48), and tried to meet up with a friend who was a former actress, but even though I had traveled 2,000 miles, she wasn't willing to come five or ten miles out of her neighborhood to meet me for lunch.  She wanted me to come all the way to her.  Once I was in New Jersey with my family when the kids were little, and my friend in Manhattan that I was trying to visit wouldn't meet us anywhere, but wanted us to take the train and the subway and walk several blocks to his place.  Clearly, these were not good friends.  In fact, they were not friends at all.

And I imagine similar things have happened to you, because friendship today, like romantic love, is undervalued and desecrated.  It's one thing for Job's friends to leave him when he loses everything, gets covered with sores and sits around wailing and crying all day.  It's another thing for them to abandon him because he no longer gets anything but basic cable.  And yet many so-called "friendships" crumble for just that type of inconvenience.

Many "friendships" are simply mutually selfish arrangements.  True friendship is always self-giving, self-sacrificing, always willing to suffer - or at least be inconvenienced - for the sake of the other.

And this, my dear miserable and lonely single Catholic readers, is really what it all comes down to.  Don't fret about finding a mate that you're compatible with, for, as G. K. Chesterton said, "I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one."  Men and women are basically incompatible to begin with.  Don't look for a mate who sweeps you up into the "longings aroused" of sexual desire masquerading as spiritual reality, for sex with the same person for the rest of your life is hardly a religious experience, trust me (my wife would tell you the same thing).  And don't worry about finding the perfect match or the perfect

Instead, find a spouse who is willing to die for you.  And then you be willing to die for your spouse.

For marriage, like friendship, is based on being there through thick and then, when the chips are down, when the mortgage is overdue, when the kids are screaming, when one of you is sick and dying, when the dreams become nightmares, when you can't stand each other.  Mushy feelings and "intimacy" mean absolutely nothing if the friendship is false, if the love is absent, if the cross is not present.

This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. (Eph. 5:32-33)


bill bannon said...

Wonderful post. It's like looking at an Andrew Wyeth painting instead of Thomas Kinkaide's over sweet world.

Anonymous said...

First off, I recently discovered your blog and it had been like water in the desert. Thank you.

But here is where I need help: you see, I am one of those wistfully single Catholics, in my late 30s, watching my hopes for marriage and children dry up. Most of my dating career has been with mostly upstanding religious guys with whom I shared few common interests and to whom I felt no physical attraction. I mean, I have literally prayed that certain guys wouldn't try to kiss me for a few more dates, just because I wanted to give myself more time to get used to the thought.

But then I have also had the experience of dating a couple of guys (invariably non-religious) whom I couldn't wait to see again, where I didn't know which I wanted more: to kiss him or to talk with him some more. Attraction and feelings don't measure up to true friendship and sacrifice, I know that. But I still can't figure out a way to just make myself settle down with the religious fellow (who would probably objectively treat me well, maybe die for me if he married me, and when sex is off the table pretty much my only dating option)---And I ask this seriously with all my lonely, despairing heart: how do I make myself kiss him? (And, more importantly, enjoy his companionship when I just don't?)

I guess I see it like this: you were obviously drawn and attracted to acting, if you'd had no choice but to become an accountant, how would you have made it work?

My married friends tell me marriages are difficult enough when you're attracted to and like spending time with your spouse, and couldn't understand why I kept seeing this one guy whom I respected but wasn't attracted to (it was in a recent, desperate, "I'm going to be 40 in a couple years and he's Catholic and interested in me and there's nothing objectively wrong with him I have to just make this work" panic. In the end, I broke it off because I just couldn't go through with it. The awkward, silent dinners were too awful---we had little beyond a shared religious background in common.

It was so easy for my non-religious friends: if they weren't attracted to someone or didn't enjoy hanging out with him, they stopped dating him. Simple and natural. For the most part, they found great, ethical, grounded husbands. Many of them are opposites in some respects (introverts/extroverts) but they are compatible.

Help? (I would also welcome any advice for getting over persons for whom you did have feelings and attraction because those memories aren't helping me.)

Bob Glover said...

Nice post. I have come to understand this as I have grown in my faith and years.

Anonymous..."just keep swimming". Combine love with humility is what St Theresa of Avila advised. There is a wonderful prayer, The Litany of Humility, that I have incorporated into my prayer life that helps to stave off my tendency to have the world revolve around me. There is a great mystery with sacrificial love. I cannot describe or compare the rewards that come with giving of yourself completely to another. I have never known this level of joy. We have so few models in this world of ours. The saints seem to be the only source. This love that you seek is real and is out there. The grace of God is there; it is I who limits it. My prayers will include your intentions.

Anonymous said...

I married a man with similar values, who was in a very basic sense, Christian, but open to truth, who was agreeable to my continuing on with any children we would bring into the world being raised in the Faith. He was agreeable also, that God was my first love, and that we would not use artificial contraception. This was hugely in his favor!
So how's that working out 40 years later? A daughter born before our 1st anniversary, 18 mo. Later twin boys who died shortly after being born and hysterectomy, two adopted baby girls. The oldest Daughter married a devout Protestant who loved Truth. He decided to enter the Church 6 years later, and my husband (at our Daughter's suggestion) went through RCIA with him. 33 years after our marriage! Yes, there was sacrifice in the fact that my Husband was stubbornly non Catholic for so long-I could only offer that up-but, I think it was all God' will for us!

Kevin O'Brien said...

Anonymous, I answer you here -

Anonymous said...

Dear Kevin,

Thank you for your response to my comment (and apologies for the self-pity in which it was cloaked!).

Bob, thank you for your encouragement and prayers. May God grant you a great level of joy.

Fellow anonymous, thank you for sharing your story! (It was uplifting to read.)

Dennis Neylon said...

A couple months after my wife and I met, we went to visit my parents. At the age of 48, I was very nervous -- my parents were mostly underwhelmed by by my previous choices of women whom I was involved with. As we were leaving dinner, my mother took her aside and said "Take care of my son." My wife said, "Not only will I love him, but I would give my life for him." When, she told me this in the car, I nearly cried, and told her I would do the same. At the time, she was Baptist and I was not a practicing Catholic, so we had a Baptist wedding.Five years later she steered me back to the Church, two years later she converted, and we have a wonderful life together.
I'm cradle Catholic, she was baptized Baptist at 35.
I've done graduate work, she didn't finish high school.
I traveled the world with the Navy, she has never lived outside the state.
I've worked steadily since sixteen, she has only worked briefly in the last 40 years.
She is full-figured, I am slim.
We have had ten wonderful years and hope for many more.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous at 10:10 p.m. on Sept 6:

Have you found someone willing to pray a rosary with you on the way home from each date? My bride (of nearly sixty years) and I started doing this when we had to walk to a bus-stop and wait for the bus, as my Dad hadn't let me borrow the car. We prayed a rosary on the way home from dates - mostly Friday & Saturday evenings - for several years before we got married.
We have 5 kids & 12 grandkids together. Our youngest daughter died of cancer at age 44. We've had some stresses and physical ailments, but still pray together and are "Best Friends".

Another possibility: Find some Catholic activity - social or other - that you can participate in. Perhaps the Lord will lead you to someone also in that activity.