Friendship: A Fortress of Life

“For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord…[p]lans to give you a future full of hope.”  Here, the prophet Jeremiah shares the Word of God with people who feel trapped in difficult circumstances.  He reminds them that the Good Lord gave them life with intention. 

The Good Lord speaks this same message to us, both in His Word and through our friends.  Faithful friends remind us that our life has: 

  1. Sacred value 
  2. a Purpose and 
  3. a Destination.  

Your Life is Sacred

Our life is a reflection of God’s goodness, beauty, and creativity. He has never and will never create anyone exactly like you or me again.  God created us because He loves us and wants us to experience that love. 

Friendship is a reflection of our relationship with God. Our relationship with God is the most sacred part of our life; it is rooted in His Love. A faithful friend will treat our life as a gift, not as a means to get what he or she wants out of life.  A faithful friend helps us experience God’s love more deeply and to strive for what is truly good.  A faithful friend encourages us to safeguard our life and also uses his or her gifts to help us defend it. 

Your Life Has a Purpose

God created each one of us with a purpose in mind.  Our life was not an unplanned accident; it was God’s plan!  He has given each of us unique gifts and invites us to them to share His love with the world. Our life is an invitation for you and me to play a crucial role in His Divine Plan.  Will you accept His invitation? 

Faithful friends are sent to help us discover God’s purpose for our life.  God invites our friends to use their own gifts and talents to help us discover and work to fulfill our purpose.  They support us and encourage us to cooperate each day with God’s purpose for our life.  Faithful friends never use our life merely as a means of fulfilling their own interests.   

Your Life Has a Destination

As God formed you in your mother’s womb He wanted nothing more than you to spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  He has given us His hope to sustain us until He is ready to call us back Home.  He desires that we use our free will to cooperate with His plan for us, not to do anything that would harm any of the gifts He has given us. 

Faithful friends walk with us on our life’s journey, helping us to prepare for the day when He calls us Home.  They help us to: 

  1. Know God on a deeper level  
  2. Grow in virtue and 
  3. Prioritize or our relationship with God.  

Your Life is Your Responsibility 

God has given us responsibility over our life. It is an invitation to participate in His Divine Plan. We have a choice to accept or reject this gift. A faithful friend helps us take responsibility for our life. 

To accept responsibility for our life means to:

  1. Discern the good in our friendships and to establish healthy boundaries 
  2. Be open with our friends about who God created us to be and where He is leading us
  3. Communicate what we expect from our friends
  4. Treat our friends’ lives as gifts that have sacred value, a purpose, and a destination. 

Have I missed anything important about the gifts of life and friendship? Let me know in the comments!

Faithful Friendships: How to Build a Foundation

“Peace be with you.” Jesus greets the apostles with these words as He first appears to them after His Resurrection. He finds them locked in the upper room, afraid of persecution. To reveal His True Presence Jesus shows them His crucifixion wounds.  Finally, to prepare them for their future mission He breathes on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In this passage we learn some important truths about the most essential part of friendship: Love.

Love is the virtue that leads us to actively seek the good of another. Love is the foundation of faithful friendships. In order to truly love another we must learn how to open our hearts to the people around us and to be present to them. Three ways we can be present are: 1) being kind, 2) being authentic and 3) being encouraging. In the passage mentioned above, Jesus shows us how to be present.

Be Kind

 Jesus shows the apostles kindness when He says, “Peace be with you.” Kindness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, meaning that it is a sign of His grace transforming our hearts.  Kindness fills our hearts with peace. Kindness is the fist step in creating a foundation for friendship. 

Kindness looks like: 

  1. Avoiding unnecessary confrontation; 
  2. Making eye contact when others are speaking; 
  3. Listening to understand, not to respond; and 
  4. Avoiding distractions in conversations. 

These actions show our friends that: 

  • They have our full attention 
  • We are interested in connecting with them and 
  • We are ready to give them priority in our lives.  

Kindness shows our friends that we respect their dignity and value their presence in our lives. Ultimately, it can help us bring Christ’s Light into the dark moments into their lives.  Kindness opens the door to love and authentic friendship.  

Be Authentic

When Jesus reveals His True Presence to the apostles He is showing us authenticity. To be authentic we must be willing to be vulnerable. This requires us to be:

  • Honest.  We should be truthful about our strengths and weaknesses.  We should never try to fit a mold that others might expect.  
  • Humble.  To be humble means to be concerned others’ needs before our own, not to diminish our dignity.  
  • Intentional. We should always put forward a good-faith effort to follow through on our commitments.  

Authenticity is a synonym of truth. Just as truth cannot exist without love, friendship cannot exist without authenticity. Authenticity helps us build discipline, credibility, and accountability.  These qualities help us plant the seed of trust in our friendships, which helps them to grow.

Be Encouraging

Jesus then breathes on the apostles, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  By doing this He empowers them to carry out a very important mission.  

Encouragement is what gives us the power to help our friendships grow. To encourage our friends we must be:

  1. Courageous.  The key word here is courage.  To develop faithful friendships, we must desire to obtain what is truly good for our friends, even if we are afraid of what it may cost us. 
  • Joyful. Joy is sense of wellbeing, no matter what circumstances we might find ourselves in.  To be joyful means we must be committed to putting in the work together to build connections now that can exist in happy times and difficult times.   
  • Hopeful. Hope is an act of the will that leads us to strive for the good that we desire, knowing that we will obtain it by God’s grace.  Hope requires each friend to know what is objectively good and to work together to obtain it for the sake of the other.   

In order to build a friendship rooted in love, we must strive daily to be kind, authentic, and encouraging. 

Love is a Two-Way Street  

As we’ve said, love is the virtue that leads us to seek what is good for another person.  Love is a two-way street; each person in a friendship must work to see what is good for the other.  Just as we should strive to be present for our friends, we should also expect them to do the same for us.  When both friends are present to each other a foundation for a faithful friendship can be built. 

Have I missed anything? In addition to kindness, authenticity, and encouragement, what are ways that we can build a foundation for faithful friendship?  Let me know in the comments!  

Friendship: The First Four Things

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).” Jesus says this after telling us that He’s the True Vine and we are the branches. He says that in order to bear fruit the branches must remain rooted in the vine. The vine gives the branches what they need so that they can bear fruit. Let’s dive deep into this verse to see what gifts it has in store for us.

You may have heard of “the last four things:” 1) death 2) judgment 3) heaven and 4) hell. These are the gifts that God will give us at the end of our earthly life. Each of us is guaranteed to experience death and judgment. We must choose which of the last two we want.

The most beautiful of the last four things is heaven, the ultimate gift that the Good Lord wants to give to each of us. How do we prepare ourselves to receive it? Our True Vine has given us—the branches—a priceless gift to help us on our way: friendship.

Friendship is the bond that allows us to grow closer to one another in mutual love and encouragement as we pursue shared goals. As we dive into Jesus’ words, we discover four important gifts that can help us build authentic, faithful friendships. God gave them to us when we were born. The four gifts—the first four things—are: 1) Love 2) Life 3) Dignity and 4) Free will.

Love 

The first thing is love. God has loved us since before we were born, before we could ever begin to love Him. What is love? Jesus gives us the purest definition when He says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Love is the decision to place another person’s good before our own.

To love is to willingly sacrifice our own will for that of another (regardless of our emotions, which can change at any time) without worrying about what it will cost us. Fr. Mike Schmitz says that is a choice favoring the good of another person.

Love is the first thing because it gives rise to, well, everything. God has given us all the gifts we have because He loves us. God’s Love is the foundation of faithful friendships. It helps us build enduring connections with each other.

Love helps us fight the power of pride. Pride closes us off to those around us because it causes us to focus on ourselves. We cannot build faithful friendships if we are consumed by pride because it weakens the foundation of our friendships.

Love involves our feelings to an extent, but authentic love calls us to move beyond our feelings into action. When we prioritize the good of another before our own we realize there’s more to life than ourselves. This helps us appreciate the gifts that God wants to give us.
Jesus wants us to love one another without reservation. Even people who have no intention of loving us? Yes, Jesus has called us to love everyone, even our enemies. Love is the beginning of faithful friendships. We don’t have to be friends with everybody, but we should always seek what is good for everyone around us.

Building faithful friendships takes time and trust. The first friendship we’ve been invited into is friendship with God. Once we’ve accepted that invitation, we shouldn’t let anyone undermine it. Our first calling is to live as God’s children. Faithful friendships will flow from this first friendship.

You and I are alive on earth because God loves us. He wants us to experience His love and share it with each another.

Life

The second thing is our life. God gave us life because He loves us. He created each of us as unique individuals to serve a purpose in His Divine Plan for creation. No other person can serve our purpose!

Without our life we could not experience the beautiful things that God has in store for us here on earth. This includes the joy in building friendships.

Jesus explicitly mentions the second thing, life, by name in our verse. In doing so, He reveals just how important friendship is: the greatest form of love is to lay down our life for our friends!

The greatest form of love is to lay down our life for our friends! Jesus is inviting us to be willing to offer up our life, which is so intimately linked with love, for the good of our friends. It takes time and trust to get to this point. This an important truth about building faithful friendships.

Jesus isn’t asking us to rashly open our lives to everyone we encounter. We’re not being asked to allow people to keep using any of the gifts that God has given us however it pleases them. We aren’t expected to intentionally put ourselves in situations where we risk losing our life. However, Jesus is calling us to be willing to stand up for another person’s good.

Life is a beautiful gift from God. We should treat it better than our most valued possession. He gave it to us for a purpose, and we give Him glory when we honor our life’s purpose. This can’t happen if we open ourselves to anyone who wants to use our life for their own self-focused desires. To allow that is to undermine another gift that God has given us—dignity.

Dignity

The third thing is dignity. In our verse Jesus shows us how much dignity God has given us as His children. He followed His words perfectly when He freely accepted His Passion and death on the Cross. In doing this, He showed us how much God wants to invite us into friendship with Him. Jesus’s Sacrifice uncovers the dignity that each of us has in God’s eyes. When we love another authentically, we communicate to them that we honor their dignity.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “You must remember to love people and use things, rather than to love things and use people.” To authentically love another means to give them priority in our life over things. When we do this we are demonstrating to them that we want them in our life.

Building faithful friendships with others requires us to honor their dignity. True friends do NOT say, “I need you to be in my life.” When we do that we suggest that we desire to use them to meet our own needs. True friends DO say, “I want you in my life.” Friendship should be built on desire, not need. The only person we need in our life is God because without Him there is no life.

We must honor our own dignity too. We either honor or dishonor our own dignity by the ways we let others treat us. True friendship is built on trust. We enter into a friendship because we trust the other person to value our dignity over self-centered desires. We shouldn’t enter into friendships with anyone we cannot trust. To expect another person to respect our dignity is not selfish. It is a way of honoring the gifts that God has given us.

Free Will

The fourth thing is free will. Jesus came to us to help us to live our lives to the fullest and to free us from all forms of captivity, including sin. He came to be with us, to become the Word made flesh, to restore us to an authentic friendship with God.

God will never force us into this friendship. If He did, then we could say that He has been using us only for His own good. We know this isn’t true though because that would go against His nature as the God of love. He has invited us to decide on our own whether to accept or reject His friendship. Free will can help us decide whether we want His friendship.

Faithful friendships are based on true love, and each individual must choose it freely. It goes against the nature of love to be in a friendship without free will. As we said above, love is the foundation of friendship. Authentic friendships would not be possible without our free will.

Let’s look at Jesus’ words again: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).” In order for this to make sense, laying down one’s life for one’s friends would have to be freely chosen, using free will. Any other interpretation would go against what Jesus has revealed about love.

Before we can follow Jesus’ call, we need to know what He’s asking to do and to understand what He’s asking. Then, we must choose to follow it. We must answer these questions: Do I want to do this, knowing full well what is being asked of me? Am I resolved to follow through on it? Obviously, we shouldn’t take this decision lightly!

We should ask ourselves these same questions when building our friendships. Building friendships is demanding. It requires time, trust, and energy. We need to rely on much more than our feelings about another person when building friendships.

Obviously, emotions are important in helping us decide to become friends with someone, but we shouldn’t rely on them to make that decision for us. To make a decision using free will means we can do something even when we don’t feel like it. We shouldn’t make decisions based on what others want us to do or on our sinful inclinations. Free will is a gift that God gave us dominion over. We must use it wisely.

Protect Them Always

When God gives us gifts, they are for a purpose. He designs a unique purpose for each of us. Our purpose is meant for His greater glory and our greater good. We must use our gifts to serve our purpose. Our main purpose is to love God and others. Friendship is an important gift that can help us do that. The first four things can help us build faithful friendships.

Love gives us the foundation we need to build authentic friendships because it opens our hearts to God’s love and the people around us. Life allows us to appreciate our friendships. Dignity allows us to see that each of us has value as children of God. Finally, free will gives us an opportunity to build faithful friendships.

Did I miss anything? Has God given us any other important gifts that we can use to build faithful friendships? Let me know in the comments below! ☺