A: Hey, Oliver, aren’t we friends yet?
B: We have been chatting for some months now and you still don’t consider me a friend?
A: Oh, sorry, I meant friends in Facebook! I don’t remember receiving a ‘friend invite’ from you yet.
B: I am quite passive with FB. I have not purposely invited anybody, so don’t worry if you have not received an invitation from me. In fact, if my memory serves me right, it was a friend who opened my account. Besides, we already have something better than FB…
A: Really? What?
B: Face-to-face book.
A: What do you mean by that? Face-to-face book?
B: That’s what we have been doing every week. We chat face-to-face. Don’t you think that’s better than chatting on line?
A: Of course, it is. But I can’t do the same for all my friends.
B: Neither could I. But how many friends do you have?
A: Oh, I have hundreds in FB!
B: No, I mean real friends—those you meet regularly and try to influence positively.
A: Aside from you, I just have a handful more.
B: Can’t you have some more?
A: I guess so but I just could not find more time…
B: But you can find time making friends on-line?
A: Hmmmn, well, you are right. Perhaps I just have to find ways to spend more time with real friends. Can we talk about friendship then?
B: Sure! You know where I got the idea that face-to-face book is better than Facebook?
B: From St. Josemaría, in his book called Furrow, which contains spiritual considerations on how we can become better persons right here in the middle of the world.
A: What did he say?
B: St. Josemaría has a lot to say about friendship because he thinks that it is the best way to bring people close to God. It was along that line when he said that friendship has to be personal, self-sacrificing, sincere, face-to-face and heart to heart.
A: Oh, that’s crisp.
B: Yes, that’s what he is known for. He had the gift of explaining complicated ideas in a simple way. Now, do you know the essence of friendship?
B: Yes, essence is that which makes a thing to be what it is. And the essence of friendship is love. Love is what makes friendship to be what it is.
A: That sounds a bit too abstract. What do you mean?
B: We are talking here about real friendship, not mere companionship or being ‘barkada’ as what we like to call it. It doesn’t mean though that real friendship cannot occur in our ‘barkada’. It is precisely love that spells out the difference between real friendship and mere companionship.
A: Love, as in…?
B: Wanting the best for your friend, doing acts of service that he may not even know, and all those little details connected with these. In fact, St. Thomas says that to love is to feel the other as half of your soul.
A: Isn’t that love proper only to marriage?
B: In marriage, a man and a woman become one flesh. In friendship, each friend is to be considered a half of our soul.
A: That means you can only have one good friend, I mean, you can only share a half with another half…
B: Physically, yes. But friendship is a spiritual reality, albeit experienced physically by us mortals who are made of flesh and bones.
A: I don’t quite get it.
B: I understand because you are still thinking of a physical half. Spiritual implies having no parts as we mean it physically. Take air, for example. It is invisible but it is made of parts. Take one milliliter of air, subject it to a gas chromatography and you can measure how much oxygen and other gases it contains. You cannot do the same for the soul. You cannot get one milliliter of my soul and measure its components.
A: And so you can have many friends who are half of your soul?
B: Yes. In fact, the classical definition of friendship is idem velle, idem nolle. It means wanting the same things and rejecting the same things.
A: But how do you apply that to what happened to me last weekend with my friends? After a party, some of them invited me to go out for a drink. But when I found out that we were going to a bar of illrepute, I begged off.
B: And then?
A: Then they began to tell me that we are friends and so we should go together. How can that be wanting and rejecting the same things?
B: Well, that’s peer pressure. I do not think you are really friends.
A: What!? We have been going out for the past seven years.
B: Well, going out and enjoying the same jokes and parties do not guarantee real friendship. It may just have been mere companionship. And it lasts in so far as the common things you share last. It is only as shallow as that.
A: What do you mean “shallow”?
B: Shallow is the opposite of deep. Sharing common things may manifest friendship like sharing common interests, but if the things you share are mere external things like enjoying the same sport, what you have may just be mere companionship. You may just be ‘barkada’ and it ends there. Real friendship is much deeper. You share minds and wills, that is, you share common principles and accept or reject together what may go against them.
A: You mean that if I decide to go with them to the strip bar, my will gets united with theirs and so our friendship becomes deeper and, hence, real?
B: No. What you share together should be good things. In fact, this was already pointed out in the ancient times by a pagan philosopher called Cicero.
A: What did he say?
B: He has a book on friendship entitled De Amicitia (Latin for “on friendship”) dated 44 BC. He wrote there that friendship can exist only between good men. His book is an interesting read, knowing that his thoughts were mere products of rational thinking without the aid of divine revelation.
A: Yeah, that’s interesting. Good to hear that from a pagan. What more did he say?
B: You can read the book yourself but let me point out to you some of the qualities he mentioned among friends, which made him repeat his assertion that friendship can only exist between good men.
A: Which are…?
B: “Firm, steadfast, self-consistent men are to be chosen as friends, and of this kind of men there is a great dearth.” Then he said that there are those who prefer money and honors before friendship and gave some examples, which you could read yourself. But what got me curious was his conclusion on that part of the book which reads, “Thus true friendships are rare among those who are in public office, and concerned in the affairs of the State.”
A: Why did he say that?
B: He answered it himself, “For where will you find him who prefers a friend’s promotion to his own?” He was referring to ambitious people which he thought are quite many among politicians.
A: Do you believe that?
B: I have friends among politicians and I do not think that politics is dirty. Like any other occupation, it is a way to self-improvement and service to God and neighbor. Well, he did not actually say that true friendships can never be established among politicians. He just said that it is “rare” and so I guess he is right. But I still hope that many more politicians truly live what they call themselves to be…
A: As public servants?
B: Yes. That is what they tell us when they campaign: that they love us, that we are their bosses, that they are our servants…
A: But when they get elected, what happens seems to be the opposite.
B: Yes it is true but you should not generalize. There are some—perhaps still a few—politicians who are seriously serving God and country. I know some of them and I admire them for standing up to what is right even if some people in the media may attack them for it.
A: Even if it is not popular, you mean?
B: I also wanted to use that word but I don’t think it is accurate. Popular, strictly speaking, is what the people think. But I realized after watching some debates in Congress recently, the media does not always catch what the people stand for.
A: Really? Can you prove that?
B: What I have here is a poll taken in the US and what I heard from a podcast of Benedict Groeschel, also describing the scenario in the US. Referring to the sex scandals in the US, Groeschel said that only about 2% of what the media said was true. I thought it was a bit exaggerated until I started watching some debates recently and I got the impression that some newspapers only report substantially what favors one side. Dr. Peter Kreeft, on the other hand, mentioned a study comparing the values of a cross-section of the American people compared to the media establishment.
A: Do they have the same values?
B: The results of the survey are quite revealing, if not astonishing. Fifty-five percent of Americans say that they attend religious services regularly, only 9% of media people do. Eighty-two percent of Americans thought abortion was at least sometimes morally wrong, only 3% of media people do. Only 5% of Americans believe that it is perfectly moral to commit adultery, to lie and cheat to your spouse, 49% of media people do.
A: I hope it is not as bad as that in the Philippines…
B: I also hope so. What just puzzles me is why some of our major dailies only report what is reported by international news agencies, which are known to have a certain bias against religion. With the internet, they could always verify news from other sources or at least provide a more objective view of the news.
A: Can you be more specific?
B: Let’s take the World Youth Day, for example. When you read their report, you see at the end where they got their information: secularistic media which tend to attack the Church. Since the WYD is organized by the Church, why don’t they get news from media outlets that are sympathetic to the Church like zenit.org and romereports.org? They may still cite what those secularistic media provide them but in the name of objectivity, they should also go to official sources.
A: Of course, especially if they claim to provide fair coverage of news. Well, going back to my friends, are you trying to say that we are not true friends?
B: Are you asking me that now or is it your conclusion after all this discussion?
A: Well, even Cicero said that true friendship can only occur among good men—people who do good things. But what do others have, I mean, the bad guys?
B: It is not true friendship, although it may appear as such—externally. It may just be being ‘accomplices’ to one another, like those who watch pornography together, doing drugs together, and well, ‘enjoying’ those strip clubs together.
A: Why do you put ‘enjoying’ in quotes?
B: Well, because that is not real fun. You may ‘enjoy’ for the night but when you get home, you feel empty, because that type of fun only leaves one bitter. They appeal to our basest instincts and make us act more like animals. We are meant to be higher than that—we are human beings, with the powers of intellect and will, which should guide our passions, especially when they get blinded by intense emotions and feelings.
A: Oh, well, that was exactly what I felt that night, not when I got home but on the way home, such that one of my friends—well, ‘accomplices’ you say?—noticed my sadness and discomfort. He asked me why and I told him that I started taking my values more seriously—again.
B: What did he say?
A: He told me, “Why did you not tell us?”
B: What was he trying to say?
A: Well, perhaps, if I could have been stronger that night and told them not to go to that bar but rather to a wholesome place, they may have followed.
B: Oh, you are true friends then?
A: But we do not reject the same things—they got into that bar!
B: Well, as you said, your friends seem to be willing not to go there. That is what actually happens many times. Perhaps one of your friends heard about a gimmick of his classmates in school and he just wanted to try it. And, of course, he wanted to try it with you because he considers you his friend.
A: Is there nothing wrong about it then?
B: That is where true friendship starts to come in—when you stand up and say that the bar is not good for you, and it would be better to go to another place instead. There may be a few moments of hesitation. They may even pull your leg and call you names. But if true friendship is there—that of sharing the same things, and rejecting the same, among good men—they will prefer your company more than that place of ill-repute. Many times, they do not actually want to go to those places. They are just waiting for one of you to object. That’s how young people are, always curious about everything. They just have to be reminded—and you, as a good friend have to be the one to do that—to avoid those bad forms of entertainment.
A: But what are we going to do together?
B: That is where you have to invest the use of your imagination. There are so many things you can enjoy together which produce real fun—those that do not leave any bitter aftertaste. You could play sports together, watch good movies, enjoy a park, take a drink in a clean bar and update yourselves with what has been going on in your lives, and many other things besides…
A: Oh, that’s a good idea. We have not really managed to update ourselves with how our lives have been going. We were just so busy thinking of doing things together…
B: That can be your contribution to the deepening of your friendship with them. If you just do things together, you may end up just having a shallow friendship, bordering on mere companionship. And this friendship may end when those activities you share together end, say you get injured and cannot play basketball with them anymore.
A: Oh, like this fellow whom we have not seen in a long time…
B: That is why it’s good to make an effort to go deeper in your relationships with your friends. Get to know their families, other interests, and why not, their girlfriends too! There are so many things you can talk about since the life of each person is very rich and unique. This gives you also an opportunity to share to them what you have been doing, like taking your formation seriously. You can even pray together—something that friends of the deepest kind do.
A: Why do you say “deepest kind”?
B: Because it goes beyond mere human friendship. When God becomes the foundation and support of our friendship, it lasts not only in this world but it continues forever. That is where the “sharing the same things, and rejecting the same things” reach its perfection.
B: Yes, because God is the true source of all the good things we share together with our friends. And the closer we bring our friends to God, the more perfect our friendship becomes. And all this, without doing anything strange.
A: But isn’t praying together a bit strange? You know, like my friends and I going to the Church together after playing basketball?
B: What is strange in doing good things together, unless you think that praying is bad?..
A: Oh, I did not say that. But I remember one thing. One day, we decided to go to an excursion together on a Sunday and we agreed to go to Mass first before going out-of-town. I still remember the smiles on our faces that day. Could it have been because we prayed together that day?
B: Yes. Besides, you received many graces through the sacrament you received. Who could not be happier than that?
A: So it is not strange after all…
B: Of course, not at all! Let me ask you to read this wonderful article on friendship written by a friend in the U.S. You may download it for free at univforum.org. It talks about reviving these male friendships, where we could experience real, manly fun while bringing our friends to God who is the best friend of all.
A: Oh, let me take a look at that.
B: Here it is.
A: Shall we talk about it after I read through it?