So I’m thinking a lot lately, and writing a bit, about friendship, especially friendship between Christians.
How to define friendship?
Friendship is voluntary, but can it also be covenantal? A mutual commitment?
Is there a moment we can point to in each close friendship and say, “Aha! That’s when we were knit together as friends”? For me, with a couple of friends, it was within minutes of meeting. For example …
- The breakfast line conversation where I joked about coyotes and she believed it and her gullibility endeared her to me because, well, the people who love me best can successfully tease me that way too.
- The writing workshop when I sat down in the empty seat beside her and we noticed we had the same name and we each proceeded to unpack a black and white speckled composition book, a mechanical pencil, an eraser, and a tin of Altoids. And then noticed we’re both lefties. (Here’s how to tell us apart: she likes peppermint, I favor wintergreen.)
- Talking with him felt like talking to a brother from another mother.
What is the thisness of each particular friendship? To use the metaphor of the fabric of friendship, not only what is it that weaves us together, but what might this friendship’s fabric be? (Silk, fleece, tweed, poly/cotton blend, gingham, paisley, Velcro, afghan …)
What would happen if the church valued friendship more and idolized marriage less?
This has become a Project. Which means immersing myself in reading about it. (There is, of course, a lot of ongoing field work also.) Here’s a list of what I have read, am reading, plan to read, or might read (in some cases simply because my library has it). What else would you recommend?
The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis
Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters, Amy Andrews & Jessica Mesman Griffith (which I am reading now, long into the night sometimes, and which I would like to buy copies of and send to friends, partly to revive the practice of letter writing)
Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship, Gail Caldwell
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship, Ann Patchett
The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women’s True-Life Tales of Friendships That Blew Up, Burned Out, or Faded Away, edited by Jenny Offill & Elissa Schappell
Anam Cara, John O’Donohue
Spiritual Friendship, Aelred of Rievaulx
Spiritual Friendship, Mindy Caliguire
The Feast of Friendship, Paul D. O’Callaghan
Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in Our Lives, Lillian B. Rubin
Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships, Terri Apter and Ruthellen Josselson
Among Friends: Who We Like, Why We Like Them, and What We Do With Them, Letty Cottin Pogrebin
By the way, most of these links go to the book’s description on the giant online retailer. But if you’re buying, I encourage you to check out and support these independent booksellers, who have terrific inventory and who know their stuff. Both offer mail-order service.
Eighth Day Books, Wichita, Kansas
Hearts & Minds Bookstore, Dallastown, Pa.
I’d love it if you’d comment and answer any of these questions.