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The Beauty of Every Day: Chapter 11 - Friends and Friendship

By J.R. Miller

      The need of friendship, is the deepest need of life. Every heart cries out for it. Jesus was the perfect Man, also divine, and he needed friends, craved friendship, and was disappointed when his friends failed him. Perhaps no shortcoming in good men and women is more common--than the failure to be ideal friends. Too many follow their impulses only. Today they are devoted in their friendship and in their expression of friendship; tomorrow something happens and they forget their ardor and abandon their friendship.

      There is no limit to the extent and devotion of true friendship. Peter thought if he would forgive seven wrongs and still keep on loving, that he would do well. But Jesus said--not seven times--but seventy-seven times. The love of a friend should never be worn out. "A friend loves at all times."

      Many times, however, friendship balks and fails. So long as it is easy to do the things that need to be done, there is no wincing, no reluctance. You have only to entertain your friend, and he is genial and courteous. He never imposes on your kindness. He does not exact hard service, nor take your time needlessly. He does not expect you to go out of your way to do things for him. Indeed, he is so thoughtful and pleasant, that you are delighted to entertain him.

      But the case may be different. For instance, perhaps he is not a pleasant person to have with you. He expects a great deal of attention. The friendship becomes burdensome. What shall we do? Here is the test, "A friend loves at all times." That is, your friendship does not fail when there is a call for large service, costly help, painful self-denial. Friendship requires us to turn aside from our own pursuits, if necessary, to oblige another who needs our service. The true friend is willing to give up his own plans, drop his own work, and at great inconvenience go with his friends to help them. This is the law of service. The friend who loves at all times--must be ready to do for his friend whatever the friend needs--as far as it is in his power, not considering the cost. If asked to go one mile, he goes two.

      The proverb reminds us also, that "a friend is born for adversity." The very heart of friendship implies this. Friendship is not merely for times of trouble, it is for bright days too. We need our friend's cheer in our happiest hours. "A friend loves at all times" includes the sunny days. But it is for our days of adversity, that our friend is born. Then it is that we need him most, and then it is that the richest and best of his love for us reveals itself. Adversity tests him. He may never have had an opportunity to do anything for you when all things were going well with you. There was no need in your life then to appeal to his sympathy. He was your friend, and shared with you the sweetness of his love--but the depths of his heart were not stirred. Then one day trouble came to you--sickness, sorrow, loss, or danger, perhaps dishonor. Instantly his love grew stronger. Its grip tightened. Its loyalty strengthened. The best that was in it, came out. You never knew before that he loved you so much. All he had was yours, for whatever service he could render to you.

      This is the test of friendship. Is it equal to the day of adversity? Does it shine out all the more brightly, the darker the night grows? Does your love become deeper, stronger, more ready for service and sacrifice, the greater your friend's need? It may be physical need, or it may be need of an emotional or spiritual kind. Your friend may have fallen into temptation, and there is a blot on his name. What should your friendship do then? "A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity."

      What are some of the ways in which friendship should reveal itself? It should help wisely; it should not over-help. One of the truest words Emerson spoke concerning friendship is this, "This is the office of a friend, to make us do what we can." At no point is there greater need for giving firm, urgent counsel to those who would be true friends than just here. In the warmth of your love you are apt to think that it never can be possible to be too kind. Yet true kindness is wise as well as tender. It must know how to restrain itself. You could do no greater harm to your friend--than to teach him to be selfish, or to make him weak by an excess of help to him when his burden is heavy. Your highest duty to him is to make him unselfish. You are also to make him strong, self-reliant, and self-dependent. You are to bring out in him all the best and manliest qualities. This you never can do, by coddling, petting, and babying him.

      A distinguished botanist, exiled from his native country, found a position as an under-gardener on a nobleman's estate. While he was there, his master received a rare plant with which no one on the estate was familiar. The head gardener, supposing it to be a tropical plant, put it in the hothouse to protect it from the winter's cold. He thought the plant needed warmth. It did not thrive, however--indeed, it began to droop. The new under-gardener, knowing the plant, its native place, and its nature, said: "This is an arctic plant. You are killing it by the tropical atmosphere into which you have introduced it." He took the plant out into the frost, and to the amazement of the gardener piled ice about it. Soon it began to recover its freshness and vigor, and its drooping life became vigorous and strong. It was being killed by summer heat--when what it needed was the cold of winter.

      Friendship makes the same mistake with many lives. It coddles them, indulges them, treats them softly, with over-kindness. It tries to make all things easy for them, instead of making strong, brave men of them. This is a mistake that is made by many parents in dealing with their children. They try to save them from all hardness, from self-denial, from work and struggle. They bring them up in hothouses, not knowing that they are arctic plants, and need the snow and ice about them, instead of the warm air of the conservatory.

      One finds the same mistake made sometimes in the way young wives try to bring up their husbands. They pamper them and coddle them, instead of helping to make stalwart men of them. Too many wives do not think of the higher moral good of their husbands. "And often a man who starts with a great many lofty and unselfish aspirations, deteriorates year by year in a deplorable manner under the influence of a well-meaning wife." A young wife will prove her husband's best friend by trying to make him do his best, do what he can, become a man of heroic mold, a self-denying man. Every true wife wants her husband to take an honored place among men, to become a useful, influential man in his community, and to do something, in however lowly way, to make one spot of the earth brighter, better, more wholesome. The only way she can be that sort of a friend to him, is to be his inspirer, finding the best in him, and calling it out. This she can never do by pampering and by holding him back from hard work, from heroic struggle, from noble sacrifice. She is his best friend--when she makes him do what he can.

      The lesson applies to all friendships. If you are a friend who loves at all times, you will seek always to be an inspiration to everyone in whom you are interested. You will ever be an encourager, never a discourager. That is the kind of Friend Christ is to all His people. He is ever calling us to something better, nobler, worthier, and truer. He tells us we are children of God, heirs of glory, immortal beings--and calls us to live worthily. We should be such friends to men that we shall ever be striving to make them do what they can.

      The culture of friendship is most important. No friendship begins perfect. At first it is very imperfect. It is like the sculptor's block of unhewn marble. The angel is in the block--but it has yet to be dug out and polished into perfect beauty. No truest friendship which men admire, has ever has reached its perfect attainment easily, without struggle, without self-repression and much painful discipline. We all start with a large measure of selfishness in our nature, and this must be mastered, extinguished, for no selfish man can be a worthy friend.

      We must practice the Beatitudes--humility, meekness, hunger for righteousness, mercifulness, purity of heart, the peace-making spirit. We must practice the Thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. A student in the Academy may master all the principles of art--but until he has practiced are and acquired the technique and is able to put his beautiful conceptions on the canvas--he is not an artist. A music student may study the principles of music until he knows them all--but until he has learned to sing or play, he is not a musician. So one may know all the maxims and rules of friendship--but if he has not practiced being a friend, he is not yet a friend, and may fail in some of the most important qualities of friendship: patience, kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness.

      The matter of expression is also important. It is important in music. It is important in speech. It is important in friendship. Many people love--but they do not show their love in delicate and fitting ways. Many homes are loving in a sense--but lack the fine and gentle expression of love which would transform them into places of almost heavenly happiness.

      A writer says: "We marvel that the dearest friends who would die for one another, if need be; should daily give each other so much pain with their little unkindnesses. How strange it is--that we are so exacting in matters so unimportant; that we are so careless of the sensitive places in a fond heart--and touch them so roughly; that we are so ready to answer an impatient word with a more impatient one; that we are so forgetful of the little ministries of love that are worth so much more, when unsolicited."

      Nothing in this world is more important, than learning to live the friendly life. It is the highest reach in Christian living. The young people who are going together these days, talking about friendship, beginning to taste of its sweetness and dream of its richness, should learn well what friendship means.

      "A friend loves at all times." A friend is patient and kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud. He is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs. He does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

      We all need friends--but we must put first, being a friend, and in this, our hearts will be marvelously fed with friendship's best bread. In blessing others--we shall be blessed ourselves.

      We must not forget that the only friendship which will fully meet any of life's deepest needs--is friendship with Christ. You may have all the joy and help of the sweetest human friendships--but if you have not Christ's friendship, you still lack that which is essential, that without which you never can know perfect peace. Thomas a Kempis says, "Love Him and keep Him for your Friend, who, when all go away, will not forsake you, or allow you to perish at the last."

Back to J.R. Miller index.

See Also:
   Chapter 1 - While We May
   Chapter 2 - The Glory of the Common Life
   Chapter 3 - Seeds of Light
   Chapter 4 - He Calls Us Friends
   Chapter 5 - Not Counting God
   Chapter 6 - Perfection in Loving
   Chapter 7 - Shut Your Door
   Chapter 8 - Things That Hurt Life
   Chapter 9 - Getting Away from Our Past
   Chapter 10 - Thomas' Mistake
   Chapter 11 - Friends and Friendship
   Chapter 12 - The Yoke and the School
   Chapter 13 - The Weak Brother
   Chapter 14 - The Lure of the Ministry
   Chapter 15 - Narrow Lives
   Chapter 16 - The True Enlarging of Life
   Chapter 17 - Through the Year with God
   Chapter 18 - The Remembers
   Chapter 19 - Caring for the Broken Things


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