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Friendship, I guess

September 15th, 2009 | 2 min read

By Cate MacDonald

You guys, you will not believe what I am about to do. And I am sorry. Really. I’ve tried to figure out a way around this, but it can’t be helped.

I am starting this post with a definition from a dictionary. Webster’s 1828, to be exact.

I know.

“Friendship: n. An attachment to a person, proceeding from intimate acquaintance and a reciprocation of kind offices, or from a favorable opinion of the amiable and respectable qualities of his mind. Friendship differs from benevolence, which is good will to mankind in general, and from that love which springs from animal appetite. True friendship is a noble and virtuous attachment, springing from a pure source, a respect for worth or amiable qualities. False friendship may subsist between bad men, as between thieves and pirates. This is a temporary attachment springing from [self-]interest, and may change in a moment to enmity and rancor.” (Emphasis mine)

Now, despite feeling as if I am beginning a writing assignment in jr high, I will press on.

A blogger I keep up with referenced this definition of friendship and it struck me as particularly inaccurate. Take a look around you. Given your current group of friends, would you say that this is how you define friendship? I’ve had my share of bad friends in my day, but I call them bad friends when they are bad to me, not bad in general. In fact, I consider myself a better friend when I stick by people who are having what I will call a momentary lapse in judgement. As my uncle would say, you would have to be a bonehead many a time over for me to decide that maybe it would be better if you weren’t around so much.

I think I would go so far as to say that most people are like me. Most think (or at least act as if) character is fairly irrelevant when it comes to developing one’s friends. You want them to be good enough that they won’t go around hurting your feelings or your reputation, but would you say that you have selected your friends because they are the best, brightest, most noble, and virtuous people you know? I guess another way of saying it is, could any of your friends moonlight as a pirate? If so, maybe you are experiencing false friendship masquerading as the real thing.

Or perhaps dear Webster is wrong. It does seem a terribly stuffy definition, doesn’t it? And who are we to say who is noble and good, and bright and all that? Oh, and who did Jesus hang out with? I mean, those guys were a mess! Merely dirty, doubting fishermen. Yeah.

And yet, I can’t help but wonder who I would become if I invested myself in the very best people I knew. What might we be able to accomplish together for the kingdom of God? What sort of love might I be able to have for people I admire so deeply? On the other hand, I know I am to love (deeply) those much less admirable. So can I love them without calling them friends? I have no idea.

So, uh, friendship.