Sam Radford

April 19, 2021

The rarity of true friendship

I’ve written previously about friendship. And one of my spiritual mentors, Fr Richard Rohr, has further stretched my understanding and appreciation of what true friendship is. In a recent Daily Meditation of his, he wrote:

Most people also have colleagues with whom they work or associates with whom they spend regular time. But this still falls short of the ideals of friendship. The coin of friendship has been continuously devalued by being applied to these lesser forms of relationship. Relationships between acquaintances or associates involve little of the intimacy, trust, commitment and loyalty of real friendships. Friendships may grow out of these more casual relationships but are not the same. Unfortunately, true friendships are also much more rare.

It seems we often settle for acquaintances rather than pursuing deeper friendships. 

For many of us, I wonder if we even know more is possible?

So much of modern friendship is shallow and superficial. We skirt the edges of the meaningful and intimate, but we lack the trust, commitment, and loyalty to go to those deeper, richer pastures of real friendship. 

Part of this is to protect our hearts. Genuine friendship is exposing. We reveal ourselves. We make ourselves vulnerable. And we’re afraid our friends won’t accept us as we are. 

As a result, we put on a mask. We create an avatar. We project a version of ourselves to get on just well enough with people without risking too much exposure. 

And so we miss out on the joy that only an authentic friendship can enrich our lives with.

As Rohr goes on to write: 

How happy, how carefree, how joyful you are if you have a friend with whom you may talk as freely as with yourself, to whom you neither fear to confess any fault nor blush at revealing any spiritual progress, to whom you may entrust all the secrets of your heart and confide all your plans. And what is more delightful than so to unite spirit to spirit and so to make one out of two that there is neither fear of boasting nor dread of suspicion? A friend’s correction does not cause pain, and a friend’s praise is not considered flattery.

I am blessed with a few good friends. Lots of people I get on well with, but, as I say, a few good friends. Even still, with those few good friends, I know I am tempted to take the easier option. To hold back. To settle for skin deep.

But each time I do, Rohr’s words remind me that I’m missing out. It’s not that those relationships aren’t good. And fun. And life-giving. But they could be more if I would risk more. If I’d give more of myself.

This is something I know I need to work on.

Based on how friendship is described above, do you have many true friends? What could you do to take some of your shallower friendships deeper? Is there a risk you could take to remove your mask, even just a little at first? Do you have an tips of taking friendships to more meaningful places? I'd love to hear from you – just hit reply or drop me a note