Romantic love is easily hurt and somewhat pretentious, especially when faced with direct honesty. Friendship is more solid.
In times like ours, when we nervously hide behind our worn out masks, friendship seems rarer than love because, usually, when we love, we hope we will get something in return, a response to our feelings—a certain measure of love. Friendship does not claim this expectation, not even in a world like ours.
In love, somehow instinctively, we have the feeling that, if we protect the other, help them feel good, than we will somehow benefit from that good as well—either through gratefulness, through the enthusiasm that generates demonstrations of love, or through the state of happiness which will enrich the feelings of the loved one. In any case, we have the idea that the investment in love will come back to us some day. Ideally, love is above all feelings, and when one says “love” one should mean unconditionally, forever, without expectations. However, in reality, humans love with the hope that at some point their feelings will be reciprocated. Even if the hope is projected into the distant future, humans love hoping they will eventually get something back.
True friendship is slightly different: it can last even without the hope that the other person will respond and somehow reward one’s gestures of friendship. In friendship things can be unilateral. If someone chooses to be your friend, they are aware they might not get anything in return. Love is an investment, but friendship can afford to give out irredeemable loans. An authentic friend takes into account the possibility that the recipient might not return the same friendship.
Friendship has one of the most precious advantages: one does not feel trapped in the romantic, sentimental texture of the relationship and can afford to be honest without fearing that sensitive feelings might be hurt.
Up to a certain point, friendship and love are interchangeable and wear the same garments. Friendship does not take its clothes off while love may do that. Friendship has another kind of foundation. A friendship is in itself a product. If we were to formulate a theorem, we might say friendship without love may last, while love without friendship will at some point fade away.
When all leave
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).
What is interesting in friendship is that the friend comes when everyone leaves. A love that has not reached the level of friendship is always in danger. Love in itself is easily offended. Unlike friendship, betrayed love walks easily out of the door. When you love, you feel all the more hurt if the person hurting you is the one you love. This is why friendship can be regarded as less sensitive, more pragmatic. There are partners who break up and continue to remain friends; therefore one might say friendship outlives love.
Where it exists, love invests everything. Friendship affords to remain more rational. Therefore, when the emotion disappears, when it is melted by treason or other reasons, friendship may last. Friendship is more about “doing” than “feeling”. Love primarily deals with feelings. Friendship is aware that, if needed and advisable, it must act. Therefore, if you love someone and have not yet started to also develop a friendship relationship with that person, you may expect the fountain to run dry. When drought comes, it’s very likely that the relationship ends, fades away or dries up.
It is not by coincidence that when someone thinks of pursuing love in view of marriage, a period of friendship must first be achieved. In this period, the exercise of honesty is much more possible than in the blast of love. The stronger the friendship grows, the more love will last. If friendship is just a superficial stage, love will fade easily.
The steps of friendship are also steps of honesty
Friendship turns two people into equals, it brings them to the same level regardless of how important either of them is. When you choose to be friends with someone, you accept or aspire to place yourself at the same level with them. If, in a relationship, the two people remain on different levels, we cannot talk about friendship. Therefore, it’s not insignificant when God calls someone His friend. When He wants to befriend someone, God does two things: first of all, He comes down to the level of the one He is pursuing, and then lifts His friend up to His level of living. In general, when great people want to be friends with someone, they are willing to go down a step or two, at least in the beginning. And, if they wish their friendship to last, they will help the one who has become their friend go up a step or two. This ascent requires, first and foremost, honesty.
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11).
If you have a friend, ask yourself: does my friend ascend, or is he forced to come down to me? You must also ask yourself if you are making the effort to ascend to get to a friend’s level, or if you rather find yourself in the shoes of the one descending. Friendship is also about responsibility. If there is no willingness to reach and stay on the highest step of your relationship, then it’s possible that friendship might have been misunderstood.
Friendship is a path in itself. It may lead to a monument of love between a man and a woman, or it might make a way between the highest mountains for people who do not involve love in the equation. Regardless of the nature of their friendship, one of its cornerstones is honesty. No other aspect of life is as dependant on honesty as friendship. Lack of honesty will cause the fog of doubt to linger on, a kind of undefined field, like a swamp swallowing more and more of the land surrounding it.
It is interesting that Jonathan felt the need to honestly verbalize what David probably did not dare to express (the fact that God called David to take Jonathan’s place). This is probably why the friendship between Jonathan and David remains among the top friendships in history. One of the most difficult friendship tests is one where you must release the other from the obligations, burdens and roles it would not be fair for them to assume. This is why honesty is made up more of courage than justice and fairness. To be honest toward a friend might hurt like a humiliation, cost like a disqualification or depress like the darkness of misunderstanding.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6).
Fortunately, honesty in friendship is a much lower risk than in love. Friendship may decree a period of pause and waiting, while love burns and melts sometimes in the face of the most bizarre of answers. Once again, this is why love must hold hands with friendship.
Friendship has a thick skin, it can endure cold and harshness, even if, at times, all it wants is a caress. It is healed with a handshake and draws strength from the tiniest gestures. Friendship is not a field to be left unattended, but one that, after receiving a bit of attention, will bear the most unexpected fruits. Nothing is more durable than a well-maintained, honest, uncomplicated friendship.