A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘friendship

As my parents told me, so I’ve told my son to choose his friends carefully because the company we keep affects others’ opinion of our character—for better or for worse.

Consider this passage from Sirach 27:11-14*:

The talk of the godly man is always wise,

but the fool changes like the moon.

Among stupid people watch for a chance to leave,

but among thoughtful people stay on.

The talk of fools is offensive,

and their laughter is wantonly sinful.

The talk of men given to swearing makes one’s hair stand on end,

and their quarrels make a man stop his ears.

The strife of the proud leads to bloodshed,

and their abuse is grievous to hear.

Just as we need to be selective about what we read, watch, and listen to, so we need to think about the character and behaviour of the people we socialize with and their influence on us.

We wouldn’t want our kids to spend time with teens who cut classes, take drugs, pick fights, or bully others. But do our friends think drinking to excess or picking up strangers is a fun way to spend a Friday night? Do they freely admit to cheating on their spouse or regularly watching porn, or do they often make racist or sexist comments?

If we see this kind of behaviour but hesitate to say anything because we’re worried about being (or being thought of as) judgmental, isn’t there a risk that we might eventually come to view the behaviour as acceptable? Something we might do to fit in—or even consider normal?

We know we’re all sinners and we all do things we regret; none of us is in a position to condemn anyone else, and none of us is above needing others’ prayers that we would make good (or better) choices. The danger lies in reaching a point where we don’t feel regret or see the need to make a course correction. We need to remember that we’re called not to conform to this world but instead to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

If we don’t allow our children to play violent video games, watch certain reality shows or listen to profanity-laden music but we do these things ourselves, we aren’t setting a good example. And if we encourage them to think about their choice of friends even as we socialize regularly with others who don’t share or who may even ridicule our values, we’re setting a “do as I say, not as I do”standard for them to follow.

May we find the courage to speak up among our friends; to distance ourselves when we need to; and to work to develop new friendships based on common ground such as membership in the same faith community, a commitment to the same charitable causes or common political or social justice goals, or volunteer work at the same school or community organization.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)


In the digital age, we’re bombarded with information. We’re more connected in a technological sense but more disconnected from other people. Letters, phone calls and, increasingly, in-person conversations have given way to e-mails and texts and “likes.”

Is it any wonder so many of us are lonely and finding it a challenge to develop and sustain real friendships when we don’t know how to talk without a keyboard at our fingertips?

We may think only some people need this kind of interaction: children, as they learn the words and patterns and rhythms of language and feel the need to share their thoughts with us or they’ll burst, or maybe ageing relatives who want to pass on their stories before they’re lost forever. That’s just not so. We all need to feel that someone hears us—that, to paraphrase the words of character Beverly Clark in Shall We Dance, our life will not go unnoticed because someone else notices.

We need to pray for the talents described in Isaiah 50:4*:

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught,

that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary.

Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

Being the kind of friend we’d like to have doesn’t mean telling others what they want to hear but rather encouraging them to continue to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith (see 2 Timothy 4:6).

It means listening to what they’re saying, and not with half an ear—not with our eyes glued to the television or some handheld device.

And it means being patient as they express their feelings. We’re becoming so accustomed to 160-character messages and sound bites that anything longer may seem…well, too long. But sometimes we need others to be willing to sit with us as we think and try to make sense of life out loud.

We can take a cue from James 1:19-20:

Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.

May we ask God to increase our ability and our patient willingness to hear others and to build them up with our words.

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Make new friends, but keep the old;

Those are silver, these are gold.

~ “New Friends and Old Friends” by Joseph Parry in The Best Loved Poems of the American People

When the phone rang before 9 a.m. yesterday morning, I had a feeling it would mean bad news. Sadly, I was right: my mother’s best friend had passed away about an hour earlier.

Her passing was expected, but not necessarily so soon. She’d been diagnosed six months earlier with terminal cancer, and my mother knew her friend was nearing the end of her life but thought they’d have the chance to get together one last time. It wasn’t to be.

They’d been friends throughout high school, even when attending different schools. Each had been in the other’s wedding party and supported the other through loss (both of my mother’s parents and her friend’s father). They’d stayed close even though my mother was a military wife and her friend always lived near their hometown. And after being out of touch for a while, they’d reconnected as though it had only been yesterday that they’d talked last.

We should all be so lucky as to have a friend to the end.

When I was growing up, most of the people I knew had lived in the area their whole lives; as an air force brat, I’d lived in four places and attended four schools by the time I was nine. These days, many of us don’t live in or even near our hometown. We may long since have lost touch with the people we went to elementary and high school with, let alone our university or college classmates. Even with cell phones and social media, busy lives may lead us to lose anything more than superficial contact with old friends and make it a challenge to build new friendships.

But the Bible tells us that friendships matter. We can read about the friendship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel, chapters 18 to 20*, and in 2 Samuel, chapters 1 and 9; the friendship between Elijah and Elisha in 2 Kings, chapter 2; and Paul’s greetings to his friends at the end of his epistles. These verses from Proverbs also tell us about the importance of true friends:

A friend loves at all times,

and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)

There are friends who pretend to be friends,

but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

Your friend, and your father’s friend, do not forsake. (Proverbs 27:10a)

I pray that we would recognize our friends as blessings from God and be thankful for them and that we would keep up our old friendships and make new ones.

(*Scripture quotes and references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. (Exodus 33:11*)

I remember that my grandmother used to go out for lunch once a week with her friends. Some of them had known one another since they were young women—and they laughed and talked as though they still were. And my mother still keeps in touch by phone, mail and e-mail with some friends from her teen years and from military bases my father was posted to. They seem to pick right up where they left off the last time they talked.

Today many of us rush from home to work to home to kids’ activities to home again. We may spend a few minutes along the way on social media sites or on the phone with friends, or perhaps we chat after church or a fitness class, but we don’t really scratch below the surface of one another’s lives.

So much pressure falls on us to succeed, keep busy and give our kids every opportunity to pursue their interests that we can easily forget to work on keeping friendships alive…until a family member falls ill and we lack someone to lean on. Or we struggle with some phase in our kids’ lives and have no one to compare notes with. And many people don’t live in or even near their hometown these days, so it’s not unusual to live in a new town and not know a soul.

Then our need to connect with friends hits us—hard.

I think we underestimate the value of friendship, but I believe this to be true: Read the rest of this entry »

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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