True friends are like diamonds, Precious and rare; False ones, like autumn leaves,
So goes the simple verse I used to write in my classmates' autograph books in grammar school. Yet, as much as I yearned to, when I was growing up I didn't make friends easily. I used to watch my younger sister with admiration as friends flocked around. There was something about her that others found so appealing. In retrospect I can see that it was her selfless ability to look at her friends through the lens of true charity.
Speaking of the divine Love that is God Himself, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''Love never loses sight of loveliness. Its halo rests upon its object.''n1 My sister's friends seemed to feel that the love she expressed never lost sight of the good in them. It was only natural that childhood friendships flourished - many lasting to the present - under such warmth and nourishment.
n1 Science and Health with key to the Scriptures, p248
Devoted friendships speak to all of us of the wider joy of fellowship to be shared universally as we come to appreciate each other as children of God. Later , Christian Science helped me to cultivate this appreciation. I learned that there is something inherently spiritual in the bonds that unite us to those we care about, since real friends love to see the good in each other and magnify it. Mrs. Eddy observes, ''One marvels that a friend can ever seem less than beautiful.''n2
To be a lasting enterprise, friendship requires of us a willingness to do for others. We need look no further than the Golden Rule to find a simple outline for friendship: ''As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.''n3 Friendship is not a static affair but needs the active expression of God-derived qualities in order to thrive. Attributes such as kindness, patience, joy, tenderness, vigor, trust, define character much more accurately than physicality possibly could. And one blesses his fellowman as he expresses these qualities in his own life.
n3 Luke 6:31
It would be hard to place too much emphasis on cultivating and nourishing the kind of friendships that grow out of appreciating the true good in our neighbors. Can we expect the nations of the world to unite in brotherhood if their people can't live together in harmony within their own borders?
Yet the desire for harmonious relationships often requires a degree of selflessness that is easier to talk about than to practice. This may be because people tend to view themselves primarily as minds and bodies moving autonomously toward singular goals of self-fulfillment. This leads one to feel at odds with the needs and desires of humanity in general. It often seems that individuals are destined to be at cross-purposes.
Despite such a pervasive atmosphere of thought, loving friendships do flourish whenever people learn to ''esteem other better than themselves,''n4 in the words of the Apostle Paul.
n4 Philippians 2:3
Because God is the creator of man, as we can learn from the Bible, He is really the one parent Mind - actually the only Mind of man. All true and lasting identity is derived from the divine Mind and is the spiritual manifestation of God's own being. The man and woman of God's creating coexist with Him in harmony and immortality. To acknowledge this truth of spiritual being helps us to see beyond the limited, human view of man as a mortal continually in conflict with other mortals, and in a hopeless struggle against the destructive tendencies of materialism.
There is so much more meaning to life than a self-serving, materialistic approach can yield. As we progressively make the effort, in lovingkindness and self-denial, to live in harmony with each other, we will gain a more correct view of creation and learn deeper spiritual lessons about the relationship of all God's offspring. We'll discern more of the perfection of God and of man in His likeness. In this regard, friendship is another school for achieving an understanding of true, Christly being, with all its attendant blessings to oneself and mankind. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.