A Christian Science perspective.
In the Bible, a proverb counsels, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). I love to do this! I love all my friends. I love to support, care, and show them they are special to me. I have always had good friends – those who don’t cling; those who are secure in the knowledge that they are loved even if long periods of time pass between contact; those who come and go over the years, leaving a sweet trail of encouragement, support, and kindness in their wake.
With all this rich friendship in my life, I hadn’t given much thought to what it would be like to be friendless. But when a close friend “broke up” with me, I felt isolated and alone. It wasn’t that I didn’t have other friends. I was simply confused as to why I couldn’t have that one in my life.
I had had breakups with friends before, but none that rocked me like this one. For several months after, I avoided even thinking about my friend, not wanting to hear in my mind those stomach-socking words, “I don’t want to have any more contact with you.” Although her reasons made no sense to me, I respected her directness. I had to let her go. And I learned a few lessons about friendship along the way.
Mary Baker Eddy asked in her textbook on Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth.” Farther on, she wrote, “Universal Love is the divine way in Christian Science” (p. 266).
My lessons on friendship came from prayer about Love, from prayer centered on getting to know the universal Love that is God as my best and ever Friend. The first chapter of Science and Health, titled “Prayer,” emphasizes God’s nature as Love – not simply as having a loving aspect, but as divine Love itself. God never puts conditions on His expression of love – “I’ll love you this much if ...” or “I’ll be your friend when ...” – Love loves as the sun shines.
Divine Love never quits, never changes, never stops. God is the ever-present friend who never abandons His creation. As I got to know God as my friend, I saw that I could trust this friend never to drop me. In this enormous sense of Love’s friendship, I saw God as my constant companion and my most faithful friend. Knowing God to be my friend helped me to look for, in myself and in those around me, the permanence, fidelity, and other spiritual qualities inherent in God’s creation as His image and likeness.
In her autobiography, Mrs. Eddy wrote: “There are no greater miracles known to earth than perfection and an unbroken friendship. We love our friends, but ofttimes we lose them in proportion to our affection” (“Retrospection and Introspection,” p. 80). Jesus knew his true and perfect friend to be God, and could see only God’s likeness in those he loved.
In the case of my friend, I had gone quiet for a period before the breakup, slipping away during a tumultuous period of my life. My intention was to protect her from worrying about me, but it was misunderstood and seen as neglect. I am deeply sorry about that misunderstanding, and I cherish the lessons I have since learned about friendship. I now know that it can only be broken if I allow it to be. And I don’t. I will always love her as my friend.
No child of God can truly “unfriend” another. Friendship is an expression of Life as much as an expression of Love. It is not optional. If we should go our separate ways, we are still linked eternally in life and love by divine Love. And only in love. Not in pain, dishonesty, hate, sadness, or fear.
I think a line from Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 30 sums up perfectly what a spiritual perspective can bring to our friendships: “But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, / All losses are restored, and sorrows end.” My anguish over that relationship stopped as I realized that nothing has the power to deprive me of true friendship, a divine attribute that God expresses constantly in my life. Since no one can be Godless, no one can be friendless. Now when I think of that friend, instead of pain and loss, I feel love. And loved. We are both loved, moving forward and progressing in Love. No one is left out or put out of Love’s circle of friends.