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When you’re being patient with someone who’s wandering down into some messy and immature hole it’s easy to get mixed up about whether you’re showing grace or actually just patronising their fears and failures. In other words, not doing the very thing a friend is supposed to be counted on to do: ‘True friendship is opposition’ says CS Lewis; ‘Faithful are the wounds of a friend’ says the Book of Proverbs. Without honesty, integrity, trust and respect there can be no real friendship. Ironically these are qualities that we usually acquire when we are dealing with other things: enemies for instance, or illnesses, and even the sheer hard work of having to learn a trade or a profession. It is usually in these realms that the qualities which enable friendship to happen are somehow earned and welded into our personality. We could even find ourselves contemplating delivering a rant to our immature colleague who wants to indulge in self pity: ‘You should be ashamed of yourself. The last thing you need is a friend, what you need is a few more months of hard work or maybe even more difficult customers to deal with until you have allowed patience, grace and honesty to soak deep into your soul.’ We wouldn’t say it like that, but we might be have been trying to say something like it for half a lifetime but they would not be told.

In Four Loves (by CS Lewis) he explains that there is one essential condition without which real friendship will not be able to happen, and that is a passionate interest, which takes you outside of yourself and which both of you value so highly that it has the potential to threaten or even end your relationship if either of you fails to show the proper respect due to the thing that you both love. This is why a friend, rather than being someone who adores you, is someone rather who so adores this other thing you both like eg: mountain climbing that you keep bumping into them on cliff faces. While you have been looking at the cliffs and the mountains you have been getting close to each other without even thinking about it. Lovers, Lewis says, stand face to face; friends stand side by side.

What a tragedy then, when someone just does not get it and imagines that friendship is primarily about them and about you indulging them. Are you aware of someone like that in your life? Perhaps this is the day to stop procrastinating and to begin praying for an ingenious act of love that might enable you to get through to them. It might take a day or a year, but don’t give up. Or maybe you should even call a real friend and ask for advice.

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