This is the second of five posts submitted by Lynne Baab. Lynne’s new book, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, has received strong endorsements and reviews. Lynne is the author of numerous other books, including Sabbath Keeping and Reaching Out in a Networked World. Visit her website lynnebaab.com for reviews and other information about her books. Lynne is a Presbyterian Church (USA) minister with a PhD in communication from the University of Washington, currently a lecturer in pastoral theology in Dunedin, New Zealand.
While I was writing my recent book on friendship, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World, I paid careful attention to the popular magazines available in doctor’s offices and other waiting rooms. Men’s and women’s magazines offer countless articles about relationships: marriage, dating, parent-child, workplace, neighborhood, etc. Only a small number of articles address friendships. The same is true of sermons, adult classes, television magazine shows, and blog posts. Why is this?
Are we afraid to talk about friendships because we might have to acknowledge that we don’t have enough of them and that we sometimes feel lonely? Are we embarrassed to tell our friends how important they are to us? Or embarrassed that we need them so much? Do we worry that we feel more strongly about our friends than they feel about us? Are we afraid that if we talk about our friends too much we will lose the ones we have? I have to admit that this last concern floated through my mind often as I wrote my book on friendship.
Most people I interviewed for my book said that their friendships are a significant place of support and love. Most people spent a lot of energy making sure they stay connected to their friends, and many people seem to spend a fair amount of time thinking about the pattern of their friendships. Why then do we do so little teaching, speaking and reflection about friendship?
I am convinced that friendship is a place where God longs for us to learn to express faithful love, the kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13 and other places in the Bible. I am convinced that when we strive, day after day, to be faithful to our friends, we will grow in Christian character and dependence on God, and we will be increasingly shaped into the likeness of Jesus. I am convinced that we need to talk more about the kind of out-reaching love that makes friendships work.
Over the years of my adult life, many people have told me how lonely they are. Those same people always seem to say that they have trouble initiating. One of the most significant components of love that makes friendships work is the ability to take initiative with friends, over and over and over, the kind of initiative that comes from the patient, kind and compassionate love modeled to us in Jesus.