Posted by: Peadar Ban | September 21, 2012

A Review: The Art of Being A Good Friend

No great artist has ever picked up an instrument and without a lesson played a piece perfectly, or picked up a pen and written a poem which has moved millions down through the years.  No great architects, or surgeons, or scientists have “practiced” their professions either, without first becoming familiar with what there was about themselves and their subject they needed to know to get better, to become as good as talent would allow.

The title above implies that the same type of “work” is necessary for friendship to flourish, for love to grow.  I know.  I have been in the company of people who “practiced” the art, and perfected the “techniques” of Friendship.  I have seen it done well, and have experienced it done poorly.  “My friend let me down,” is not something one hears only rarely.  “I let my friend down,” is many times a devastating admission of one’s weakness, but an opportunity for growth.

My father, bless his troubled soul, used to say that a man is lucky to have one good friend.  One person he thought fit that bill for him betrayed him when we children were all very young, and Dad was never the same again.  My first wife, may she rest in peace, the one who told me that she was brutally honest once said, “I have enough friends, now.  When one of them dies I’ll think about getting another.”

I recently met a young lady who was a friend of my first wife at their place of work.  Though Sheila has been dead more than ten years, the lady told me she misses her and their friendship.  It was my wife who “straightened” out this person when she was wobbling in any number of areas.

When I was a very young lad I had a best friend, Eddie.  Eddie and I were inseparable until our teen years.  One year older than me, Eddie went to a different school and drifted into darker ways.  Soon he dropped out of school, and soon after that he got a girl pregnant.  He married her, to be sure, but I never saw Eddie after I finished high school.  I still think of him and of our youthful adventures.  In some ways, I consider myself lucky.  I know my parents did.

And, then there was Gerry, the fellow I didn’t know was a friend.  It just started and grew.  He was the man who introduced me to Sheila after planning for the introduction for almost a year.  The friend who did me the greatest service of any friend I’d had.  Without Gerry I’d not have met the woman who was my best friend before we married, who stayed my closest companion for several decades and — God knows and now so do you — the one who taught me the meaning of love.

I do not know if I would have been able to marry again so quickly and so well were it not for the years of loving friendship and friendly love I spent with Sheila.  I do not know if I would have been able to recognize or want to know more of the deep inner beauty and the truth that awaited me in my relationship with Mariellen without that “education” in the school of loving and steadfast friendship I attended with Sheila; the 34 years and some I like to call my “Basic Training”…

In his book “The Art of Being a Good Friend” from Sophia Institute Press, author Hugh Black explores and explains what makes a friendship strong and true.  He writes of the necessity of friendship to all of us, warns of the dangers of superficial friendships and opens for all of us the benefits of well developed friendship to living a fully human life.  Black takes the time to  develop his thesis that friendship among persons is a way to open oneself to the ultimate gift of friendship with God, the Friend of all His creatures, the Friend of all His creation.

Sophia Institute Press, of The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, seeks to “publish works of holy wisdom that are faithful to the tradition of the church.”  At The Christian Book Corner we are dedicated to helping God connect such works with interested readers.  All of our offerings are “Chosen with care; chosen with Prayer” then provided at discount — in the hope that this is exactly what God wishes of us.


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