We’re talking about love this month on Everyday Ediths. For most people the topic of love conjures up images of chocolates, flowers, wedding rings, and other tokens of marital love. But spousal love, Eros – the human passion of love, is not the greatest form of love. Friendship is inherently closer to the love we aim for – the agape love of God.
In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes:
“Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important.
… In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets… Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves.’ For in this love ‘to divide is not to take away.”
Friendship, uniquely, allows us a foretaste of the Communion of the Saints – for our marriages do not come with us when we are received into Heaven.
This is not to say that marriage, or your spouse, is not important! But your spouse should not be your everything. That is neither wise nor realistic. It is more fully human to embrace friendships that help us grow in virtue and lead us to the Good than to rely solely on the love of a spouse.
What I find so beautiful about friendship is found in Lewis’ last line, taken from Dante, “For in this love ‘to divide is not to take away.” Friendship is not limited to just one person, and in fact is hindered if a friendship remains as just two. A friendship closed off to the addition of others is a dying friendship, for once we become closed off to the other we become closed off from the moderating influence of others.
We accept the maxim “our love does not divide, but multiplies” when it comes to our children, so why is it so difficult for some to consider being open to a new friend? Why do we see so many claiming that it is better to have only a few close friends? Why are cliques still a thing into adulthood?
Friendship is not something to be feared! A new friend may very well bring some uncertainty (you don’t already know what they think on a given topic), questioning (they don’t automatically know what you think either), and discomfort (especially when they challenge our preconceptions!) But are not all these things exactly what we need to grow and move forward?
Cliques, in particular, are an example of friendship that is lacking in love. Cliques are closed to the ready reception of new members, by definition. If “true Friendship is the least jealous of loves” than cliques are a perversion of that love.
One can never say that “I have enough friends” without betraying a lack of love. There can be few things that doubt the power of Christ more than to say “I don’t have enough love”. For Christ is love -it is not possible to run out.
What do you think about love in friendship? Have you experienced this love as life giving or is it more of a life struggle?