Love in Action: Love between friends

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Love in Action is a column aimed at understanding the world in its complexity framed through a lens of radical love and its practical implications. Too often, we focus on the hate that permeates the world, but what about Love? And where does its potential lie?

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be single and how that can be a commitment of its own. With the onset of Imbolc, the pagan holiday between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, we look forward to days of increased sunlight and initiation of changes in nature. Subsequently, changes in our own lives can spark during this period. Really, though, that change has to be accompanied by reflection and intention. Otherwise, it can peter out or take on a vague form of nothingness, much like New Year’s resolutions. Change is something we can shape for our benefit, though, and as such, I have committed to a year of the single life. One dimension of that life includes my friends, the people who balance my worldview and bring me into emotional communion. 

We should not have to reaffirm our commitments to our friends, but many folks need to take a closer look and prioritize what is essential in life, myself included. Committing to and loving friends does not mean hanging out with them around the clock. I would argue that it is necessary to have alone time for self-reflection, hobbies and recharging. That way, we can better show up to our friendships as our true selves. Such a bond involves being curious, proactive in involving your friends in your life, generous and compassionate, supportive, vulnerable, respectful and responsible, to name a few. It is too easy to get caught up in oneself or the excitement of a fresh romance, especially amid the pandemic’s difficulties. Yet, loving friendships have a remarkable quality of what I will term a hearth for the heart. A romance might be a blazing fire piled with the kindle of passion, but friends can be sanctuaries for truth-telling and vulnerability. This should also be the case for relationships, but in a world where neither friendships nor romances receive the proper love, friendships more-so triumph in this regard. 

An often-neglected aspect of friendships is that they need to be appreciated for what they are in our lives. Some people do not have enough friends or relationships in their lives whatsoever, but that is another issue for another time. What I find troubling is the idea of searching for something that is already there. Like many aspects of friendship, this can apply to romance as well. If we focus too much on finding the supposed love “out there” instead of investing time, energy and love into our present friendships, we risk the danger of spreading ourselves too thin and continuing the cycle of loneliness. In a constant quest for something, there is never enough to be had. I came to recognize the presence of this vicious process in my own life when searching for a paganism that spoke to me. What resonated was the idea that “there is something that can only be found in one place. It is a great treasure, which may be called the fulfillment of existence. The place where this treasure can be found is the place on which one stands.” I miss having the myriad of acquaintanceships I was privy to before the pandemic, but that is much different from spending adequate time loving and bonding with my friends who will be there for me through thick and thin. Friends are one gateway to developing resilience through a time of such grief and suffering. Love your friends, and treasure the gift they are in your present life.