When Paul defines love in his first letter to the Corinthians, he lists the attributes of a true friend. “Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offense, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s shortcomings but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes (1 Corinthians 13:4–7).
Reaching out to another with love means reaching within to find the love we want reflected back to us. When we love ourself, when we are a friend to ourself, we are in a position to attract a friend to us. As our own best friend, we have that gift to give to another.
When healthy friendship reaches outward to involve another human being, it becomes a two‑way street, one that may include an occasional detour when opinions differ. Relationships are seldom consistently smooth. Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the famous World War II pilot, crashed into the Pacific after leading a special mission. He and his crew were lost at sea for twenty‑one days. He later wrote the following of his experience: “In the beginning many of the men were atheists or agnostics, but at the end of the terrible ordeal each, in his own way, discovered God. Each man found God in the vast empty loneliness of the ocean. Each man found salvation and strength and prayer, and a community of feeling developed which created a liveliness of human fellowship and worship, and a sense of gentle peace.” The community of friends, the crew, that Rickenbacker speaks of was not a group of their own choosing. They were thrown together by the vicissitudes of war. Having come together in such calamitous circumstances, they were forced to support each other not only on the level of physical survival but eventually on the higher level of spiritual growth. They became friends.
What friends have in common is the best interest of each other. Friends seek to coexist, complement, and grow toward greater good with each other. One example of such a friendship is the relationship between Ruth Eisenberg and Margaret Patrick, pianists who have played to audiences in Canada and the United States. Because of the effect of strokes, one woman plays the piano with her right hand and the other with her left. Together they produce the mutually harmonious music they both love because each woman is willing to share the best of
Friendship begins when we learn how to be our own best friend. How can we do this? By identifying our true self and then being that self with all our heart, soul, and body! As we come to know our true self and discover more of our wonderful assets, it becomes easier to love ourself. This has nothing to do with human ego. As the biblical Scripture says, “As he thinketh within himself, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). When we realize our true spiritual identity, we not only believe that we are wise, loving and powerful—we also humbly know that we are these things. Then, it is easy to be a friend to others. Love always has power. Love gives of itself. Once we feel solid in self‑friendship, we are in a position to offer the gift of friendship to another. As Emerson put it so well, “The only way to have a friend is to be a friend.”