The Friendship That Lasts

There’s nothing more beautiful in this life than a beautiful friendship. For Ben Sirach the sage, “a true friend is a sturdy shelter; he who has found one finds a treasure”. A true friend is beyond price; no amount can balance his worth. A loyal friend is like a medicine that keeps you in good health. Only those who fear the Lord can find such a friend (Sir. 6:114-7). Thomas Aquinas agrees. He says “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship” (Summa Theologica, Supplement Question 73, Article 1). Aristotle noted in the Nicomachean Ethics book VIII that a friendship based on virtue is the most glorious thing we can achieve on earth. Some go through life without ever finding one; these are grumpy and frustrated. Others do find one, but fail to recognize his value; these have experienced some good days. Still others find one, but only recognize his value after he loses that friendship. These kinds are in search of that true friendship. And the luckiest of them all do find a true friend and ipso facto recognize that gift and cherish it like the greatest pearl. That one is blessed indeed.

friendWho is a true friend? It is someone who is there, physically or in spirit, in moments of anguish, trials, adversity, joy and festive. It is someone who is not afraid to challenge you to become the most virtuous, disciplined, and the best you can be in life. A true friend is always honest and trustworthy. A true friend knows his friends. A true friend lets himself be known.If you want a true friend, become one yourself.

So it is really difficult to find a true friend, and it takes time to come to maturity. According to Cicero, “nothing in the world is harder to find than an excellent friend” (on friendship #21). Only the test of time allows us to know whether or not we have found one. Plutarch, the first century Roman philosopher, argues that a true friend stays true to the truth; a true friend is not a yes-man; he approves only what is good in his friend, and would even go so far as to hurt him for the good. Plutarch suggests that we test friendship by pretending to change back and forth to see whether he will follow indiscriminately. Not a bad idea!

For Cicero, goodness is what makes friendship work. Friendship can only exist between good people. By good, he means those whose actions and lives are unquestionable; those who are free from greed, lust, and violence; those who have the courage of their convictions (Essay on friendship #5). In this view, friendship is defined as a complete accord on all subjects human and divine, joined with mutual goodwill and affection. The latter is crucial for friendship. Without it, there may be a relationship, but not friendship. The former is what binds the friendship together. They help each other discover what is most important in life and they encourage each other to live it out. Aristotle views friendship as a necessity, but something rare to find. That view finds echo in Aristotle’s Nicomacheans ethics, he asserts that a friendship grounded on goodness has a lasting quality to it.

fraThe saints are the best of friends. Whereas you and I can be unbearable at times, the saints are always pleasant company. They don’t show off; they don’t blame; they show no petty humor; they don’t lecture us even when they should. They challenge, inspire, and encourage us by simply living their own lives to the fullest. By the examples of their lives, we are inspired to live the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives extraordinarily. Think of Pier Giorgio Frassati. He bore witness to his faith among his friends in the most exemplary ways. He did not force them into his way, but his beautiful life inspires them to adopt his way. His dedication to the poor made him outstanding among us all. How many of his friends did he influence to live a more humble, joyful, helpful, and meaningful life by his dedication? Goodness is contagious. Even a blind man knows when he is in the presence of a bright light.

Virtue precedes friendship. It is the standard by which we measure friendship. How can life be worth living without friends? There is nothing more delightful than to have a trusted friend to whom you can say everything with the same absolute confidence as to yourself. Without a friend to share one’s joy, prosperity is devalued by half. Misfortunes would be unbearable without a friend to feel them on one’s side (on friendship #6). The attitude of job’s three friends corroborates this view. When they heard of his troubles, they went and empathize with him and comfort him. They could hardly recognize him; they weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights without saying a word (Job 2:11-13). Friends such as these, everyone needs one. So true friendship enhances even the most unbearable misfortunes of life.job

Cicero, the greatest of the Roman orators, asserts that friendship embraces innumerable advantages. It is more expedient and universal than wealth, power, office, and honor. Where true friendship exists, it enhances prosperity, and relieves adversity of its burden by half (on friendship #6). A true friend is the image of a second self. Where one’s friend is one is; if his friend is rich, he is not poor; though he is weak, his friend’s strength is his; and in his friend’s life he enjoys a second life even after his own is finished. The Romans went so far as to say that whatever in nature and the universe was unchangeable was so in virtue of the binding force of friendship (friendship #7). There’s a lot to chew on here.

Choose your friends wisely. As the proverb goes, “you end up resembling whoever you spend most of your time with”. If you had a choice between St. Clare, St Joseph, and St. Francis and Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, and Bruno Mars, who would you choose? Is it not better to spend time with dead people who bring us to life and with live people who bring us to death? If you could choose between virtues and vices, spiritual growth and material growth, what would you choose? You have that choice. Choose wisely.

Befriend the saints and you will be the best of friend to your friends. Nothing is more precious than a spiritual friend because it does not seek its own advantage but the well-being of the other. That’s the selfless and unconditional love that’s born out of true friendship.

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The Most Important Thing

In a wide-reaching survey, 179 people were asked what is [the] most important thing in life? Their answers ranged from love, health, friendship, happiness, peace, helping others, freedom, women, family, money, I don’t know, respect, the environment, oxygen etc. It is indubitable that all these things are important because they contribute tremendously to our well-being. But something is lacking in this answer for it is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness (Summa Theologiae II, Q 1, art 8), according to Aquinas. The most important thing in life must include something that remains when all is taken away. It must be something sustainable. The most important thing in life must be sufficient unto itself and be beneficial to us. It must provide safety and confidence in the midst of the storms of life. Whatever it is, I believe it must be something that keeps us going against all odds. But none of the answers seems to have those rudimentary elements. So are the aforementioned elements the most important thing in life?

To be fair to the responders however, there was an answer that I found striking. Someone said the most important thing in life is to find our purpose and pursue it. Yes purpose. We are purpose-driven people. We thrive best when we know what we want out of life. We are each created with a purpose and there is no greater sweetness to life than finding that purpose. Without hesitation, purpose is one of the most important things in life. Thus, it is fitting to want to find that purpose and pursue it as if there is no tomorrow. Life truly begins when we find that purpose. Finding our purpose makes us capable of living life with passion; it gives us the desire to wake up even when we are exhausted. It creates that burning drive in our deepest self to keep going even when going is almost impossible. It gives us our raison d’etre. My goal, your goal, your children’s goal, your friends and coworkers’ goal must be to find that purpose and follow it. Without a doubt, a purpose-driven life is a gift with which we need to grace our life, but is it the most important thing in life remains a puzzle yet to be solved?

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If we believe that God exists and has power over life, death, and our destiny, if God knows every single hair in our head, and knows our future before we were in the womb, he has to be the most important thing in life. The most important thing in life has got to be holiness. Since he is the most important, we want to be like him. “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 20:26). Holiness means to be intellectually, spiritually, physically, and emotionally set apart for the pursuit of excellence. Unless we actively pursue such a life, life has not really begun. Once we put on that attitude, a new vision of life is created. Family, friends, money, power… are seen for what they are. Even if they are taken away, we will still have something, should I say someone, to rely on. No matter what happens, life remains meaningful. We are able to differentiate lie from truth. No existential neurosis is possible for our eyes are fixed on the proper goal and so we can scale any wall and go through any barrier. Without God as the picture, when we come to see these things for what they are and realize that we cannot cling to them, it may be too late to reach the substantial reality.

Holiness as the most important in life bails us out of this spinning torpedo. It makes us stand out. adoration With holiness, we can endure all things because we are not rooted in the ephemeral. It allows us to see this present life as the wing that carries us to what is eternal. Our inspiration comes from the one who tells that everything works for good for those who believe. If we understand God as the most important thing in life, and choose holiness for his sake, no mountains will ever be too steep to climb. He will always be there to transform the impossible to possible. He will always be a lodestar guiding us during the dark night of the soul. We will know no abandonment because it is against his nature to do so. So no crisis will be insurmountable. Living this is the most important thing in life.

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When you finally understand that holiness is the most important thing in life and embrace it with your whole essence, then you will understand that there is more to life than this. It is a waste to be caught in this corner of yours without embracing this monumental dream that God has in store for you. Embrace holiness, then you will feel like a child feels whether earthquakes, or wars are coming. You will know what it means to experience a genuine laughter. You will know what it means to feel God’s presence guiding you as if his very hands were pointing you on and his voice was whispering in your ears. You will know why some look at the sunset or stand before a painting board and weep. There is more. You are more. Choose more.

How to Best Live Life

This simple question has been the concern of thinkers in every period in history. However, it seems that our culture seems to characterize these kinds of questions as unnecessary because, as they say, they are the fruit of primitive thinking, or psychological hang-up, or simply they don’t help put food on the table. Whenever we will to rise above our imagination, it can be observed that things work for the sake of an end. So, we too are not spared from this natural phenomenon of life. As Thomas Aquinas says, “it is characteristic of man to do everything for an end” (ST II-I, 1, 1). That means every action we do, we do it for the sake of an end. Corollary to that statement, we have an end. Everything has an end. For instance, a chair’s end is to provide seating for people; a car’s end is to bring people wherever they want to go very quickly; nature’s end is to provide oxygen, beauty, location, good condition for human beings to flourish; the weather’s end is to furnish good season so we can grow the appropriate crops… according to our needs. The question is rightly asked: how should we live life in order to become the best person possible? In other words, how do we need to live in order to fulfill our end? Philosophers have proposed many different ways we can live in order to be as flourishing as possible. In this post, I will expose Kant and Christianity’s proposal on how to best live life
Kant’s first proposal on how to best live life is his Categorical Imperative. It states that a person is to “act only in accordance with that maxim through which he/she can at the same time will that it becomes a universal law”. If whatever we are doing can be universalized i.e. it would not caused any morally harm if everyone does it, then we can pursue it. Otherwise, it would be wise to jettison it. Kant’s second proposal is that we should never act in such a way that we treat Humanity as a means but always as an end in itself. Well, there is nothing wrong with these proposals if people did not want to get their way out of everything. It is unbelievable how much many people are not even trying to be honest. Since it is the case, they give voice to many who think Kant’s proposal is confusing, or cannot really be universalized. Why is it hard to not do to others what you yourself dislike? Kant’s way can keep the world together, but many prefer to conjure up issues that have never existed. Who can deny that if something cannot be universalized, it is probably wrong? Who can deny that all human beings must be intrinsically valued, and so must never be treated as means?
We are wired for God. As the great Augustine says, “O God, you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in thee” (confessions I). It is true the technological advancement that our world has known surpassed our wildest expectations. We can sit here in America and instantly experience what is happening in Japan. I can testify to this since I see any soccer game live in Europe though I don’t live there. But the human heart longs for something that they sciences or technology can never deliver. We are yearning for something that lies beyond the limited human mind. “Only in God is our soul at rest”, the psalmist said. Only when we are living in communion with God can we find what we are looking for. That is the Christian message. Anyone who denies that will experience this for himself. No one can deny that he does not long for infinite happiness that he does not find in anything earthly. All pleasures we have experienced so far are ephemeral. They come and go. So, what are we to do in order that our yearning may one day be satisfied? That is what Christianity is; she proposes the answer to our longing. The answer is Jesus Christ, but it is intrinsically dependent on us to choose and embrace Him with our heart, mind, soul, and every fiber of our being. Three principles are proposed by Christianity on how to best live life and at the end reach something that can satiate our longing. The first principle is to become holy. Holiness is man’s first vocation. Aquinas calls this ‘human flourishing’; some motivational speakers call it ‘the best-version-of-ourselves’. Is it not true that we all would like to become the best person we can be? Is it not true that we all have an ideal for ourselves? It seems to be that there are two versions of each of us. The one that we actually are, and the one that God wants us to become. Christianity offers the best mean to reach that ideal self. No one in their right mind can reject such a view altogether. The second is to become virtuous. Virtue is at the heart of the Christian life. The more virtuous we become, the easier it is for us to reach holiness, flourishing, or the best version of ourselves. The more virtuous we are, the more our neighbor, society, church, and family benefit. The whole world prefers virtue to vice. Something vicious committed by one man hurts not only the wretched person, but also the family of the hurt. The third principle that Christianity proposes on how to best live life is to cultivate love. We need to start advertising a culture of life ground on firm examples that inspire others to choose God’s way above vengeance. We need to publicly live and make choices that testify our Christian faith. When we get the opportunities, we need to make it count so deeply that no one can resist asking us what inspires us to act like that. There will be occasions to refuse suing someone because we choose to forgive though we are hurt. We leave justice to God. Living this way is living for the end for which we were created. Yes, each of us has a vocation that will most fulfill us. However, most of us will never find out that vocation. Therefore, as Christian, we need to develop the best version of ourselves and live it as no one else could.
I am not talking about anything abstract. All of us know how to be kind. We all know we must help those in needs. We all know that we can love more. The question is: are we doing with all our heart, mind, strength, will, and intellect? I am asking that we do these in ways that reflect the best version of who we are. Action follows upon being. What we do reflects who we are. Who we are is not mediocrity. We are made for greatness. We cannot simply help. We must be the greatest helper we can possibly be. We cannot afford to simply be kind. We need to be the kindest person we can be. We need to live in ways that show greatness. Do you think this is the best you can can give at what you are doing? Are you the best son you can be? The best neighbor, friend, coworker, student, Christian you can be right now? Ok, you’re probably not, but is this the best you can do? Do you think you can live in accordance with the greatness that you are? Mother Teresa said, “Let no one come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness in your eyes, smile, and greeting”. When we are virtuous, we benefit as well. A virtuous act expands our heart and brings us a sense of achievement and self-realization. When you develop these characteristics, you reach the end for which you were created. Don’t ever give it up.
That is my proposal. Would you like to propose a way, too? Feel welcomed.