Here is an extract on manifesting friendship from the Diving deeper into the divine workshop for you to reflect on:

Friendship is especially valuable for that necessary sign of charity which is understanding others. True friendship also means making a heartfelt effort to understand the convictions of our friends, even though we may never come to share them or accept them. Thus our friends help us to understand ways of viewing life that are different from our own that enrich our inner world, and, when the friendship is deep, that enable us to experience the world in a different way. This is, in the end, a true sharing in others’ sentiments, which is sharing in their life and in their experiences.

Loving others mean seeing and affirming them just as they are, with their problems, their defects, their personal history, their social surroundings, and their own times for drawing close to Jesus. Hence, to build a true friendship, we need to develop the capacity to look at other people with affection to the point where we see them with the eyes of Christ. We need to cleanse our way of looking of any prejudice, learn to discover the good in each person, and renounce the desire to remake them “in our own image.” For friends to receive our affection, they don’t need to fulfil any conditions. As Christians, we see each person above all as someone loved by God. Each person is unique, as is each relationship of friendship.

As St Augustine said:

All should not be given the same medicine, although all need the same love. The same love provides light for some and shares in the suffering of others … it is gentle to some, stern to others; an enemy to none, and a mother to all. (St Augustine, The Catechesis of Beginners, 15, 23)

Being a friend means learning to treat each person as our Lord does.

In creating souls, God does not repeat himself. Each person is as he is, and we need to treat each person in accordance with what God has done and with how he is leading them. (St Josemaria, letter 8th August 1956, 38)

Since it is a question of discovering and loving the good of the other person, friendship also means suffering with our friends and for our friends. In difficult moments, it is a great help to renew our faith that God acts in a person’s soul in his own way and in his own time.

Friendship, moreover, has an incalculable social value, since it fosters, harmony among family members and the creation of social environments more worthy of the human person. “By divine vocation,” St Josemaria writes,

you live in the middle of the world, sharing with your fellow men and women – your equals – joys and sorrows, efforts and dreams, hopes and adventures. In walking along the countless paths of the earth you will have striven, because our spirit leads us to do so, to get along with everyone, to be welcoming with everyone, in order to help create an environment of peace and friendship. (St Josemaria, letter 24th October 1965, 2)

This environment of friendship, which each of us is called to carry with us, is the fruit of many efforts to make life pleasant for others. Growing in cordiality, joyfulness, patience, optimism, refinement and in all the virtues that make living with others agreeable is important for helping people to feel welcomed and to be happy:

A pleasant voice multiplies friends, and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies. (Sir 6:5)

The struggle to improve our own character is a necessary condition for facilitating relationships of friendship.

In contrast, certain ways of expressing oneself can disturb or hinder the creation of an environment of friendship. For example, being overly emphatic in expressing one’s own opinion, or giving the impression that we think our own viewpoints are the definitive ones, or not taking an active interest in what others say, are ways of acting that enclose a person in himself. At times, these types of behaviours show an inability to distinguish what is a matter of opinion from what is not, or the failure to give a relative value to topics that don’t necessarily have only one solution.

Our Christian concern for others stems precisely from our union with Christ and our identification with the mission to which he has called us.

We are called to serve the crowds. We are never closed in on ourselves, but live facing the multitude of men and women. And deep in our heart are those words of our Lord Jesus Christ: I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat (Mk 8:2). (St Josemaria, letter 31st May 1954, 23)

Strengthening bonds with our friends requires time and attention, and often means avoiding comfort-seeking or setting aside our own preferences. For a Christian it means in the first place prayer, with the assurance that there we find the authentic energy capable of transforming the world.

For this world of ours to move along a Christian path – the only worthwhile one – we have to exercise a loyal friendship with all men, based on a prior loyal friendship with God. (St Josemaria The Forge, 943)

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