One of the precious gems in life is friendship. In the book of Sirach there is a beautiful reflection on the beauty of friendship. “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds; For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.” (Sirach 6:14-17)
A true friend enriches one’s life sometimes even at great risk. For a true friend, while always supportive, will also confront and challenge when necessary. It is in these moments that friendship can be deepened and strengthened. Friendships can also painfully end at these times.
As I approach a half century of living in this world, I am increasingly grateful for the friendships in my life. And yet, I am ever more aware of how fragile and rare true friendships are to any of us.
Recently, I ran in a community race with a true and faithful friend. We met in grade school at Saint Gabriel many years ago and have remained close throughout the years. He is a role model to me because he has faced great adversity and persevered. Unbeknown to me, my friend was addicted to alcohol for many years. The addiction caused incredible heartache in his life. By the grace of God, my friend has gotten help and has been sober for over eight years. What is more, he has been instrumental in helping others to become and remain sober with their addiction.
The other day, my friend shared with me a little bit of wisdom. He said, “Dave, the first lesson they teach anyone in recovery is that the only person you can change in your life is you.”
Change is one of the constants in life. We all would like to think that we are experts on change. We are so good at identifying and telling others about how and what they need to change. In addition, some of us mistakenly think we can change others. Some of the most painful moments in our lives come when we discover we can’t change our loved ones.
The real lesson in life and for that matter with friendship is that we can only change the person in the mirror. And yet, that is not only so humbling but it is also easier said than done.
Summer is a time to rest and reflect. In our reflections we might want to look at our lives to identify the areas where we need to change. If we are having difficulty finding any, perhaps we need to talk to a good friend. In my own life, the older I become, the longer the list grows in terms of what I need to change about myself so that I may truly grow into the person God desires me to be. At the same time, I appreciate all the more the fact that I have a few faithful friends to journey with me through the changes that are necessary, albeit painful, in life. Thank God for friends! May God give us the grace to change according to his plan.