Looking for True Love? First Find True Friendships


kevin dooley

As single and married people, we often get caught up in looking for the perfect “one” (whether it is a getting a current spouse to that state or a future spouse).   This is nice, but we tend to forget that in order to have this “perfect man/woman,” we first need to have him or her as a friend. Friendship is the all important, yet forgotten foundation to relationships which is why so many end so horribly. We see that God did not forget this step as the people He entered into covenants with were His friends. For example, Abraham is called a friend of God (Is. 41:8; Jas. 2:23). Abraham’s friendship with God allowed him to grow in trust of God and eventually become the Father of all of God’s people. So if this is a necessary step for relationships, we must first define friendship, then distinguish true friendships versus false friendships, and then look at some practical advice about friendships.

C.S Lewis defined friendship by comparing it to lovers. He wrote, “Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” In order to become absorbed in one another; the couple must first walk side by side with one another. We see this in the very beginnings when God made Eve from Adam’s rib showing that they are equal or friends. Then they were able to become lovers as Eve became “Mother of all the Living” (Gen. 3:20). Scripture continues to reinforce this as it tells us, “Such is my lover, and such my friend” (Song 5:16). All lovers or those in love must have a common interest in order for the relationship to survive. This lack of common interest is what leads to break-ups, heartaches, and other sad situations. This common interest is what maintains the friendship and the friendship is what solidifies love.

Therefore, we should not build on false foundations and so Scripture warns us about three false friendships. These friendships concern people who “are friends in name only” (Sir. 37:1). So let us look at these false friendships briefly. The first false friendship is described as “the sort of friend [who] is a friend when it suits him, but he will not be with you in time of distress” (Sir. 6:8). These are called friends of utility. These are people who are your friend when they need something or if you can help them with a new job, popularity, to “fill a void or emptiness, etc; but if you need something from them, they are nowhere to be found. These are not people walking side by side or as equals, but more like an owner to a useful piece of property.

The second false friendship is a “friend who becomes an enemy, and tells of the quarrel to your shame” (Sir. 6:9).  This “friendship” is not real as it does not stand the test of disagreement or sacrifice because it is only concerned with having everything okay and avoiding disagreements. Ironically, St. Francis de Sales speaks of this as a sure-sign of a false friendship. If in your “friendship,” you cannot be frank/honest with one another and are always “getting your feelings hurt,” then your friendship is not on solid foundation and probably will not last.

The third false friendship is “a boon companion” (Sir. 6:10). These are friends of fun or people who will be your friend because you can make them laugh or because you are the life of the party. Sadly, these “friends” are like the previous “friendship” and tend to leave as soon as your usefulness subsides.

So we see that these three “friendships in name only” are false precisely because they do not have those involved walking side by side. In these, the only reason one person walks with the other is because the “common interest” is the person him or herself. In other words, “As long as you are useful, agreeable, and/or fun for me, we have a common interest.” A person could not walk side by side with someone for very long with this state of mind as it is self-interested not other oriented.

This orientation towards the other is what defines a true friend. It is only once you have this type of orientation, that you can truly fall in love. Again, the book of Sirach tells us this: Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; those who fear God will find them. Those who fear the Lord enjoy stable friendship (Sir. 6:14-17).

Thus, Scripture tells us this simple lesson: if you want a real friend, you must be a real friend. You must have the common interest of the other regardless of what’s in it for you, or if it’s fun, or even if it means a disagreement or two.

Practically speaking, if you are looking for a true love, or a renewal of the love that you once had in marriage, you must follow the footprint God laid out in Scripture: Get back to true, authentic friendship. Don’t let your spouse or dating partner just “become useful” or “fun to be around.” Allow them to find something in common with you besides just you. Allow the common interest to become God who is “the way, the truth, and life” (Jn. 14:6). If you and your friend walk side by side toward Him, you will eventually find the way to truth, love, and life itself.

You will realize the more you give for the other, the more you will get from each other. Together you will get a loving relationship; a rekindled flame to a friendship based on divine love. Two friends walking side by side dwelling on the face of God and seeing one another reflect the image of God in one another. Thus, the friendship reaffirms God, your friend, and yourself. This is why we shouldn’t forget friendship. Jesus reminds us of this when he says, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends” (Jn. 15: 15). It’s not that being more than friends is a bad thing, but we have to have friendship as a stepping stone to a deeper love. Christ used this method as He invited us into friendship with Him and in doing so, helped us to obtain the true love that satisfies or eternal life.

If friendship was the relationship that Christ started with to find us, shouldn’t we think about finding those lost friendships as well?






11 Comments

  1. Chad-988613 November 26, 2013

    The author’s intentions may be good? The article does offer some information on different kinds of false friends. Nevertheless, I find it both laughable and quite disheartening to see Bible verses twisted to fit an author’s agenda. Case in point – John 15:15 was taken completely out of context. Who was Jesus talking to when he spoke those words? Our Lord was talking to his twelve disciples… all of whom were men.

    A complete refutation of this articles agenda is the beautiful biblical story found in Genesis chapter 24. Here in the very beginning we find God showing us that He wants to work in and through us, if we only trust and obey. Through simple trust and obedience in God and His plan (not our narrow view that a relationship has to be friendship first, etc) do we find the footprint He has laid out for us regarding marriage.

    • Solid foundations for love, not foundations built on sand are not laughing matters (see the parable of the two foundations in Matt. 7:24-27) as the point is that love must be built upon something that will last otherwise it will collapse. It is not as important if the friendship comes chronologically before the love relationship as the fact that it must be the foundation for it.
      Let us look at your example in Gen. 24 of Isaac and Rebekkah. Notice that Rebekkah was an answer to the prayers of Laban’s household and thus is a gift from the Lord (see v. 50). God’s gift to us is love and remember that friends “walk side by side towards a common goal.” If the two people do not walk side by side focuses on the same goal, i.e love, the relationship is doomed to fail. So a romantic relationship must have as its base the two companions/friends having love as their common goal.
      With that being stated, let’s go further into Scripture. Notice God calls us His friends numerous times in Scripture( Lk. 5, Jn. 15) and then His Church continues the pattern in relating to her members in the same way (see 1Jn. 3; 2Cor. 7:1; Phil. 2:12; 2Pet. 3:14). Also notice that in 2Pet. 3:14, Peter is telling his friends, i.e the church, to be spotless. Who else is spotless in Scripture? It is the bride of the lamb (see Rev. 19 and 20). So we see that Scripture does not seperate friendship and the bride, hence does not seperate friendship and marriage, but intimately connects them.
      We also see the example of Peter and our Lord in Jn. 21:15-19. Jesus asks Peter at first does he love Him (the Lord) with an complete total gift of self type of love (known as agape). Peter answers with, “No I love you with a friendship type of love (known as philia). In the end Jesus meets Peter where he was at; with the friendship type of love and allows it to be transformed into the kind of love in which he would give himself completely, as gift, through martyrdom (see Jn. 21:18-19). Now, please understand I am not saying the Peter and our Lord were married, but the fact that he takes Peter’s friendship (philia-love) as the stepping stone to complete self-gift love (agape) is important because it is agape love which is what animates marriage. So we can see clearly that Scripture does show friendship as a solid foundation for marriage.
      Saints and even Doctors of the Church such as St. Francis de Sales suggests the same thing (see his Introduction to the Devout Life, section 3). Bl. John Paul II speaks of this as well in his Theology of the Body (if you’d like to know more about this, see my CEC course (Theology of the Person) linked here: http://cec.classrunner.com/enrol/index.php?id=20 . Hope this helps, thanks for the comment and God bless.

  2. Nate-710050 November 26, 2013

    I think I disagree with the above, friendship is a base to build a solid romance on, it also makes everything comfortable and easy between the two parties when they start dating and is a stable bond in times of trial. I don’t think the author took any Bible quotes out of context, if a man and woman are friends it’s similar to any other friendship, it just allows things to progress slowly and in a relaxed and sensible way. Lightning may strike some couples but it has not been my own experience.

  3. Kathy-730470 November 27, 2013

    I also believe that friendship is a base to build a solid romance on. If you are not friends first how do you get through the trials and tribulations of life ? I was at mass once when my parish priest was talking about friendship. He said before he marries couples he always asks them are you good friends? He says because if you are not good friends you have no business getting married. I believe when you are friends first you have a basis and solid foundation to get through all that comes along. In times of trouble your friendship will help you.

  4. Ana-956081 November 27, 2013

    Some men cannot have female friends…and viceversa. When there’s strong attraction, it is extremely challenging to refrain from physical contact.

  5. Alex-382372 November 27, 2013

    I agree with Ana however both sides of this debate are strong. I’ve known people who immediately started dating and skipped the whole friends first stage unless you count 1 day of constant texting as friendship and are now engaged. I also know the opposite of friends who waited 5 years to get married and months to start dating. It’s different for each person Me personally I don’t do the whole lets be friends first I build both at the same time and it’s just my style.

    • I think all have great points of view, but what’s important is that the friendship is there!!! Without friendship, spouses can’t be best friends and if spouses are not true friends, but become false friends, then the romance dies. Thanks for your comments and God bless.

  6. Mary P. December 3, 2013

    You need to be friends and have attraction as well for it to last as well as many other things.

  7. Erin-997783 December 3, 2013

    I agree with Alex.

  8. When I first read the title of this article, I was curious. I had married my ‘best friend’. I thought it was safer than marrying someone I was romantically attracted to. Yes, I found my spouse attractive, but that wasn’t the predominant feeling. I thought marrying my friend was so safe.

    That was not the case. It turned out he found romance elsewhere while enjoying the friendship and family at home.

    That led me to not trust even friendships, I admit.

    But after reading this, I can better understand that I didn’t marry a friend; I married a false friend. Very different.

    Thanks for the discourse. It’s helping me put this all in a sharper perspective, both about what happened and what God wants to happen going forward.

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