Friendship Advent Reflection, December 6

When Facebook first started, I resisted joining. That lasted for several years. I didn't want a computer network to control my sense of relationships and sense of self. Like so many others, I finally joined. Some days, especially when I get trolled or in a political fight with someone, I just want to quit. Other times I find it a blessing to see pictures of family and friends. Sometimes it just makes me lonely or jealous of others' great lives. Recently, in the last few months, I reached a milestone, over 1000 friends! No offense intended to any of you who may be reading this (actually there's only about a dozen of you, according to my blog records), but I don't think that all 1000 of my Facebook "friends" are actually my friends. It is a social network. However, the questions of size of friendship networks have been puzzling philosophers throughout the ages.

Plutarch wrote a treatise about the subject, "On Having Many Friends." Building on the foundation of the earlier Greek philosophers, he thought about the distinction between the kinds of friendship--and came to the conclusion that one cannot have a large number of true friends. An influential, rich, or powerful person may have many "friends." But we become deluded or lost if we think of all of those people as true friends. Though one can have a large social network, only a handful of people in life show you the kind of virtuous friendship, friendship for the sake of friendship itself, that Aristotle describes. So, how many "friends" do you have? Are you thankful for those few who are truly your friends? Is there anyone in your social network who may need more friends who care about them just the way they are? Maybe in this season of year when so many face loneliness and sadness, perhaps you can reach out to them.

Each day of advent, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, I plan to post a few thoughts on an aspect of friendship I learned while writing my book, Virtuous Friendship: The New Testament, Greco-Roman Friendship Language, and Contemporary Community, available on Amazon through this link. This will be a chance for me to share with you all a little bit from what I learned, while giving you, hopefully, a chance to take a deep breath during this busy season and do some reflection. Also, you won't have to secure another resource for Advent. I realize that you are all at many different places with regard to faith and belief, so use these reflections however you see fit. If you'd be interested in having me come speak at your church, lead a Bible Study, or even just Zoom or Skype in for a Q&A with a Sunday School class or other small group, let me know: doug.hume@pfeiffer.edu.

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