Friendship Advent Reflection, December 5

Advent can be a time of great stress and anxiety. One of the most anxiety producing events for many of us can be the office or work party. I have often experienced an awkward tension between wanting to relax with colleagues we like and the need to maintain a professional front for those who have something out for us. At the core, it is a tension between pleasure and utility. Aristotle says there are three types of friendships: those of utility, pleasure, and virtue. Friendships of utility may be akin to some we may have at work. Both parties partake in such friendship as long as each is giving and receiving something that is good or useful. You can think of the colleague, business partner, or client/provider with whom one is friends as long as there is something worthwhile to exchange. You can think of these as "quid pro quo" friendships. Friendships of pleasure are also easy enough to understand. We have friends we just enjoy being around, going out for drinks, watching movies, or engaging in other fun activities. Aristotle, however, says that true friendships are those that are practiced only for the sake of one's friends. As we get into the hectic of this season, with awkward holiday parties, and events that one may or may not want to attend (especially for those of us who are introverts), who are you "true" friends? Who are the friends you enjoy, and who are the friends you have just because you're both getting something useful about it? And as you take time to reflect on this season, who was that one friend who was there for you, just because they cared about you as you truly are? As I think about what's hot in popular culture right now, I am reminded that maybe Mr. Rogers' greatest contribution was his version of the Gospel that he shared daily to children all across the nation, a Gospel of deep and abiding friendship:

I like you as you are
Exactly and precisely
I think you turned out nicely
And I like you as you are

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. 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:


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