The Meaning of Friendship | Inspirational Podcasts

Podcast Transcript: Listen to episode 54 of the Inspirational Living podcast: Spiritual Growth & The Limits of Friendship. Adapted from the book Friendship by Hugh Black.

Friendship at its very best and purest has limits. At its beginning, it seems to have no conditions, and to be capable of endless development. In the first flush of a new-born friendship, it seems almost an insult to question its absolute power to meet every demand made upon it. The exquisite joy of understanding, and being understood, is too keen to let us believe that there may be a terminal line beyond which we may not pass.

Friendship comes as a mystery, formless, undefined, without set bounds; and it is often a sore experience to discover that it is circumscribed and limited like everything human. Yet the discovery is not all a loss. The limitless is also the vague, and it is well to know the exact terms implied in a relationship.

We learn through experience the restrictions on all intimacy, and if we are wise we learn to keep well within the margin. But many a disappointment might have been saved, if we had understood the inherent limitations of the relationship. These are the result of personality. Each friend is, after all, a distinct individual, with will, and conscience, and a life apart—with a personal responsibility which none can take from them, and with an individual bias of mind and heart which can never be left out of account.

As is to be expected, some of the limits of friendship are not essential to the relationship, but are due to a defect in the relationship—perhaps an idiosyncrasy of character or a peculiarity of temper. Some of the limits are self-imposed, and arise from mistake of folly.

A friend may be too exacting, and may make excessive demands, which strain the bond to the breaking point. There is often a good deal of selfishness in the affection, which asks for absorption and is jealous of other interests. Jealousy is usually the fruit, not of love but of self-love.

Life is bigger than any relationship, and covers more ground. The circles of life may intersect, and part of each be common to the other, but there will be an area on both sides exclusive to each. And even if it were possible for the circles to be concentric, it could hardly be that the circumference of the two could be the same. One would be, almost without a doubt, of larger radius than the other.

It is not identity which is the aim and the glory of friendship, but unity in the midst of difference. To strive for identity is to be certain of failure, and it deserves failure, for it is the outcome of selfishness. Your friend is not your property, to be claimed as your exclusive possession. Jealousy is an ignoble vice, because it has its roots in egotism. It also destroys affection, since it is an evidence of want of trust, and trust is essential to friendship…..

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