The Shared Work of Friendship


It was Aristotle who observed that authentic friendship had to begin with shared work toward the good. | Tim Muldoon

What might this mean? Friendship, authentic friendship, indeed love, has to be founded on the basis of shared work toward the good. The emphasis on the nature of things shared is an important qualification, since sharing requires among other virtues, that of humility. In sharing, we say to the other, “I entrust to you, a part of what I have,” because to hold on and to keep for oneself is just that – for oneself only. How often we observe in children this dynamic at work when we encourage them to share! Some give happily, letting what they have go to another, trusting that the toy or object will return to them. Others more reluctantly cling on to the object, afraid that if they give up what they have, it’ll be lost from them forever. Learning to share is a lifelong task of refinement that also requires patience.

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To share is to give a part of oneself to another. Image source: Mom 2 BB Reviews

How might shared work contribute to friendship? To have an aim, a cause, a goal, a desire, a dream or a vision for one’s life or worldview is worthwhile, but to let someone else in on that is to entrust another with a certain care and responsibility for a part of that which is near to you, and a part of you. This, I believe, is what Ignatius wrote, taught and practiced: that love ought to be shown more in deeds than in words. [Spiritual Exercises #230] To let another walk with you in this life, to share in the journey together is indeed an act of friendship and love, as much as is accompanying another. True love works mutually in the exchange of giving and receiving. It is breaking bread with one another.

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Prayer:
Loving God, help me to see the good to which I’m called to work. Help me to share in this work, that with the grace of humility I may let go. Give me the courage to say ‘yes’ to you in accompanying another, and the humility to let them accompany me. Help me to enter ever more deeply into your invitation of friendship and love. Amen.

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Editor’s note: The rest of Timothy Muldoon’s insight may be found here.

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