It was Aristotle that said “no man is an Island.” He who cannot relate with his fellow human being is either a beast or a god. When we want to do business or seek for one service or the other we are bound to make contacts with our fellow human beings and get our wants and needs catered for. We interact with people we live in the same environment with or our colleagues at work or our classmates.
Those people can be termed acquaintances. There are people who are close to us exclusive of sexual relations and family ties. Such people we call friends.There are according to Aristotle friendship of utility, friendship of pleasure and friendship of virtue. The friendship of utility is the first kind of friendship based on what the two people involved can do for one another and often have little to do with the other individual as a person at all.
The people you buy a drink for so they can score you tickets, or make you feel good by flattering you. That means persons you are good to so that you can get something from them in return. Such friendships as this include offering hospitality. This friendship can end rapidly, as soon as any possible use for the other person is gone. The friendship of pleasure is based on enjoyment of a shared activity and the pursuit of fleeting pleasures and emotions.
The person you drink with but would never have over for dinner. The guy who you go to a football game with but would never be able to tolerate seeing anywhere else. This is, again, an often-short tenured friendship as people may change what they like to do and suddenly be without connection to their friends. In both of these friendships, the other persons are not being valued “in themselves” but as a means to an end.The final category, the friendship of virtue involves liking someone or some persons, for who they are, the people who push you to be a better person. The motivation is that you care for the person themselves and therefore the relationship is much more stable than the previous two categories.
These friendships are hard to find because people who make the cut of “virtuous” are hard to find. Aristotle laments the rarity of such friendships, but notes they are possible between two virtuous people who can invest the time needed to create such a bond. This third type is what I call soul friendship. (https://bigthink.com/personal-growth/do-you-have-true-friendships-why-aristotle-thinks-you-dont/).Soul friendship is built. It is not easy to come by.
Many are afraid of it. It is a friendship that can save your life without financial transactions. It is a friendship that was common before the advent of smart phone in Igbo land. My uncle in his late 70s would tell me how their mates come together to have discussion from around 4:00pm to 8:00pm after school or work in the 1960s. They would converge at a friend’s house talking about their success and problems.
After such friendly discussions, sad faces left smiling, indecisive minds go with pieces of information for making informed decisions, and downtrodden hearts are consoled. Problems really shared were half solved in those days. Since people rarely share deep problems today, cases of suicide (79 persons committed suicide in Nigeria as recorded by punch newspaper of 31st January, 2023), use of pornography and other toxic habits like doing drugs are on the increase. For example, every second, nearly 30,000 persons view pornographic websites (http://www.healthnew.ng).
“Many people who turn to pornography and alcohol do so to ease the pain of general loneliness. A man could simply be hungering for intimacy of family or friendship” (P. Kleponis 2014). One who comes from a family where the father is an alcoholic and his mother works from 7am to 7pm daily may not experience the closeness kids need when growing up.
The coldness experienced in the family will affect one. Thus, one may find it difficult maintaining friendships. The pain of loneliness will move one to spending hours viewing porn where he will see those who are ready for his time.
One working in an establishment that is very cold to workers or where people suspect each other is susceptible to such loneliness.Another thing that can lead one to drug, pornography and alcohol addiction and even suicide is unresolved anger. This anger can come from a family, may be where one’s spouse is demanding and bad tempered.
The anger can come from an oppressive boss in a place of work. It can come from life situations where one has failed JAMB many times or work interview many times leading one to be angry with oneself and life. It can come from failed relationships. Thus such frustrations can lead one to self-medicate using pornography, alcohol or drugs. In extreme cases suicide may be an option (let me end it once and for all).
All these challenges listed above and more that moves us to addictive behaviour are what a soul friend can respond to. Instead of watching porn, doing drugs or getting drunk, sharing one’s anger, loneliness, and frustrations with a friend will detach one from these dangerous habits of pornography, alcoholism and drugs, over eating or feeling depressed.
Thus our smart phones instead of being used to click on pornographic sites should be used to chat up a soul friend and tell him how one feels, one’s pains, loneliness, frustrations, anger, worries, stress and anxiety which are on the increase today.In Gen 2: 18 God said, “It is not good that a man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him”.
This shows that birds of the air, trees and other created things were not able to keep man company to the extent of removing loneliness, frustrations etc in his life. So as old as creation, non-human creatures were not able to fill the void in man. Smartphones, drugs cannot fill the emptiness in man. It was after the creation of Eve that Adam said “this at last is the bone of my bones and the flesh of my flesh.”(Gen 2:23) We need the bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh if we want our anxieties and loneliness to be properly responded to.
Do you have somebody you can confide your emotional problems to?When life becomes unbearable because of attack from enemies for doing good or refusing to join in their evil plans, soul friends are of good help. David and Jonathan were soul friends. When David was being attacked by Saul, Jonathan provided him with reassuring presence and support.
In 1 Samuel 19 Jonathan interceded for David before his father, King Saul who wanted to kill David out of jealousy. We need those who will intercede for us, those who are interested in our problems, our enemies. The thought of such friends who wish us better life on our side, is fulfilling. 1 Samuel 20 presents us with Jonathan who advised David to run that his father Saul wants to kill him. Do we have friends who can tell us what will kill us?We cannot comfortably handover our precious gifts and assets to anybody. They can only go to safe hands of our soul friends.
We need those we can handover our assets to when we are gone. In Gospel of John 19, Jesus was left with his Mother. That was all he had. The disciples had left him. He hanged on the cross alone. Even the Father seemed to have forsaken him (Luke 23:46). He looked around and his soul friend John, the disciple whom he loved was there, (John 19:26-27).
He handed his Mother Mary to John. You cannot give your mother to anybody but to somebody. Do we have someone you can handover your precious gifts: our parents, assets? Jesus gave his Mother to John knowing that she will be in safe hands. Do we have safe hands in our lives?Those who build fitness tend to be steadfast if they have a friend they can go to gym with. It is not easy being the only courageous man fighting for justice or trying to live a chaste life. Having a companion in lives’ battle is encouraging and tend to lessen the burden or effort one needs to make. So were St. Gregory and Basil.
They competed with each other in holiness. St Gregory has this to say about his friendship with St. Basil “We seemed to be two bodies with a single spirit…. In our case each of us was in the other and with the other. Our single object and ambition was virtue and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come; we wanted to withdraw from this world before we departed from it.
With this end in view we ordered our lives and actions. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule of discerning right from wrong.”(On the Holy Spirit by Saint Basil the Great, bishop) Thus they will always help each other from falling into sin.Finally, When Jesus was carrying his cross to Calvary, his apostles having left him, he felt so lonely as many were screaming and yelling at him, soldiers flogging him. But he did not give up, instead he searched for a friendly face in the crowd.
He saw her mother, she cannot make the hurting stop, but it helps to see that she is on his side that she is suffering with him. She does understand and care. We can sometimes feel overwhelmed by many things about life: its competitiveness, fear of the future, disappointments and failures.
We need to remember that being an adult does not mean having to solve every problem by oneself. We have to look around for a friendly face for the help we need. We need such faces or at least one of them in our lives (Stations of the Cross, fourth station from https://ww.catholic .org.)