"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Prov. 18:24 ESV). I have known very few of such friends. But have I been such a friend to others -- a friend who would stick closer than a brother?
I have learned that to be this kind of friend requires me to be honest, trustworthy, transparent and vulnerable. In the past, I have not been willing to be this kind of friend. I had a reputation to uphold -- a false interpretation of myself. Now that I have been freed from wearing that mask I can, in time, truly be a friend.
Henri Nouwen, in his journal, published as The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom, writes the following to himself regarding true friendship. As typical of so much of his writing, I could have written the exact same journal entry to myself.
Friendship has been a source of great pain for you. You desired it so much that you often lost yourself in the search for a true friend. Many times you became desperate when a friendship you hoped for didn't materialize, or when a friendship begun with great expectations did not last.
Many of your friendships grew from your need for affection, affirmation, and emotional support. But now you must seek friends to whom you can relate from your center, from the place where you know that you are deeply loved.
Friendship becomes more and more possible when you accept yourself as deeply loved. Then you can be with others in a non-possessive way. Real friends find their inner correspondence where both know the love of God. There spirit speaks to spirit and heart to heart.
True friendships are lasting because true love is eternal. A friendship in which heart speaks to heart is a gift from God, and no gift that comes from God is temporary or occasional. All that comes from God participates in God's eternal life. Love between people, when given by God, is stronger than death. In this sense, true friendships continue beyond the boundary of death. When you have loved deeply, that love can grow even stronger after the death of the person you love. . . .
When Jesus died, the disciples' friendship with him did not diminish. On the contrary, it grew. This is what the sending of the Spirit was all about. The Spirit of Jesus made Jesus' friendship with his disciples everlasting, stronger and more intimate than before his death. That is what Paul experienced when he said, "It is no longer I, but Christ living in me" (Gal. 2:20). . . .
Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as to those whom God has given you to love.
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 80-81.