Pope Francis recently admitted, “I have felt used by fake friends.” According to him, people he has only met once or twice have come out of the woodwork, falsely claiming close alliances with him, for self-serving reasons. Have you ever felt used by someone?
Perhaps you thought they would be your friend for better or worse, only to find they dropped away as soon as the going got a little tough. Perhaps your hopes for an honest and loving, mutually-supportive friendship went awry, as the other party desired a more surface-level acquaintance that did not go too deep or challenge them too much. Perhaps you thought of a friend as akin to family, only to find they thought of you as very separate from family, indeed.
No worries, Pope Francis teaches. It can be hurtful, but he reminds: “Friendship is something sacred. The Bible says to have one or two friends.” So we can continue loving others and reaching out to them, extending the balm of true friendship, but realizing that it will rarely be returned in the fullest sense of the word (as opposed to social media’s sense where we have hundreds or even thousands of “friends.”)
True friendship is not two people mirroring each other, or merely spending pleasant time together, telling each other what they want to hear. It is not simply “liking” each others posts on social media. True friendship helps both parties grow, which means honesty and authenticity are absolute musts. In a society lulled by facade, this can be tough to find.
In the words of George Washington, “True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity, before it is entitled to the appellation.” So cherish the impulses in you that wants to befriend others sincerely and authentically, even when they have trouble receiving that unvarnished attention.
Treasure the true friends you find, and be patient with the rest. Remember to be a true friend to yourself, too, and be ready to meet the challenges that kind of honest love requires.