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The Importance of Genuine Friendship

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May. 14, 2013

Several days after the Boston Marathon bombing, I was talking to a friend about the situation.  The media had just released that Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old bombing suspect, was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.  He had been on campus every day after the bombing, attended classes and parties in the dorms, and worked out in the school’s gym.  When news outlets interviewed friends and classmates of Tsarnaev, they could not believe the Dzhokar they thought they knew was capable of such terror.  Many of them gave accounts of Tsarnaev as  “nice,” “friendly,” and “normal.”  My friend commented that it’s difficult to imagine having a quality friendship with someone and yet not know they are behind such a horrific act.

I think my friend makes a good point.  It made me think about the importance of genuine friendship.  While it is true that some people seem to have no problem living a double life, it’s worth examining the impact of genuine friendships.

Some of Tsarnaev’s friends believe his older brother and co-suspect in the bombing, Tamerlan, brainwashed Dzhokar.  Regardless of how Dzhokar developed his radical leanings, this is a guy who obviously was in need of authentic and positive friendship.

St. Josemaria said, “For this world of ours to set its course in a Christian direction – which is the only one worthwhile – we have to exercise a loyal friendship with all men, based on a prior loyal friendship with God.”[1]  Perhaps if more people, particularly more Christians, were willing to develop genuine friendships, rooted in virtue and love, with anyone within their reach, there would be a sweeping positive impact.  I think it is safe to presume that if Dzhokar Tsarnaev had friends who were true witnesses of the love and mercy of Christ, then perhaps he would not have considered violence a solution to the world’s problems.

College is an amazing opportunity to reach out to others and establish many friendships.  If your college experience is anything like mine, it seemed as though I made a new friend almost daily.  Personal and genuine friendship is an amazing way to bring friends to Christ, call them to greatness, and help them grow in virtue.  Notice I said genuine.  Each person is a beloved son and daughter of Christ possessing inviolable dignity and deserving of authentic and selfless friendship.

Desire to be friends with all those you meet and bring them to Christ.  Be a friend to them as Christ would be a friend to them.  Don’t let them bring you down in the ways that many college students tend to struggle, such as with impure relationships, alcohol and substance abuse, and apathy towards your schoolwork.  Giving into sin never made anyone’s life better.  Prove this to your friends by being Christ to them.  Be a beacon of light in their lives.  Give a persistent and strong example of someone with a constant prayer life, order in their studies and personal life, cheerfulness, joy, and understanding.  You don’t have to force feed people your faith for them to know where you stand.  Be a beacon of virtue.  Though people might disagree with your faith, they will take notice and respect you for living a life of principle.  They will notice you are different because of your independence, loyalty, perseverance, and eagerness to serve and understand where they are coming from.  Never budge on issues of faith and morality and be a great and authentic friend.

We are all waiting for our opportunity to rise to the occasion to be great.  There is no better place to start than friendship.  We all need friends.  As John Donne said, “No man is an island, Entire of itself.”[2]  We are all in this together.  Be a best friend to everyone as Christ has been to you because, as we all know, the world needs authentic friends.

[1] The Forge, 943

[2] Meditation XVII