Coming to a new school, I have found it difficult to make friends. What’s the sitch? I found it hard to be receptive to this natural affection arising towards particular people. Many times I experienced a frustration and a fear in only having an affection for another person. I knew this affection was not friendship, and with only this emotion, I feared that self-absorption and use were right around the corner and I’d prefer not to go there. This frustration and fear found patience and peace when I began just risking the self-absorption and use in search of love. I also started reflecting on how my previous friendships came about. They began with a sympathy. The Greek translation of sympathy is as follows:
BEAN experienced a togetherness through the affection and camaraderie we had for one another. In Love and Responsibility, Karol Wojtyla says that sympathy “means above all that which ‘happens’ between people in the realm of their emotions” (1). When I was younger, this emotion was never questioned. Yes! I love this person! Yay people! I had experienced minimal rejection, hurt, lust, and my need for deeper relationships was smaller. Sympathy was a clear positive. I’ve come to learn that sympathy is a kickstart, but not a foundation for a relationship.
“The most profound, by far the most important element is the will” (2).
Ah! The dreaded phrase: “will it.” For St. John Paul II, this phrase causes no dread because he understands that the will is the creative power of love in man (3). He says, “sympathy is not by any means the whole of love, any more than excitement and emotion are the whole of a human being’s inner life-it is only one element among others” (4). For people to become friends they must both decide to consider the other as a value in herself. For example, there is a girl I’ve wanted to be friends with. There was a sympathy between us, uncreated by ourselves. We enjoyed having class together, and both think the professor is funny at certain moments when others don’t seem to. It’s great. I enjoy sharing the class with her. It was perplexing to me to understand how to become friends. Did we just need more time to ‘bond’?
Wojtyla explains that there is “a need for sympathy to ripen into friendship and this process normally demands time and reflection” (5). I’ve been learning the value of reflection in the past couple of years. Sometimes to my determent as I can overthink things, but it has also helped foster beautiful and deep relationships, as I discovered sitting with Noey in the coffee shop. I hadn’t seen her in a while, I wasn’t looking to bond with her, but I had been thinking about her and the things she had going on in her life. This natural sympathy had time to grow, and with reflection I was discovering her anew as a good friend.
The patience in this process can be a challenge. I looked up to another woman I kept running into on campus. Even more than admiring her, I wanted to be her friend. I think I had what I hear often termed as a “friend crush”. I invited her to have lunch with me a few times, and there was a frustration within me. We’re not friends. This is where Wojtyla’s words can be applied: “this process normally demands time and reflection.” Patience is key.
Why is it worth the effort? Wojtyla explains that moving into friendship from sympathy is what it means to love. He says, “love consists in the thoroughgoing transformation of sympathy into friendship” (6). I was loving my friend Noey and in that love I discovered friendship. New relationships usually take this same time and reflection. With this effort, sympathy is discovered within the context of the value of the other. Sympathy is valuable because it is our awareness of mutual love. When it is discovered in the context of a matured love, it is something beautiful. BEANs ground up in the blender of time and reflection is the beginning of some pretty good coffee.
1. Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility, 89.
1. Ibid 90.
1. Ibid 92.