affections crush

How to Mature a "Friend Crush"

6:00:00 AMEmma Lindle

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When I was a freshman in high school I joined the soccer team. Three other girls and I had a bond. We called ourselves the BEAN, each letter standing for an initial to each of our names. Classic. A natural affection drew us together as well as the camaraderie of our team. Over Christmas break eight years later I was sitting in a coffee shop with ‘N’ of the BEAN, my friend Noey. There was sympathy between us, but our relationship has grown. We had become friends. 

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:

Syn-together with 
Pathein-to experience 

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. 

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The weakness of sympathy is that it enhances the value of the person based on a positive emotional response. I become aware of the other person’s value through the sympathy she has for me or I for her. For example, a particular woman compliments me a lot, or makes me feel welcome, or eases my stress in a particular class by her amiability. Her value is enhanced to me based on this positive emotional response I receive. This is of little concern when the relationship is simple, but we are all in need of some deeper relationships, and some relationships demand greater depth. Sympathy is a weakness because it doesn’t involve the will and it easily values emotion over the other person. 

“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’? 

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I hear so much about the dignity of the human person. For those of you who don’t get to hear about it, each person is valuable. Not for what they can do for me, society, or themselves, but they have a value in an of themselves that cannot be taken away or destroyed. They also have a specific destiny. Yes, people, all people, have this value. I hear this message so much in general terms that I forget it must be applied to my circumstances! Yes, I can become friends with this woman in my class if I apply this generality to our circumstance. She has this intrinsic value and destiny. I don’t fully understand this, nor do I know her path to her destiny, but these things are the deepest truths of her life. In reflecting on them, I grow in good will for her. I am less concerned about bonding, and more receptive to friendship.

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. 

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Image 1
1. Wojtyla, Karol. Love and Responsibility, 89.
Image 2
1. Ibid 90. 
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
Image 3
1. Ibid 92. 
2. Ibid. 
Image 4

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