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The conclusion in a series on friendship by John Cuddeback, Ph.D
The problem in our relationships is often not so much what they are, as what they are not. Our relationships that pass as friendships are often rather non-descript; there is not a lot happening. True friendship requires intentional cultivation; it does not happen by accident. Again, it is focused on growing together in our vocation to be fully human, and fully Christian. Among other things, this requires significant quality time together. At the heart of friendship is being profoundly present to and with one another. This presence is essential both for truly knowing one another, and for growing together in virtue. And this presence is more and more difficult to have.
In this context we can consider the phenomenon of networking sites such as Facebook. Now of course one can have true friendship with a ‘friend’ from Facebook—if that friendship is lived primarily outside of Facebook. But the hidden problem, which can often be significant and unnoticed, is this: does communication on-line tend to replace real presence and living-together? And more broadly, do relationships on-line tend to replace real life relationships? We might at times think: but isn’t it better at least to have communication on this level? While there may be some truth to this, the fundamental problem remains: communication through networking sites tends to replace that most precious of commodities: real presence with true friends.
Aristotle, as well as many great theologians such as St. Thomas Aquinas, holds that in true friendship is found true happiness. This is not poetry; it is philosophical and theological truth. Indeed, our human friendships constitute an essential part of living the “good life” as Aristotle called it. As Christians we can take living friendship and the good life one step further when we say that our ultimate happiness and fulfillment is in friendship with God. Indeed charity itself, of which St. Paul speaks as enduring into eternal life, is ultimately nothing other than an intimate friendship with God to which Christ himself invited us: “I no longer call you slaves…. I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). And this friendship too is ultimately about presence: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (Jn 14:23)
Dr. Cuddeback holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. He is Professor of Philosophy at Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia. He has lectured widely on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, contemplation, and friendship. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association.
This article appears with permission from John Cuddeback. To learn more about Dr. Cuddeback’s course visit CatholicCourses.com.