"A man who has friends must himself be friendly." Proverbs 18:24
There are some people who make it very hard for others to be their friends. They put friendship to unreasonable tests. They make demands upon it to which only the largest patience and the most generous charity will submit.
There are some people who complain that they have no friends, and perhaps it is true. There are none with whom they have close personal fellowship. They have no friend who is ready to share in all their life, rejoicing with them in their joys, and walking beside them under any burden of care or anxiety. They seem without real companionship, although all around them throng other lives with the very things of love for which their hearts are crying out. Then they think that the fault is with other people, whom they regard as uncongenial, selfish, lacking in the disposition to be friendly. But, really, the fault is with themselves. They make it all but impossible for anyone to enter into close personal intimacy with them. Nothing less holy and less divine than mother love could endure the exactions and demands which they put upon those, who, if they could, would gladly stand in the relation of friends to them.
There can be close friendship only where there is mutual unselfishness and perfect trust. It cannot be all on one side. We cannot expect our friend to give all — while we give nothing. We cannot ask that he be generous, patient, confiding, self-denying, thoughtful — while in our bearing toward him, all these qualities are lacking.
Jesus bears with us in all our sad faultiness, is patient toward all our weakness and sin, and is our faithful, unfailing Friend, although we give him but little in return, and that little mingled with doubts, complainings, murmurings, ingratitude. Many of us make it hard even for Christ to be our friend!
But we cannot expect any human friend, however loving, to be equal to Christ in forbearance and patience with us. There may be one or two people among those who know us who are unselfish enough to cling to us in spite of all our wounding of their affection, and all the needless burden that we put upon their faithfulness. But such friends are very rare, and the man is fortunate who has even one who will be such a friend to him while he puts the friendship to such unreasonable tests.
One way in which friendship is made hard, is by doubting and questioning. There are those who demand that the assurance of faithfulness shall be repeated in words continually. Love trusts, even if there is no avowal. The demand for constant reiteration soon destroys the comfort of friendship.
Another way in which friendship is made hard is by an exacting spirit. There are those who seem to think of a friend only as one who should help them. They value him in proportion to the measure of his usefulness. Hence they expect him to be always doing things for them. They have no conception of the lofty truth that the heart of friendship is not the desire to receive — but the desire to give. We cannot claim to be another's friend if all we want of him is to be served by him. We are only declaring our own unmitigated selfishness when we act upon this principle. Yet there are those who have no other thought of friendship.
Friendship is made hard also when one would claim another exclusively for one's own. There are such people. They want their friend to show interest in no other person, to do kindness to no other. People have been known to demand that the one who is their friend, shall be theirs so exclusively as scarcely to treat others respectfully. Such a spirit cannot but make friendship very hard.
No one who has a true conception of life's meaning is willing to be bound in such chains. We cannot fulfill our mission in God's great world of human beings, by permitting ourselves to be tied up in this sentimental fashion to anyone. No worthy friendship ever makes such demands. A man need be no less your friend, no less loyal and helpful to you — because he is the friend of many more who turn to him with their cravings and needs, and find strength and inspiration in him. The heart grows rich in loving, and your friend becomes more to you through being the friend also of others. But if you demand that he shall be your friend only, you practically make it impossible for him to be your friend at all.
These are suggestions of some of the ways in which too many people make it hard for others to be their friends. We can get the most and the best from our friends . . .
by being large-hearted and trustful ourselves,
by putting no restraints on them,
by making no demands or exactions of them,
by seeking to be worthy of whatever they may wish to do for us,
by accepting what their love prompts in our behalf,
proving our gratitude by a friendship as sincere, as hearty, as unselfish, and as helpful, as it is in our power to give.
Thus shall we make it easy for others to be our friends, and shall never have occasion to say that nobody cares for us.