Recently I have been thinking quite a lot about ‘friendship’. I am aware that Friends are precious gifts who deserve to be cared for, nurtured and prioritised. I am very thankful for the wonderful friends I have and have had over the years but I am also aware of my own shortcomings as a friend. This general mulling led me to this little book that has sat gathering dust on my bedside table for some time now.
Vaughan Roberts is the rector of St Ebes a large evangelical Anglican church in Oxford and consequently his book on True Friendship is a biblical look at the many facets of being a friend.’ However, it is so full of sensible observations and practical suggestions I really feel it has an enormous amount to say to both Christians and non- Christians alike.
It is divided into 6 short chapters that each address a different aspect of what true friendship is. Each aspect handily begins with the letter C: Crucial, Close, Constant, Candid, Careful and finally Christ Centred. Verses from the book of Proverbs are examined and applied throughout.
Gaining friends is actually very easy today if we subscribe to Facebook and the like. However, how many of these so called friendships are crucial, close, constant or any of the other C’s? Developing close friendships doesn’t happen by accident it requires time and effort. If true friendship is to be constant, friendships must not only be made but also worked on. Vaughan recognises that we can’t possibly maintain contact with every friend we have ever had and that friendships change and evolve over time. However to maintain a constant ‘inner circle’ of friends we do need to ensure that we keep a few of our old friendships in good repair as well as developing new ones. Of course all of this requires considerable effort. In busy lives we must be prepared to prioritise the time it takes to nurture and develop our friendships.
True Friendship requires care. Gossip is a definite no . We need to be emotionally sensitive, but not emotionally dependent. We must be discerning, and able to recognise boundaries. This book not only lays down these high standards but with use of relevant bible verses and examples gives suggestions on how we might aim to achieve them.
The writing is clear and each chapter is well structured with questions at the end which are helpful for reflection. I found myself underlining words and sentences as I was reading as there were lots of ‘little gems’ that I knew I would want to come back to in the future. I frequently recognised aspects of my own character in Vaughan’s analysis which sometimes made for slightly uncomfortable reading but it has given me plenty to work on.
This is really not a self help book; it is so much more than that. If you would like to understand True Friendship in a gospel context or if you would simply like to be a better friend then I recommend this book to you.