In yesterday’s class, I pointed out what a major issue friendship is for each of us. Do we have enough friends? Are we happy with the quality of our friendships? Why haven’t more people wanted to be our friend? Why aren’t our friends better friends to us? Those questions go to the heart of our self-concept.
The Course, I said, characterizes our condition as one of feeling “alone and friendless.” True, we have friends, but there are so many elements of “enemy,” “stranger,” and “alien” mixed in to each friendship that it’s more accurate to speak of “someone you call a friend” or “the ones you think are friends.” A “cautious friendship” is not a real friendship at all. When it really comes down to it, we are fundamentally alone in this world.
Our typical explanation, of course, is that this is caused by others. They haven’t been willing enough to be our friends or at least to be good friends. Yet the Course (as we would expect) says that this state of being friendless is due strictly to our own choices. We have chosen to be alone and friendless.
How did we make this choice? The consistent answer throughout the Course’s references to “friend” is both simple and compelling: We chose illusions as our friends instead. Who are our chosen friends? Our ego, our body, our specialness, fear and grief, sin and guilt and death, pain, and finally, the physical things of this world. We have decided that these illusions are more important to us than our brothers. And choosing them as friends has automatically shut out real friendship with our brothers. As a result, we are alone with our illusions. We are by ourselves with our imaginary playmates.
This, however, is something we can change. And when we do, we will realize that all along we have been surrounded by friends. We will see a world in which everyone and everything calls to us in soft appeal to be our friend (T-31.I.8:2). And we will recognize in everyone our dearest friend (W-pI.rI.60.3:5). “No longer is the world our enemy, for we have chosen that we be its friend” (W-pI.194.9:6).
How can it be that everyone is our friend? Friendships require certain conditions to establish. You need to know each other. You need a shared history. You need a great deal of likeness; to have certain things in common. And you need above all a mutual affection.
The Course claims that we have all these things with literally every person. We do know each other, and have known each other since we were created by God. Therefore there are no strangers, only “seeming strangers.” We do have a shared history, in which we are influencing each other every moment and have been since the dawn of time. We do have a likeness, in that God created us exactly alike. And we do have a mutual affection. On the level of our true nature, we already love each other with a love that is too deep for words.
If, therefore, we feel let down by people on the level of friendship, if we feel that people have denied us real friendship, then the Course would ask us to look at the illusions we have chosen as our friends instead. That is a choice we can change, and that will allow us to live in a world in which we love everyone for being our “ancient friend.”
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]