Friendship is a word that is often recklessly tossed around. The implication of Gandhi’s vision, however, is that there can be no friendship without nonviolence. There can be bonding; we bond with one another sometimes in violent practices — think of the bonding of soldiers in combat, which can be intense, but remains limited because it depends on an “other” we’re bonding against. This is not what Gandhi is calling true friendship. Being a friend is a skill. It is also a kind of vow. When we promise our true friendship to another person, we are telling them that our love for them will be unconditional. That we want to be better people through the bond, and we need a mirror for ourselves–someone who will help us to hold up a higher image with which we can work–a person who will help us to remember why we are here, and will stand up to us when we have made a mistake. This friend lives within us, and not even death can take them away.
Not everyone has such a friend, but there is hope, for the power of the ideal of true friendship is that every one of us has the potential to be such a friend. In fact, that kind of friendship need not stop with two people but can actually be a model for the “beloved community.” Nonviolence gives us the tools we need to give ourselves to one another in this way–an entire worldview, actually, where healing, restoration, empowerment and honest communication take precedence over separateness.
Think about your friendships today and consider how you can deepen those friendships in a way that is beneficial to everyone.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 firstname.lastname@example.org