akryl på lærred
akryl på lærred
Venskab og tro
(delivered to the conference of Tværkulturelt Center
Copenhagen November 3, 2007
Friendship and Faith
(Venskab og tro)
Introduction:We are all social beings. We need each other. We need friends. Life is very difficult without friends.
In the beginning I would like to point out what I consider the four dimensions of friendship. They are friendship to one’s self. One song says, “Would you take better care of yourself? Would you be kinder to yourself. Would be more forgiving to your human imperfection when you’d realize that your best friend is yourself.” The second is friendship to others- friendship to our fellow human beings. The third is friendship to nature or creation like plants, animals, seas, mountains and rivers, not befriending them leads to our own destruction and the fourth is friendship to God, our common Creator.
For now let me limit myself with the second dimension, and that is friendship with our co-human beings, these people or human creatures who can be intercultural because they represent different culture, language and religion, these are people who could be different from us, those whom we are not used to.
What do I expect of friendship with these inter-cultural beings?’
- I expect a friend whom I can feel at home with, a friend who can listen and allow me to be myself, a friend who is able to appreciate what I am. All of us need a positive affirmation of what and who we are. We need to be affirmed that we are good, wonderful and that we are valued. A friend should be positive in saying comments like: “That was great. You have done it nicely. Tillykke or congratulations. ” A friend can partially speak to our hungry egos, which at the moment can make us happy and glad. Of course, we can tell if a comment is honest or if it is only to flatter.
- I expect a friend who is not only to give me positive affirmation but one who can be honest in giving criticism on areas where I have done wrong. I expect a friend who helps me see my own limitations and at the same time points out that we share the same mistake. One who is able to say, “Jeg kender det godt”. “ I know it well. I understand.” I need a friend who can give an honest criticism on what I do or have done but not criticising me as a judge but as a friend.
- I expect a friend who gives me quality time. In Denmark there is often talk of stress syndrome. People are very busy and are engaged in many different activities that they claim they don’t have enough time to do everything they need to do. But we all need a friend who can make a phone call, who can bank at our door, a friend who can sit down over cup of tea or coffee and give us time to talk and listen. We need a friend who does not forget us but would like to set aside time to be with us.
A Danish friend in Brøndby Strand who has been a friend for more than 11 years now takes time to visit us in Christiansfeld, cook with me, sleep in our house and I think this friendship will continue in the future as her own children has been friends to my own kids. I`ve got a Danish friend who has learned the Asian or African way of visiting without informing first through telephone or verbal agreement. Her visits make good surprises in life. We need this.
There is also an Asian friend whom I invited three times to come and eat with us but refused. There are a number of reasons for the refusal after having said yes. But this kind of friendship can only be a casual friendship, of saying hello when we meet or saying goodbye when we turn away from each other. It is only casual friendship when there is no time to talk about personal things, things that affect us, things that make us happy, or things that make us cry.
- I think the level of friendship is deepened when one is able to cry before a friend. And I think, this is the most beautiful part in friendship—to find someone whom we can trust, and with whom we can share even the most shameful or painful part of our being/our life. There are not many in the world with whom we can build this kind of deep friendship and if we find them, we ought to be so grateful, that we find a friend or friends with whom we can share the most sensitive part of our life and then experience that we are accepted and comforted. This gives us relief. Friendship like this gives us the sustaining power to live.
So quickly we can be burned out, we can reach a level of despair even if we are Christians or even if we have deep and religious convictions. We are not excused from coming to a point of seemingly losing hope, of experiencing that things are dark and yet having a friend in deep friendship who says, “Stop there. Can I help? What can help you with? “ means a lot. This sincere friend becomes God’s gift in darkness that supports us and help us regain strength again. I call these friends as angels. I often say to this friend, “Thank you for being an angel to me this time. “ And often they laugh as response to this declaration/affirmation.
- Deep friendship is also watered by laughters. That we can laugh together at certain jokes, that we can laugh at ourselves, that we can do crazy things and can call ourselves as crazy people. Joy is a great part of friendship. That we are together in things that need to be celebrated: move to another house, change of work, good news of a birth of a child, confirmation or baptism; anniversaries, travels, Id (celebration after Ramadan) and so on and so forth.
- But friendship is not only sharing on the feeling or emotional level—of joy and tears but also on the intellectual level. I expect a friend I can come in dialogue with on certain issues like Danish election, on politics on welfare, war, refugees and asylum, on family and children, school and so on and so forth.
It is very boring if one friend talks and the other’s role is only to listen. Friendship should have the two-way traffic in communication. Both are in active dialogue with each other, not scared to think, reflect and argue and not to be afraid of conflict in ideas and convictions
- I expect a friend who can keep secrets. Trust between friends is destroyed when confidentiality is not observed. We can be happy and open people but we do value friends who cannot open their mouth all the time. This also is two- way traffic. Confidentiality is very much necessary in friendship. One psychological thinking (Johari`s windown) says, that everyone of us has a hidden area in our life which keeps the secrets about us which only few have access to enter or know. And if we can find friends whom we can share the deepest part of our secret without being scared of being betrayed of our trust, then we are very lucky.
- The last is the ability to forgive. Friendship is a form of relationship, which can go through difficulties because of misunderstanding, cultural conflicts or wrong timing in saying or doing things. Friendship can go sour. A friend can be so angry, a friend is able to explode in high temper enabling the other to experience being hurt but friendship rooted in faith is able to forgive, able to give a friend another chance. Friendship is also having courage to be forgiven. Courage to ask for forgiveness if we have done wrong to our friend can only be done out of humility in the heart.
In my present school I stand as school guard for children many of them are children with another ethnic background. Two times a week during frikvarter or recess I go out to the playground and watch the children play. I have experienced a number of times children who fight and become no longer friends. Vi er uvenner they say. And I spend time asking them what happened giving each one the chance to explain. At the end I say, look at each other, look into the eyes. Can you say, undskyld?(sorry) There are many of them who are quick to do it. Undskyld and they go back to play and they are friends again. Very simple and very easy!There are also those children who find it very difficult to say sorry to each other. "Det var ham. Det var ikke mig.It was him, it was not me, "they say. And I tell them. Do not go back to play. You have to sit here together and talk. You can also choose never to talk to each other. But if you cannot find it out how to be friends again, you will only sit down here until the bell rings and of course, many of them choose not to simply sit, they would like to go back to play. They find it very easy to shake their hands and say sorry. And they play again as if nothing has happened. They find it very easy to forget being hurt.
But among us, the adults, it is much different. We have our good ways of evading old friends whom we think have been bad to us, or those who have hurt us. But still the Christian faith calls for the act of forgiveness in this form of relationship, that friendship that turns sour should be rebuilt again. Friendship is still under God’s grace. We forgive our friends because we are forgiven. Maybe it is very easy to say this but difficult to practice but still the same, I say, there is ministry involved in friendship that God’s love can still be reflected not only in good times but also in bad times.
In conclusion let me say, friendship is universal experience among people of different faiths and cultures. It is a great privilege and a natural need of every social being. In spite of our differences, we do need friends and have expectations out of this friendship, if this friendship should work and develop and become a great blessing for our life. Friendship is a gift given which we need to give back.
- We need friends whose company we can feel at home with, whose company we feel being positively affirmed and valued.
- We need friends in whose honesty in making criticism on our action, still accept and share our fragile humanity that makes faults and mistakes, and in whose friendship we feel accepted and not judged.
- We need friends who have time and make time to be with us and to share with us.
- We need friends whom we can be free to cry and share the depths of our heart.
- We need friends who can laugh with us, who celebrate and share our joys in life.
- We need friends who can challenge our reason, our rationality and not only our feelings or emotions.
- We need friends whom we can trust and who can keep confidentiality
- We need friends who can forgive us and can ask forgiveness in humility.
I hope that this conference will enable us to renew old friendship and build new friendship.
We all need it. This is the reason why I come to this conference year after year.
Elizabeth Padillo Olesen
November 3, 2007
Tværkulturelt Konference, Venskab på tværs