With a true friend we can share our hopes and discouragements. It is comforting to have an understanding ear to hear our concerns both spoken--and unspoken. It is good to have a person who can serve as a “sounding board” to whom we can vocalize our ideas that seem new or unusual.
Often I clarify my own thinking by sharing my thoughts with a spiritual friend. In speaking to someone, my thoughts have a way of moving out of their “jumble’ into clarity. In conversation, my thoughts which are often circling round and round, repeating themselves over and over, become clear. This seems like a minor miracle.
Sometimes a friend will say—did you ever think of this aspect? Usually it is something I forgot to consider. I rely on the wisdom of others. My spiritual friends remind me, for example, that I can only embrace so many projects at one time. I should not over-commit myself. I must be honest and say that I don’t always follow this good advice.
Friends are of great importance as we seek to discern God’s will. There are, of course, several criteria for discerning God’s will for our lives. The process involve taking a good look at factors both external [e.g. do I have the financial resources to pursue this course of action?] and internal [e.g. do I have a sense of peace when I envision this proposed course of action?]. In discernment we are seeking to make a wise judgment often between two good options. The decision is not completely clear—thus we need to make a judgment.
The wisdom of others is crucial for discernment. Sometimes a friend sees us more clearly than we see ourselves. His or her advice can be a treasure. In the major decisions of life—such as marriage, ordination, and employment—we best consult the wisdom of our spiritual friends. They often see us –our strengths, weaknesses, personalities and circumstances—more clearly than we see ourselves.
Friends help us to see God’s will. At times they speak God’s word to us.
John W. Crossin, OSFS