A friendship that isolates you from other friendships is not one worth pursuing. Or, perhaps, is not one that in the longterm will make you the happiest. Why? Because a true friend comes to see and understand that in order for you to be “yourself” you need others to draw out of you words, thoughts, feelings, actions that only they can.
My wife brings out something of me that my children don’t and my children that my wife doesn’t. I bring out something in each of them that only I can.
How I respond in the presence of Steve is not the same as how I respond in the presence of Malcolm. Each of them draw out something of me that the other can’t. I am more myself with two friends than I am with one. This is what makes all our friendships and relationships unique and special. I know something of Steve that I could never know apart from Malcolm, because only Malcolm can draw out that unique aspect or characteristic belonging to Steve. If we are not in the presence of one another, we will ever know each other fully.
A friend who truly loves (and understands the character of love) will not prohibit or avoid other friendships but will encourage and seek them. Two people who isolate themselves are two people who likely think that they don’t need others, that they are better than others, and/or that they would be happier without others. But nothing could be further from the truth. They are in truth now lonelier, emptier, lesser themselves than ever before.
They have friends who from the outside see them and don’t want to be like them. Whatever happiness they perceive from the inside to have is little by comparison to what they could have if their other friends were in their lives and they were in theirs. Those in isolation are caught up in the other, but, really, at the expense of the other. They do not see that they are in reality not gaining but losing each other.
(It’s difficult, if not impossible, to study something from within. For example, any experience of love or joy or hope isn’t at the moment studied or analyzed from within. One is either experiencing something or thinking about the experience. The experience being over, as it were, can then be thought about. This is why we need others, to help guide us through our life experiences. Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”)
Of course those who enjoy a true(r) friendship can also be said to be caught up in it. But true friendship is not me selfishly wanting you for myself, but me delighting and rejoicing in learning more about you, and seeing you become “who you were created to be”. This is no cliché.
The God of the Bible is not an “individual,” as in our modern-day culture’s understanding of individualism, seeking his own way independent of, at the expense of or in complete disregard of others. Rather, He is Love, three in one, Father and Spirit and Son, each of whom in complete and mutual self-giving continually love, delight in, and serve the other. It is this love that God Himself has given and shared in creation and salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. In this image, in God’s image, we have been (re)created.
Wisdom, humility, and love, then, understand that what is required and necessary for us as friends and individuals to grow and to bear fruit is self-giving sacrifice and other-centeredness, not self-seeking and self-centeredness. The many different aspects and facets of “you” that others, in addition to me and apart from me, will bring out is what will enrich our friendship.