Book Plunge: Spiritual Friendship

What do I think of Aelred of Rievalux’s book on friendship? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I know someone here who has also gone through divorce and he knowing my struggle with it let me borrow this book from him and recommended that I read it. I don’t remember entirely if Aelred ever mentions marriage in it or not specifically, but even if he does, it is not the focus. This is about friendship and is men discussing with themselves what friendship is. Aelred lived in the 12th century, one before my favorite of Aquinas, but his words still speak deeply to us today.

The book can easily be seen as a guide for relationships and what kind of relationships you can enter in to, what kind you should seek out, and how they end. It is also about how you are to be a friend to someone and ways to tell if someone is being a true friend to you. One such example of the latter is normally if you are friends with a poor person, it is genuine. I have friends who have money and some have told me to reach out to them if I am in a bind, but I am hesitant to do so. I love the gifts and generosity when they come, but I don’t want to risk being one of those people who is seeking that out.

Aelred argues that we should love everyone, but we should not seek to be friends with everyone and not everyone is suitable for a friendship. (p. 89) After all, a friend is someone you can trust and bare your heart to. You shouldn’t do that with everyone. This is one reason to not speak out everything on social media.

On the next page, he says that nothing is more detestable than one who harms a friendship and nothing tortures the spirit more than abandonment or attack by a friend. How true! If a random jerk I don’t know mistreats me, that hurts, but if someone is a friend and they do that, that really stings. It happens from time to time and I am sure I have done it sometimes to my friends. I do try to mend the relationships where I can.

He also calls us to a higher standard. If a friend doesn’t love you, love him still. If he withdraws his friendship, do not withdraw yours. (98) It is easy to love someone when they love you and be kind when they are kind to you. It is not so much when they do not love you and are unkind to you.

All of these come from the third book as this book is divided into three books. I found this one to be the most beneficial as did the person who let me borrow it as he has multiple lines underlined and many notes written on the side. Aelred writes with practicality as I don’t know a single person who doesn’t value friendship. It is strange that we value friendship so much, but really, there does not seem to be much being written on friendship from a scholarly perspective.

When I was allowed to borrow this, it was also with the hope that as I enter into other relationships here, dating and friendships, I would be mindful of who I would let into my world. We all should be. Perhaps we could refer to Aelred as theĀ Boundaries writer of the 12th century.

Aside from the language that is used often, I recommend you get this book. Much of it could be read as if it was written today. I hope someday to get my own copy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)