I use the word "friends" a lot. I think it's because I'm secretly a Quaker in my inward heart.
(that's right, I secretly covet the hour of silence, or near-silence, listening together for the movement of the Spirit...along with all the justice and peace stuff, the spiritual life, and the cool history.)
Anyway, most of my emails begin with "hello friends," I often call meetings or gatherings to order with "good morning/evening friends," and I preface parts of the liturgy (especially around the confession) with "friends."
I was doing this before Facebook, just so you know. Now "friending" or "defriending" is a normal thing, and we say we have 600 friends even if we may not ever speak to them face to face.
Anyway, I've been thinking today about the word "friend" because, well, it was in the news.
But that mutual relationship also involves a really important component: friends challenge each other. We don't just let the other person devolve into destructive behavior without calling it out. We don't sit by while they do something dangerous. We don't watch while they hurt themselves or others. We don't let bad behavior slide just because we're friends. Real friends are able to say what they think (speaking the truth in love, anyone?), knowing that we'll still be friends afterward. We don't just support blindly, we challenge each other to be our best selves.
When we are afraid to speak up about something a friend does with which we disagree, or about bad behavior we witness, then that's not really a friendship. It's not mutual. It's a shallow relationship based on making each other feel good without much basis in reality--the reality that all human beings are flawed, and sometimes we need accountability.
Accountability may not be popular, but we need it anyway. I need it, you need it, whole nations need it...and that's what friends are for.