In this instalment of this short series of teachings on friendship, Hazrat Inayat Khan speaks about the way in which friendship enhances the good points and hides the bad points of our friends. The previous post may be found here.
When a person thinks, ‘I am too good or too kind to you, I have been too devoted to you’, that person forgets that kindness, goodness and devotion are larger than the horizon. No one can be too good, no one can be too kind, and no one can be too devoted. And when there is a discussion between friends, and one says, ‘I have done so much for you, I have suffered so much for you, I have had so much pain on your account, I have had such a difficult life for your sake,’ then he is entering into business. He wants to keep a diary of what he has given in the form of love and kindness and goodness and sacrifice. A true friend makes every sacrifice he can and never thinks about it; he does not even allow his mind to ponder upon the subject. Real friendship means regard, a deep regard, for the pleasure and displeasure of the friend. Is there anything in life which is more delicate than friendship – taking care that no words should hurt the friend, that no action should harm him, that not the slightest shade of coldness may fall on his heart? It is most difficult. If a person has learnt the manner of friendship, he need not learn anything more; he knows everything. He has learnt the greatest religion, for it is in this same way that one will make a way to God. The one who has never learnt the manner of friendship will never know the way to God. He may be God’s worshipper, but he cannot be the friend of God.
There is an attitude which one often sees in friends, and that attitude reveals a divine secret. It is the tendency to cover up from another person any fault that one’s friend has committed; and not only to cover it from the sight of others, but even from one’s own sight. Never thinking about it, never looking at it, interpreting it differently, such a man turns the wrong of his friend into right. And every little good point of his friend, even though it may only weigh an ounce, he makes into a pound. He appreciates and admires it so much, he raises it so high, he considers it so great, that another person cannot imagine how this insignificant idea, this slight merit, can be valued so highly.
In the beginning of my spiritual pursuit, when I went to my murshid, there was no end to my enthusiasm, there was no end to my devotion, there was no end to my excitement about it. I told everybody I met how I felt about the personality of my murshid. Once, in answer to my deep feeling, my murshid said, ‘Friendship in the path of God, friendship in the path of truth, is greater than any friendship in life.’ And at that time I met a very learned man in Hyderabad, with whom I spoke about the deeper things of life. He was interested to hear such deep thoughts from a young man, and said that he would like to see more of me. And in my great enthusiasm I said, ‘If you saw my teacher you would realize that there is no one in the whole world who can be compared with him, so great is he, so wonderful is his personality, so blessed is his presence, so inspiring his glance, so peaceful his atmosphere.’ He said, ‘I would like very much to see him. Where does he live?’ I told him, and then he exclaimed, ‘There? I have lived there for twenty years; it is just next door to my house! What is his name?’ I told him, and he said, ‘I have known him all these years, but I never thought he was so great!’ In twenty years he had not seen what I had seen in a few months. It is friendship that enlightens one; and it is distance that keeps one’s eyes covered.
If we are friends, and if we cannot understand one another, then we are not yet friends; we only think we are friends. But if we understand, then all the beautiful points in us both are made a thousand times more clear because of that friendship. In friendship there is no limitation.
To be continued…