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You're my friend

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

I call everyone “friend.” It's a spiritual practice for me.

I learned to use “friend” rather than “sir/ma’am” (I live in the South, where that is still commonplace), “friend” rather than “sweetie,” or “dear”– rather than “girl,” “lady,” “woman,” “bro,” or “hon.” I learned it from the Quakers, and from my recovering-Catholic bestie, who always calls me “friend." It feels sweeter than any other name she could use.

I find this practice helps orient me toward that Benedictine notion of welcoming all people I encounter as if they were Christ (because they are). And John 15.15 teaches me that Jesus calls me “friend” as well…

I find that calling everyone “friend”–the cashier at the gas station, the radiologist who just squashed me into a mammogram machine, the five-year-old geology enthusiast next door, the committee member who often presents as the Designated Grouch–helps orient me toward compassion instead of judgment, equality instead of hierarchy, inclusion instead of patriarchy, respect instead of infantilization.

Like Fred Rogers’ use of “neighbor,” it helps erase the other labels I would be tempted to apply. It keeps me humble and encourages me to be more authentically present with others.

And when I find “friend” hard to say, or find myself tempted to use a more judgmental label (or expletive! –I’ll be honest), I can notice it (mindfulness) and take the opportunity to sort out my feelings and needs (NVC).

Usually, I just need to shift my attitude to one of greater compassion–first for myself, and then to the person it’s hard to name as my “friend.” Usually, I just need to remember that all people are God’s people. Calling them “friend” is another practice that helps move me from “You’re nothing like me,” to “You’re something like me,” to “You’re nothing but me.” (Thanks, Douglas Brooks.)

Some questions to consider:

  1. Who are the people you find hardest to name as “friends,” and why? What do you call your friends and neighbors? The people you run into day by day?

  2. Does a spiritual practice of calling everyone “friend” seem appealing to you in any way? Is there a word that would work better for you? Or is there another way to remind yourself of the reality that we are all equally held in God’s love?

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