Is there a difference between an Ignatian friendship—a friendship inspired by the spiritual wisdom of St. Ignatius Loyola—and other types of friendship?
I posit that an Ignatian friendship is an intentional relationship modeled on the idea of magis, a word that means more, but for our purposes, we’ll expand that to define magis as the greater good. An Ignatian friendship is therefore grounded in the idea of one friend desiring the greatest good for the other.
Contrast that with most casual friendships based primarily on proximity. In a casual friendship, I may avoid difficult situations, never resolve long-simmering arguments, or deny the reality of necessary change, because it’s easier that way and I don’t want to cause friction or anger in the relationship.
In my Ignatian friendships, I expect a level of transparency and acknowledgment that we seek to know God’s will for us. We live in a way that honors a higher calling for our lives and our friendship and honors the centrality of God in our lives.
Other friendships may not require that much from me, only a little cleverness, an easygoing attitude, and a willingness to socialize on a regular basis. Essentially, if I’m a pleasant person to drink a beer with, hang out with, or go to a movie with, those traits hold together the relationship. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of friendship, unless it cannot sustain the hardships that life inevitably brings our way. When times get tough, we might discover we have—or that we are—fair-weather friends rather than real friends.
So when does a friendship grow from being a casual one to an Ignatian friendship? Almost by design, a friendship based on Ignatian spiritual wisdom truly kicks in when the hard times hit. I know a little something about this. My three best friends all stepped up the year my life went through a rough patch. Our relationships moved from being strong, life-long ones based on proximity, like-minded interests, and common experiences to something much deeper. Each one of my three friends nurtured me to see and remember the greater good in my life. They reminded me that I was good, I was loved, I had a purpose, and I was not alone. I feel blessed beyond words by their love.
I also had a number of professional relationships, many of which transformed into Ignatian friendships during that difficult year. For instance, I had a friend from work who showed up for me during my worst days, reminding me that together we would get through the worst of anything. Also, an out-of-state author I worked with called me regularly, sent cards, and made sure I knew he was praying for me. In both of these instances, the friendships became Ignatian friendships.
When we start to look for the magis in a relationship—the more that seeks the greater good for another and invites deeper caring, especially in the tough times—we are enjoying an Ignatian friendship. Consider the effect on the world if more of our relationships were grounded in God’s love and friendship and existed to promote the greater good of each other—that’s the power of Ignatian friendship.