Friendship: The Key to Spiritual Growth by John W. Crossin. Paulist Press, 1997. 110 pages. ISBN 0809137100
John W. Crossin is the author of What are they Saying about Virtue? (Paulist Press. He has written other books and articles on morality and spiritual growth. I was intrigued by the subtitle. How is friendship the key to spiritual growth. Second, I am interested in friendship and its connection to the virtuous life. Many classical authors have written on the topic: Plato, Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Aquinas, and others. Crossin asserts, "friendships spur us to spiritual growth. Our quest for meaning intimately involves friendship--with self, others, and God. These relationships anchor our spiritual life and set our priorities" (1). This book is both a book on friendship and spiritual growth or growth in virtue. Crossin states, "personal spiritual growth inevitably involves reaching out to others and making wise and loving moral decisions that form our character, making us certain kinds of person" (2). Even the Bible insists on the importance of friendship. It starts from the beginning: "It is not good for the man to be alone." It witnesses to the close friendship of Saul and David. Even Jesus selected twelve to be with him and chose three to give him support in his time of need.
Friendship: The Key to Spiritual Growth includes seven chapters. Chapter one discusses the state the world is in today. Some of the key characteristics of the modern world is a replacing of religion with psychology which emphasizes therapeutic models, turn to values, instead of virtues, belief in science, and a pursuit of pleasure. Crossin, however, thinks there are signs which can give us hope. First, there is a longing and a searching for community. Second, there is an emphasis on character in the business community. An example would be Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits for highly effective people. Third, there is a "reemergence of religion in the public forum." In the last part of the chapter, the author argues for the importance of commitment. Chapter two discusses spiritual growth. Crossin connect spiritual growth with the virtues tradition. To do this we must take responsibility for ourselves and decide to pursue spiritual growth. In addition, if we are going to grow spiritually we must listen "to our inner selves, to others, to our environment and to God" (21). In addition, spiritual growth calls for patience and support from others.
The author discusses friendship with self, others, and God in chapters three through five. through five. Crossin believes we must know ourselves if we are going to know what changes we can make in our lives. We need to know and live within our own limitations. However, change is required if we are going to grow spiritually. To accomplish change we need to make time to be quiet before God allowing Him to speak us. In the next chapter the author thinks that friendships influence our spiritual growth. In the chapter he lists characteristics of friendship like communication and respects. Friends help us to become our best selves. He also discusses different types of friendships: colleagues, marital, ministry, and others. In the chapter on friendship with God, Crossin emphasizes Scripture, prayer, meditation, and spiritual tradition.
Crossin discusses spiritual friendships in chapter six. He asserts, "Friendships can change our lives. Good friends can lead us to maturity. Spiritual friends can help us to become holy. Our relationships help us set the direction of our lives" (67). Friendships may vary in depth. In other words, we have different levels of friendship. In this chapter he also discusses spiritual direction. Different definitions of spiritual direction exist. Here is one from Sandra Schneiders: "Spiritual direction could be defined as a process carried out in the context of a one-to-one relationship in which a competent guide helps a fellow Christian to grow in the spiritual life by means of personal encounters that have the directee's spiritual growth as their explicit option" (69). Basically, a spiritual director is a more mature christian who meet regularly with his friend to help guide him in spiritual growth. The last two chapters discuss what to do when relationships falter and the last chapter discusses living the virtuous life.
Crossin's Friendship: The Key to Spiritual Growth shows the importance of friendship for spiritual growth. It discusses friendship with self, others, and God. It shows the different friendships we might have. Crossin makes a strong case that we need spiritual friends if we want to grow spiritually. I know that at key points of my life Christian friends were instrumental in my spiritual growth.