Are you depressed by the fact that your circle of friends is consistently shrinking? Do you even have a circle of friends? Are you tired of being lonelier than Gollum?
The Hobbits, a care-free and peace-loving people from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world of “The Lord of the Rings,” have three tips for becoming a better friend in a troubled world.
1. Vulnerability Is Essential
Samwise Gamgee walked diligently with Frodo Baggins, sharing the ups and downs. The vulnerability of these Hobbits led to the ultimate triumph of Good.
As Gamgee and Baggins discovered, a more profound sense of friendship comes by being open and vulnerable with those closest to you. When you walk with another person through the mountains and valleys of life, sharing experiences, unbreakable bonds of fellowship are formed.
Those who reject vulnerability, however, turn away from light and move into the darkness, a move symbolized by Gollum alone in a cave. Living in isolation does not breed good friendships. According to Tolkien, such behavior makes a person “lost… [with] no name, no business, no Precious, nothing. Only empty. Only hungry….”
2. Commitment Goes Beyond Convenience
Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took represent two great examples of Hobbits who consistently convey the commitments of friendship. They go way beyond where they could have stopped, especially when things became uncomfortable, uncertain, and even dangerous. Because of their steadfast friendship, these Hobbits risk their lives and sacrifice themselves for their pal, Frodo.
Their example should cause us to as ourselves the following: How often do we avoid friends who are in difficult situations? How often do we even choose comfort – like Netflix, personal time, and other lame excuses – instead of committing to things that are inconvenient?
Gimli the Dwarf’s words from “The Fellowship of the Ring” should be a warning to us all: “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
3. True Friendship Is Strongest at the Darkest Hour
At the end of the films, when the two Hobbits have finished their quest to cast the Ring into Mount Doom and it seems that the world is ending, Frodo says to Sam, “I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things.”
A true friendship is strongest at the darkest hour, when your spirits are failing and you feel nearest to defeat. Friends willing to share in suffering and carry burdens are essential during these times.
Simply the presence of a beloved friend can be enough to get you through the darkness, for “in the end it’s only a passing thing, this shadow; even darkness must pass.”
We’re not perfect, and neither were the Hobbits. Deep friendships take time, energy, and forgiveness. So, take these lessons to heart as you walk the path in front of you. Whether you are eating second breakfast or sharing a pint of ale, it is important to remember, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
[Image Credit - U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Xiomara M. Martinez]
Dan Dennett is interested in the intersection of human rights, individual responsibilities, religious freedom, and politics.