What Jesus told Margaret of Cortona.
St. Margaret had a lover. She had his son. She was his concubine - which indicate he was probably married - I can't recall. Some biographies describe her as a servant in his household. No one uses the term concubine these days - it's also not uncommon any longer for people to live together without benefit of marriage. I guess that means we live in a promiscuous society - which maybe explains why marriage is so screwed up - but that's not my point with this post.
The fact that our Lord referred to her lover as the enemy of her salvation is what I find so striking. How can one's love-er be one's enemy? One to whom we give our entire self? Who would believe our closest friend could be an enemy of our salvation? How about other 'friends'?
Bad friendships can be dangerous - toxic friends can bring out the worst in us, even lead us into grave sins which we might not have been willing to engage in on your own. I'm not suggesting they are at fault, or that a bad friend 'made' me sin - since each of us are responsible for our own actions. Yet we can surely follow a friend's lead and be led into sin. "Everyone has enough bad inclinations of his own without burdening himself with another's. A friend who would lead us into sin has become our enemy. False friendship brings on dizziness of mind which causes people to falter in chastity and devotion and carries them on to improper looks, sensual caresses, deep sighs, little complaints about not being loved, enticing postures, acts of gallantry, requests for kisses and other familiarities. - St. Francis De Sales
I used to justify some bad, even 'toxic' friendships because I had more fun with such friends. Sometimes I was the culprit, my worse side would emerge and I had a willing partner to go out and have a good time with. That's what drinking buddies are for, kinda, sorta. Oblivious to my own propensity for sin, I'd justify the friendship loosely based upon another maxim of St. Francis: "Friends love each other despite their faults and flaws. Just as a gold miner separates the precious metal from the earth or sand, so friends must sort for the best in each other and treasure it." De Sales was speaking of virtuous friendship and the faults, not the sins of our friend. "We must, of course, meekly put up with a friend's faults, but we must not lead him into our faults, must less should we acquire his. But I speak only of imperfections. As to sins, we must neither occasion them nor tolerate them in our friends. What a strange or sinful friendship that would watch the friend die spiritually!"
One needs honest discernment in our relationships with one another.
Worldly friendship impairs the judgment and leads to rationalization. False friendship, even when it is repulsed, leads to slander, trickery, sadness and jealousy. - St. Francis De Sales
I have experienced the last part of that statement many times after such a friendship has waned: False friendship, even when it is repulsed, leads to slander, trickery, sadness and jealousy. I often thought of the friendship as close and true, yet it was false. The gossip and detraction and slander that resulted was proof of that. Anyone who reads this blog may have on occasion seen the contemptuous remarks left by former friends and acquaintances, although the slander gets back to me in other ways as well. I have former friends who say terrible things about me - in some cases, I know how terrible it is by the things they have said in anger, in my presence about their other 'friends'. It's a good learning experience, a purifying trial in some ways, which leads to an ever deeper conversion and love of what is true and good, I think. Everything is a grace. It also teaches us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us - with a healthy distrust of self.
I have often written about 'disinterested friendship', which seems to me is the kind that lacks any self-seeking and is above all 'detached' - devoid of sensuality and sentimentality. Some friends want to control and direct the other, even to own or possess the other - for their own self-interest. In effect these friendships tend to limit our freedom and are untrustworthy.