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Friendship is one of the greatest blessings we can receive and give. God’s intention of friendship is love. I believe God gives us friends for many reasons. One is to help us move forward when we are too frozen in fear to move forward on our own. In college, I read a quote by Anaïs Nin, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by meeting that a new world is born.” Nin’s quote struck me deeply, possibly because it was the first time in my life when I had the sole responsibility to reach out and intentionally make friends. College brought a wide variety of individuals from many cultures together in one place. There was an abundance of new experiences amidst so much trepidation and uncertainty. I found myself continually stimulated by brief conversations that offered perspectives, emphasis, or solutions beyond what I alone would have perceived. My world felt expanded, energetic, and enriched. Friendship gifts us with such intangibles and more.
Sociological and psychological studies explain that we need friends differently through each stage of life. Children bond over similarities such as common lunchboxes, preferred athletic teams, and favorite music or television shows. As children mature into puberty and adolescence, friendships become more important than ever before. Youth are more likely to value the acceptance and advice of a friend above that of their own parents. Independence and marriage follow, often causing friendships to take a back-seat to raise children, work, and care for aging family members. Empty-nesters approach retirement and later-life and friends become more important again. It is then that friends keep our memories, remind us of what we did right and well, and give us purpose when our physical bodies begin slowing down. Additionally, studies demonstrate that people with good friendships experience better physical and mental health. Good friendship is highly correlated with healthy psychological well-being, healing, and resilience.
For generations, researchers have tried to identify the common threads of good friendship. I have selected three foundational threads to focus on: Trust, support, and belief.
Trust is key to any good relationship. Trust allows us to share and confess openly, honestly, and authentically without fear of losing camaraderie. Trust enables us to work through simple and complex issues.
Support gives us the understanding that even when we fall and crawl, we have another to help us get back on track. A loyal supporter doesn’t condone poor behavior but encourages mending wrongs and helps us refocus our vision.
Belief expects the best of someone and trusts they have the value, ability, and desire to live a purposeful and meaningful life. These common threads constitute the hallmark of good character that can cultivate good friendship.
“A friend loveth at all times.”Proverbs 17:17, KJV
Think for a moment about how trust, support, and belief are woven (or not) into the fabric of your most important relationships. What can you do to strengthen these threads and mend the broken bonds of older friendships? Doing so is a gift to your friends and yourself. How can you weave these attributes into newer, still-developing relationships?
Big topics deserve more discussion. Next week we will discuss how to create our friendship circles and become better weavers and connectors.
Till next week!
Dr. Marie Yvette Hernandez-Seltz is the founder of Candescent Counseling, Consulting & Coaching. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and an M.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She has spent the past 15 years studying self-esteem, self-confidence, responsibility, and the effects of environment and culture on the individual.