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Relationships: The Path to Longer, Happier Living – Friends

This post was written by Jim Smith, a long time friend of Project Patch who worked as a therapist at our Youth Ranch and helped launch our Family Experience.  He no longer works at Project Patch but continues to serve families, teens and equip the church for ministry.

Friendships: How They Contribute To Long and Happy Living

Good Friends - Julina Countinho
Good Friends – Julina Countinho

“The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.”
– Mark Twain – The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson

Hmmm, money has probably spoiled not a few friendships but I think he has it right when he describes friendship as a holy passion that, ideally, will last a lifetime. Do you have friendships like that? I have a small number of those “lifetime” friends and I think that is the way it is for most of us. Most of our relationships can’t qualify for the “sweet and steady and loyal and enduring…nature,” of a lifetime friendship.

I came across an interesting study, “Effect of social networks on 10 year survival in very old Australians: the Australian longitudinal study of aging.” A study done by Lynne C Giles, Gary F V Glonek, Mary A Luszcz, Gary R Andrews and published here. This study revealed that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period for this article than those with fewer friends.

In a recent book, “The Girls From Ames: A Story of Women and a 40-Year Friendship” (Gotham), Jeffrey Zaslow tells the story of 11 childhood friends who scattered from Iowa to eight different states. He writes that despite the distance, their friendships endured through college and marriage, divorce and other crises, including the death of one of the women in her 20s. The point of the book is that the lives of all the women were better because of these enduring and dependable friendships.

The book also lists other studies that provide lots of data that indicate people are happier and even live longer when they have a circle of friends that provide support, wise counsel, and unconditional acceptance, even if those friendships are long distance.

A wise man named Solomon wrote, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 ESV

I am happier when I am around good friends. I feel more content, more at peace. Studies show these kinds of feelings lead to the release of hormones in our brain that gives us a sense of well-being and even invigorates our immune system.

The old adage is that if you want a friend, be a friend. I talked with one of my good friends through a video chat yesterday. It was good to see him and I could tell that seeing me brought pleasure to him. If we open ourselves up to these kinds of great friendships, it means we are also opening ourselves up to what is happening or going to happen in their lives. Will we be there? Even when their lives become a bit messy, will we be there?

Good, then you are a…friend!

How has friendship impacted your life?