MAKING A MOUNTAIN A MOLE HILL
“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.” ~ Zig Ziglar.
Being a great friend is very high on my to-be list, because friendship is one of the most wonderful gifts in life. It’s universal throughout humanity – something each of us share in common – the profound bond of friendship, which has the ability to teach us insights about life and about ourselves, if we’re open to it.
Being a friend means different things to different people at different stages of our lives, as the saying goes – friendships are either for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Friends can serve as a mirror of our essence; friends can be our historians, our secret keepers, and our anchors during turbulent times, and our go-to when we need a good giggle and pick-me-up; our friends can be our partners in life’s journey.
My view of friendship is highly influenced by the various stages in our lives; childhood, adolescence and adulthood. When I cast my mind back, as a young child I thoroughly enjoyed friends who liked to play the things that I liked to play, when I wanted to play them (ah, like a true Virgo). But of course, they enjoyed it as well. More than that, we shared curiosity and laughter, and I now recognize that it was the first time in my life that I ever felt autonomous. Before these early childhood friendships, I was simply my mother’s daughter, but when I started to develop friendships, I realized that I, too, had power; I could influence others, and I could have an exchange with somebody else where I could create a connection.
Through the awkward beginnings of my teen years, a friend was somebody who would stand by me; that would come to my side if there was a bully or a teacher who would embarrass me. I had a support structure of sorts… to quote Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher, “we do not need the help of our friends, as much as the confidence that our friends will help us.” And that is just what they did. Whereas in high school, it was friends that I felt were most like me. We shared a sense of rebellion, spontaneous good times, a zest for life, and being a bit mischievous. Now in my adulthood, I can say a friend is all of these things, for “each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive.” ~ Anais Nin.
With adulthood came a profound shift, and the shift was; in order to find a true friend you need to focus on being one. Until that point, my friendships were more about what made me feel good, or what they gave me… thankfully it shifted as I got older into what I could give and offer to them.
Interestingly, Webster’s Dictionary defines friendship as “a person attached to another person by feeling of affection”. I find this definition somewhat problematic, because by “definition” my best friend is the barista at Starbucks around the corner who gets my chai latte just right (I feel very affectionate towards her… hahaha).
For me, friendship is the connection and the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; that they give and receive without judgment, and that they derive strength from the relationship. This key point is highlighted in a case study by positive psychology researcher, Martin Seligman, where he demonstrated that of 24 character strengths, those that best predict life satisfaction are the interpersonal ones.
Both contemporary scientists and ancient philosophers agree that having strong social bonds is the most meaningful contributor to happiness. Here are some facts on friendship (as you may have figured, I do like to draw parallels between science and spirituality) to inspire you not to settle for mediocre friends, as well as not to be one.
Studies show that if you have five or more friends with whom you discuss important matters, you’re far more likely to describe yourself as very happy. If a mid-life crisis hits, one of the most common complaints is lack of true friends. Whether you’re exercising, commuting, or doing chores, everything is more fun in company.
Researchers found the only thing that people like to do more alone is pray. But if you think about it, when you’re praying, you’re not alone really; you’re speaking to something, a higher power (however you classify it), you are not “alone”. Strong relationships have been proven to also lengthen our lives, boost our immunity and it cut the risk of depression.
The Friendship Effect: Making a Mountain a Mole hill
This study was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology; researchers asked participants to stand at the base of a steep hill, and simply estimate how tough they thought it would be to climb. Those standing with a friend gauged the ascent to be less steep, as opposed to those who were alone. What is even more appealing to me is the longer the study participant knew their friend; the gentler they estimated the incline to be. Pretty amazing, right?
Wait for this one… Harvard research has shown that breast cancer patients with no friendship network are four times more likely to die from the disease than those with 10 or more close friends, connoting that disease becomes less deadly, and what’s more, studies have also shown that social support can lower blood pressure, protect against dementia, and reduce the risk of depression.
Through strong social bonds are lives are incrementally enriched. Any connection we have is an opportunity for true friendship.
1. Think about your interactions with your friends; have you derived more satisfaction in the good deeds that you have done for them, or through the ones they have done for you?
2. What does generosity mean to you?
3. Are you looking for a friend or are you looking to be one?
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