One of the first chapter books I remember reading was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. The value of a true friend was etched in my mind as I witness the friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur developed. The love and sacrifice between these two characters taught me about the importance of our need to connect.
Why did you do all this for me?” Wilber asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing.”
Friendship is a tremendous thing. I see it all over social media — the need for friends. Some voice it as loneliness while others try to compensate by putting up a facade — but the truth remains — we all need friends.
The Science of Friendship
Scientific studies reinforce what our gut already knows to be true — friendship improves our overall sense of well being and protects us from the hardships of life. Social isolation and loneliness increase our chances of premature death. Lack of a strong social connection is proving to have more effect on our health than smoking. DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND! I am in no way endorsing the use of cigarettes, but this crazy bit of data goes to prove how important human connection is to our health.
Physically connecting with other people alters our cortisol or stress hormone levels, helps us maintain healthy eating and exercise routines while curbing negative behaviors like too much TV.” –Dr. Nasreen Khatri
When our children were younger, we always stressed the importance of choosing good friends. These research studies add a whole new dimension as to why good friends are so important.
Lessons in Friendship
Long before I ever set foot in school, before I had any idea of what I wanted in a friend − I got the default. I played with who my mom paired me up with. Sometimes it was the daughter of my mom’s friend, but more often it ended up being one of the neighbor kids. I learned important skills like sharing my toys and playing nice, but the idea of choosing who I spent my time with seemed a little foreign.
In elementary school my education went beyond the academic, I learned there were different kinds of friends. Some were more amiable than others and I felt a gravitational pull to friends I had common bonds with.
Before we knew it I was dealing with the social scene, drama, and constant comparison of high school. True, there are a few great memories, but I most associate those years with a sense of inadequacy and comparison. My insecurities were at an all-time high. I felt surrounded by girls who were backbiting and bitter instead of offering the type of friendship I needed most. Those years taught me my insecurities were valid and appearance was everything. I built walls to protect my vulnerabilities because one thing was certain: being vulnerable was a sign of weakness.
Learning from Fear and Vulnerability
Time passed and I matured with marriage and motherhood. At some point, I realized I was different from the girl in high school. Maybe it was more of a discovery of who I was. I had taken off my mask and distanced myself from superficial friends. I chose to surround myself with people who could be real without competition or comparison.
Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose.” — Brené Brown
I naturally feared being judged, compared, and rejected. I was afraid of appearing vulnerable. Sharing our most insecure thoughts and feelings is one of the hardest things to do, yet it is what makes real and genuine connections.
While I have had some truly connected friendships, I’ve also had my share of painful ones. Pain is a natural builder of walls. We build them to protect us from future pain. The problem is, they also keep us from experiencing the joy of those rare friendships.
Too often we skirt around sharing our vulnerabilities, determined to maintain the facade of perfection. All the while, yearning for real, deep friendship — someone with whom we can share our burdens.
We choose our friends because of who they are, we love them because of how they support who we are.”
Sharing our “truths” with each other creates a bond. While it can be refreshing and freeing, real genuine connections are not always easy to develop. I still run into a woman here and there who stirs up all the old feelings of inadequacy from high school.
I’ve had to learn to let the emotions go and accept this person isn’t ready for real yet. I don’t need to compete with the insecurities or allow myself to be offended. We aren’t all on the same journey to discovery, and that’s okay.
Friends are Blessings from God
I truly believe God sends friends into our life so we can connect, relate, and grow. Sometimes it is a friend who knows the best way to help you celebrate a win as well as a loss.
For years we struggled with the grief of a wandering child. It was a burden I dared not share because of my fear of how it would reflect on me as a parent. It was such a welcome relief to finally unload my pain with some dear friends who didn’t judge but encouraged and loved me through my trial.
God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. -Spencer W. Kimball
God sends people into our lives to take care of us, to meet our needs. As women, we crave connection with other people. It is a part of the way God hardwired our DNA. He wants us to walk with each other in life, encourage one another and share in the burdens we carry.
Being physically present with another human being offers irreplaceable benefits. Our need to connect reaches beyond the basics of being nice. Real friendship is asking the hard questions, sharing the fear and pain of our struggles, and rejoicing in our successes.
When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life. ~Shauna Niequist
Don’t choose perfection and loneliness. Choose to share the real you — your highs and lows. Glean the amazing blessing of a real connected friendship. How you decide to live your life is your choice. Be the kind of friend you are hoping for.