Good friends are hard to come by. The kind that stick with us in good times and through hardship are not always easy to find.
Last week I said goodbye to one of my dear friends who has emigrated — someone I have known for almost 30 years. We met as students when she gave me a lift to a connect group in our church and the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the years, we have shared so much of our lives (and countless cups of coffee) with each other. We have celebrated together, and we have cried together. There were times when we lived in different countries and had to navigate different time zones, but more recently, we enjoyed the privilege of living only a few streets away.
It is always hard to say goodbye and it will be an adjustment knowing that we are now separated by many miles, but I am confident that we will once again adapt and find a new rhythm in our friendship. For true friendship is more than worth the effort it takes to maintain connection whether it is busyness that separates us or geographical distance.
A good friend is good for the soul. Countless studies the world over confirm this, what so many of us have experienced and continue to experience in our own relationships with those we regard as trusted friends. Friends are important for our wellbeing. Some of the proven benefits include:
- Friends are good for our physical health:
Healthy relationships contribute to good physical health, with one study revealing that the risk of premature death from all causes is halved in those with strong relationships.
- Friends encourage healthy behaviours:
A true friend will hold us accountable to our goals and encourage us to make those difficult choices now so that we can reap the benefit in the long term.
- Friends provide emotional support:
When we experience hardship, having a friend we can turn to lightens the load we carry. Happiness is also contagious amongst friends, with one study of high school children finding that those who were depressed were twice as likely to recover if they had happy friends.
- Friends help build our confidence:
A good friend will support us and encourage us when we experience self doubt and insecurity, emphasising our strengths rather than our weaknesses.
- Friends help us manage stress:
When we spend time with friends, our stress is automatically reduced as found in a study of children who spent time with their friends during a stressful situation and their level of the stress hormone cortisol was reduced.
- Friends push us to be our best:
A good friend is a positive influence in our lives, challenging us (whether intentionally or unintentionally) to be the best version of ourselves.
Whenever I find myself taking my friends for granted, I like to remind myself what the Word of God has to say about friendship. There are many verses that speak to this, but my favourite verse is found in Proverbs 17v17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” This is the kind of friend I want to be and the type of friendship I want to foster.
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