Connecting with great friends is not only a cure for loneliness but can also help us be better people.
Friends are a fundamental part of life. We have a natural impulse to want to have friends, because that’s what we were created for—to go through experiences together, to share, to help each other, to find support and to enrich each other.
Friendship is so important that Jesus actually presents himself as a friend: “I no longer call you servants; I call you friends” (John 15:15).
True friendship isn’t a fleeting and passing relationship. It’s a solid bond that makes us part of a shared history, in which we seek the best in ourselves and in others as that relationship matures over time. Paradoxically, it’s something we’ve begun to experience and appreciate even more during the pandemic, despite the distance we’ve had to respect.
Despite everyone keeping six feet of distance, working from home, with masks separating us, having limitations on gatherings and not being able to meet for a drink easily, in many places there has been a new explosion of friendships. Many people have reconnected with old friends or have been able to start new friendships by living with greater awareness, clearer intentions and greater openness.
Good friends provide emotional support
The pandemic is teaching us to value small moments more, as well as to seek a safe context to share our emotions. Having friends teaches us to open up, to understand each other, to care for others, to get out of our comfort zone and isolation, and to share life. This is why “faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth” (Sirach 6:15).
Many studies have shown that when we go through difficult times, having a friend helps ease us through the rough spot. Friends do much more than provide a shoulder to cry on. They keep us from feeling alone, and that has a positive impact on our health, counteracting the isolation and loneliness that are linked to many negative feelings.
Moreover, from the point of view of faith, friendship has become in these times a true gift of life, a gift from God. Through friends, we’ve not only found a safe haven to improve ourselves and receive strength to move forward. Faithful friends today are a reflection of God’s affection and comfort, and of his gracious presence.
“Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them” (Sirach 6:16).
Good friends encourage healthy behaviors
The pandemic has also revealed to us that rituals and little plans are important when it comes to connecting with ourselves and others. Tying friendship to a shared objective can become an important way to foment greater well-being.
Friends can help us make positive lifestyle changes, such as helping us set and persevere towards goals to eat better and exercise more, or calling our attention when we’re giving in to unhealthy behaviors.
In addition, people are more motivated and likely to stick to an exercise program when they do it with a buddy. It’s much easier to get out and stay active when you have a friend by your side.
Good friends push us to do our best
“Some friends play at friendship, but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin” (Proverbs 18:24)
When we talk about friendships, we know that not all of them are equal. It’s important to learn to distinguish between them.
The pandemic is forcing us to realize that we need deeper friendships. Many of us, for the first time in our lives, have started hanging out with friends just to catch up with each other and have less superficial conversations than we used to. The focus of attention isn’t the outcome of a football game. We really want to know how they’re doing.
Aristotle talked about the different types of friendships:
- Some are based on utility, when we have a goal or purpose in common and our relationship revolves around it, as usually happens at work
- Others are for fun, which in most cases has to do a sport, a hobby, etc.
- The third kind is based on virtue, which is the one that leads to the most perfect experience of friendship
This last kind of friendship requires seeking excellence and helps both people in the friendship to grow in virtue. In this friendship, the friends treat each other with reciprocal respect. This is the kind of friendship we must aspire to build: a deep and high-quality friendship that involves generous self-giving out of love, to the point of laying down one’s life because “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
Great friends have the power to make us the best version of ourselves. They love us for who we really are. They challenge us and push us to do better. They not only help us to know ourselves, but they encourage us when things go wrong and celebrate our successes when things go right.
Even though we may have differences, friendship allows us to create a closeness that is shared with sincerity and trust. If we choose as friends people who are generous, helpful, enterprising or family-oriented, they can have a positive influence on us. As a result of these relationships, we very likely can grow rich in those values that are so necessary today.