The Facts About Friendship

No man is an island.

So said the 16th century poet, John Donne, and centuries later, his theory has been proven right.  We don’t thrive on our own; we need to be connected to others. 

Tom Rath, Director for the Gallup Organization (the polling people) undertook a massive study (along with several other leading researchers) on the value of friendship.   They discovered that we all have a need to build relationships and community, and that friendships are absolutely vital to a happy and healthy life.  

Sadly, far too many of us are leading isolated lives. 

Some people are isolated due to circumstance, such as geographic location, an illness that keeps the person homebound, or working a job with non-traditional hours that make scheduling get-togethers with friends difficult.   But the greater percentage of people living isolated lives do so by choice.  They’ve been hurt or let down by a friend they counted on, and so they choose to remove friends from their lives to avoid dealing with the emotional complexities that can sometimes accompany these relationships.  

But is the trade-off worth it?  Not according to the research.   

Friends are often a mirror of ourselves—someone we can look to that will reflect back our greatest strengths, as well as reveal our flaws or weaknesses.  And true friends are the people who will love us regardless.  For example, studies show that if your best friend eats healthy, you are five times more likely to eat healthy too, and this gives the friendship greater connection.   A poll of married couples revealed that friendship ranked five times more important than physical intimacy because the bond of friendship strengthened the marriage in unique ways.  In the workplace, those with no close friends  at work have only a 1 in 12 chance of feeling engaged in their job, while those with a good friend in the workplace were 7 times more likely to be engaged at work, and to advance professionally.   

Yes, it’s true, friendships can be difficult, and they take work.  They are as imperfect as the individuals involved.  But if you’re feeling like something is missing from your life, or you’re tired of feeling alone, perhaps it’s time to reconnect with an old friend, or make new ones.   

We are not islands.  We are all a part of something much larger– the human journey.  We should enjoy each other’s company along the way.

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