Ask any healthy octogenarian, and they will tell you that the secret to living a long, healthy, happy life is having “good friends.” They don’t have 100 best friends or 500+ Facebook friends, but they do have a few people who truly care about them. Friendship is about love which is the one thing that none of us can live or be happy without.
We live in an era where communication between people couldn’t be easier. Skype lets you talk to someone in Australia as easily as you can to your next-door neighbor. You can use Google translate to speak Hindi to your new overseas sweetheart. You can watch children grow up on Instagram regardless of where you or they are. Facebook allows you to expound your thoughts and views to thousands of people at once without leaving your bedroom.
With all of this “connectedness,” however, studies have shown that people are lonelier than ever. Depression and anxiety are common medical problems of the old and young. Stories of suicides, mass shootings, and hate crimes are frequently in the news. It seems as if people don’t know each other and they don’t trust each other. It seems as if the unfamiliar person is now bad and dangerous.
Some of my best memories are related to the different people that I’ve met who became friends unexpectedly. It’s normal for people to associate with people who are similar to them. Usually, we make friends with family and friends who belong to the same race, religion, nationality, or economic status. Within that group, people then find others with more specific shared interests that cause them to become closer friends. Alternatively, one sometimes makes friends by starting backward, with shared interests first, then ending up with a more diverse “family.”
I’m grateful for having had the opportunities to become friends with people who are very different from me but who are also similar to me at the level of the heart. Choosing friends based on shared values, interests, and passions shows how much alike we all are despite the unfamiliar superficialness.
Building and maintaining true friendships is not as easy as friending someone, however. People aren’t perfect, but your friends like you despite that fact. When you demonstrate your imperfections, they love you enough to forgive any trespass but also enough to hold you accountable for it so that you continue to become a better person because of their friendship. As was famously explained, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) In many ways, social media outlets and supposed “friendships” accomplish the opposite of just that.
Friends are people who make you laugh.
Friends are people you enjoy being around.
Friends are mirrors.
Friends are sounding boards.
Friends keep you honest.
Friends keep you grounded.
Friends validate your importance and worth just because they like you.
Friends allow you to relax and be yourself.
Friends want you to succeed.
Friendship brings love, love brings happiness, and happiness brings health. Friendships can be forged with even the most unlikely people if we can open ourselves up and embrace our differences knowing that our hearts are all in the same place.