The proof is in the science. Friendship has a direct impact on our health and culture.
Shasta Nelson, a friendship expert and author of "Friendships Don't Just Happen" reports, "There are numerous studies and articles that link a circle of supportive friends to lower stress levels, greater happiness, prevention of diseases, faster recovery rates from surgery and accidents, and greater chances of reaching life goals."
If we want to create a healthier and happier space for our world to exist, we need to cultivate and nurture our friendships.
Carlin Flora, another friendship guru, and author told this inspiring story in her book, "Friendfluence":
" Prior to Rosa Park's act of defiance on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, others had been arrested for similar transgressions, yet they hadn't launched the civil rights movement as a result. Parks, it turns out, had many close friends who sprang into action upon hearing the news of her arrest, and furthermore, she had less close friends throughout the city, from different walks of life, enabling support for Parks to spread far and wide."
Friendship can launch a world-changing social movement. Rosa Parks had the support and voice of her friends. Little did they know that simply being a "good friend" to Rosa would help open wide the door to a social movement that would still be impacting us today.
Do we want to change the world? Do we want to see our world become healthier and happier place to live? We need to become better at being a "good friend". But how? Where do we start?
1. Practice "Consistency".
"Friendship may have felt like it just happened to us when were kids at recess, campers in the same cabin, playmates on the same street, or suitemates in the same college dorm, " writes Shasta Nelson, "What did just happen was consistency. Seeing each other regularly without our ever scheduling it."
Consistency is the necessary ingredient in becoming a good friend. It is the repetitive time together that helps us get to know each deeper and understand how can we encourage and empower each other more effectively. Here is the thing: We cannot have "consistency" in friendship with every single person that we call "friend". It's impossible. The best thing to do is to take an honest look at our lives and ask ourselves, "Who are the people in my season of life that I can easily practice "consistency" with? Who encourages me to be a better person? Who has a dream that I want to root for? Who has similar availability?"
Consistency doesn't mean, "every day". It can mean a weekly skype call, or a monthly meet up or traveling to see each other twice a year. Consistency is intentionally carving out the time to invest into the friendship on a regular basis.
2. Stop Trash-Talking.
Recently, I have come to realize that I do an awful lot of trash-talking without even realizing it. I criticize other's values or situations as if I have already mastered life and therefore have a free pass to comment on how someone else is navigating their own journey.
Trash-talking, gossiping, and unsolicited criticism is destroying the quality of our friendships. Instead of speaking honestly to each other, we are speaking poorly about each other because we underestimate the power of our words. I am aware that is has taken a long time for the female voice to have a place in our culture. Though we may have ways to go, we still have made strides in this area. However, I am shocked at how often I use my empowered voice as a woman to tear down other women unknowingly! This should not be! If we really want to change the world - particularly the culture of which women currently live in, we need stop trash-talking other. We need to fight to speak about our friends with honor and respect.
Friends, I am so convicted of this and I am the first to admit that this is an area I need to make a change in!
3. Ask Questions and then Listen Carefully.
I have a tendency to monopolize the conversation. It's a terrible habit I have. In doing this, I lose out on understanding the people around me. One of the things that I believe makes us a "good friend" is being able to ask questions that go beyond the usual, "How are you?"
I started to ask my friends, "What are you most excited about right now?" and "If money and time were of no concern, what kind of work would you throw yourself into?" In addition, when friends share their struggles and anxieties with me, I have been trying (although not always successfully) to simply listen instead of offering solutions.
When a friend shares a dream or desire, I have been trying to be intentional in asking them about their dream/desire in future conversations. Sometimes, I will even ask, "How can I help you achieve your goal?" I have several friends who have responded with, "Keep asking me about my dreams."
There are many ways to become a good friend. The ones I mentioned above are the ones that are currently highlighted in my own heart. I encourage you to sit down and take inventory. Where are you lacking as a friend? What could you do better? Your list may look different than mine.
Who knows what good will come from us individually deciding to be a better friend? Furthermore, how much good can we accomplish without the support of our friends?
We need each other. We just do. Helen Keller said, "Alone we do so little; together we can so do much."
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