CatholicMatch.com - That's What Friends Are For by Laraine Bennett

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If you’re single and looking to connect with other Catholic singles, we invite you to visit CatholicMatch.com for additional resources.Today’s article was written by Laraine Bennet.

Did you know that your friends are a powerful (but underestimated) weapon against disease, depression, anxiety and stress–that may even prolong your life?

• Friends keep us healthy! A Duke University study showed that patients who had fewer than four friends were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease! (1) Of women suffering from breast cancer, those who had few close friends were four times as likely to die as women with ten or more friends.
• Friends improve our outlook on life. A recent study showed that when someone had a friend with them, they were more optimistic in estimating the difficulty of a task than those who faced the task alone. College students from the University of Virginia were fitted with heavy backpacks and taken to the base of a steep hill. Students who had a friend standing next to them, saw the hill as less steep. The longer the friendship, the less steep the hill appeared!
• Friends can reduce pain. According to a new study by UCLA psychologists, just thinking about a loved one reduces physical pain(2)!

Social scientists have examined how friendships develop. Initially, we may be drawn to someone because of a physical attraction or because of our contact with him or her at work or school. A friendship may subsequently develop through sharing mutual interests, having similar attitudes and values, or simply because of close proximity (which tends to accentuate our feelings—whether positive or negative—about those with whom we are in continual contact). Then, we begin to feel comfortable sharing intimate thoughts and feelings and we care about their wellbeing almost as much as we do our own.

What they don’t know, however, is why friendship is so important. And they can only speculate why friends help us live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God. And God himself is a communion of persons. “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). As Pope John Paul II explained in his catechesis on Genesis, it is precisely in the communion of persons that man becomes the image of God.

Friendship is vital for a full life. Jesus had friends. He often spent time with Lazarus, Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). He wept when Lazarus died and then raised him from the dead (11:1-44). He spent his ministry in the close companionship with his disciples, one of whom was known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (cf John 13:23, John 21:7, and John 21: 20).

Friends are faithful. Like Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

Friends seek the best for each other, for the other’s sake . This is the “virtuous” friendship that Aristotle deemed the highest form of friendship. True friends will seek what is best for each other—for their friends’ sake, not for selfish or utilitarian reasons. As John Paul II wrote in Love and Responsibility , “Anyone who treats a person as the means to an end does violence to the very essence of the other” (Wojtyla 27). A true friend never uses someone for selfish reasons. Furthermore, a true friend will seek what is best for his friend. We intuitively grasp this truth. We typically describe a friend as someone we trust, whose company we enjoy, who accepts us and cares about us, and with whom we feel comfortable sharing our intimate thoughts and feelings.

We may have 300 “friends” on Facebook, but most of these will be acquaintances with whom we share impersonal news or who are tangentially related through other acquaintances. The true friend (Aristotle’s virtuous friend) is one who cares for us for our own sake (not because he is getting something out of it), who strives after virtue, and who wants what is truly the best for us.

Next month, I will look at unhealthy friendships.


Laraine Bennett co-authored with her husband, Art, The Temperament God Gave You and The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse (both from Sophia Institute Press ). Laraine has a BA in Philosophy from Santa Clara University and an MA in Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Laraine and her husband have been married for 32 years and have four children — one of each temperament.

Footnotes
1)Tom Rath, Vital Friends. New York: Gallup Press, 2006.
2)University of California – Los Angeles. “Thinking of a Loved One Can Reduce Your Pain.” ScienceDaily 14 November 2009. 26 May 2010

If you’re single and looking to connect with other Catholic singles, we invite you to visit CatholicMatch.com for additional resources.

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

1 Comment

  1. My husband and I met via CatholicMatch.com! We’ve been married for five years and have two amazing children.

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