The Power of Friendship
Friendship is priceless when it comes to creating soul health. Numerous studies indicate how physical health is improved by having close relationships with even just a few people. While biological family members may play key roles in our day-to-day lives, it is often our entire social network, or “soul family”, that brings us the most comfort and joy.
Although friends have always been important to me, it wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I came to understand the different roles that they play—and these distinctions have stuck with me ever since. At the time, I never really considered that different types of friendships existed, but since then many authors have offered descriptions that I now use with others to help them understand these key roles.
In their book Rethinking Friendship, authors Liz Spencer and Ray Pahl provide the following types of friendly connections:
Associates—those who share common activities like hobbies and sports;
Useful Contacts—those who share information and advice whether for career or other purposes;
Favor Friends—those who help each other in a functional, but not an emotional manner;
Fun Friends—those who socialize together but don’t offer deep emotional support;
Helpmates—friends who offer both favors and fun but little emotional support;
Comforters—similar to helpmates, but with some emotional support;
Confidants—those who share personal information with each other but aren’t always in a position to offer practical help (i.e., if they live far away);
—those who display all of the elements listed above.
Although different people might define friendships in different ways, the common denominator is that friends help us to feel that we are not alone in life. In fact, many feel as if their friends are just as—or more important—in defining who they are as an individual than any other relationship. In this way, our friends become part of our “soul family”, influencing, supporting, and teaching us in ways that we cannot deny the essential roles that they play. As Aristotle says, “A true friend is one soul in two bodies”, which indicates the power of having a close connection with another human being.
The social branch of soul health emphasizes the need to have others in our lives. These soul-to-soul relationships ensure that we travel through life with like-minded others, enhancing each other’s experiences as we grow and evolve. In urging others to build strong relations, I emphasize the following three words:
- Connectivity—identifying and taking part in mutually appreciated bonding activities, which enhance the connection between one soul and another;
- Intentionality—taking steps to deliberately and purposefully interact with one another; and
- “Explicicity” (yes, I know that’s not an actual word…)—to engage in clear and direct communication with one another to educate them about your needs, interests, and desires.
Like all relationships, friendships take work. By consciously creating your connections with regard to aligning with your own soul health, you will invite wonderful souls into your life to share with you the many gifts that these relations can bring.
What do you do to consciously connect with others? Who do you invite into your soul group?