A Harvard study tracked the lives of 7,000 people over 9 years. Researchers found that the most isolated people were 3 times more likely to die than those with strong relational connections.
People who had bad health habits (such as smoking, poor eating habits, obesity or alcohol use) but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated.
Harvard researcher Robert Putnam notes that if you belong to no groups but decide to join one, “You cut your risk of dying over the next year in half.”
Solomon, who was given the gift of wisdom, wrote, “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (MSG)
Having authentic, helpful people who want your best is not necessarily an easy gift to acquire. It seems to me that a lot of so-called friendships are really relationships based on convenience or in helping someone advance a career.
Oprah Winfrey once said, “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
If I may quote Mary Alice from that world changing show, Desperate Housewives, “Human beings are designed for many things. Loneliness isn’t one of them.”
The feeling of loneliness or abandonment is a very powerful emotion and is becoming an epidemic in our fast paced, self-focused culture.
Mother Teresa once said, “The worst poverty of all is not hunger and sickness, but loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted.” And I believe that is true.
It is amazing what we can endure when we have the right people around us cheering us on.
And it is amazing how quickly we quit when we feel alone.
A few years ago, I got lost on the Paris subway system, and I was alone. It was not a pleasant experience. It was amazing how quickly fear and frustration came upon me, as I tried to ask directions in a language I am not good at, as I watched myself get more and more lost.
Being lost on the Paris subway system would have been a much different experience if I would have been with a friend. It would have been more of an adventure than a crisis. More of an education about how to get around Paris than a panicked mind numbing search on how to get back to the airport!
Human beings were created to do life together, helping one another, encouraging one another, teaching one another, supporting one another.
A person who is involved in healthy relationships can sustain and survive and even thrive in the most difficult of circumstances.
A person not in involved in healthy relationships can get very quickly discouraged and quit even when the circumstances are not that bad.
Strangely, some of the loneliest people in the world live in large cities surrounded by massive amounts of people.
Ironically, some of the loneliest people are people who are popular, people who look like they have it all together, people who are outwardly successful leaders.
Loneliness is an interesting phenomenon, because loneliness does not come from being alone.
Loneliness comes from not having deep friendships where you can share your joys, pains, frustrations, questions and dreams.
Loneliness comes when you are carrying the weight of guilt, failure and hurt on your shoulders and you think no one cares or no one understands.
Is there anyone in your life that knows all about you?
Is there anyone in your life where you can be totally transparent and vulnerable?
Who do you go to when you have a bad day?
There is an American Indian Proverb that says, “He who would do great things should not attempt them all alone.”
Jim Roan writes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Now that might depress you as you think about the people you hang out with, but it is true.
You do not find hope and strength by being around just anyone, you have to hang with the right people.
It’s your choice. You can run with people who want to drag you down, people who want to get you distracted, people who want you to compromise or you can run with people who say “You know I want what’s best for you, I want you to finish strong.”
You have to have people around you who say “I’m rooting you on! I am here for you! You can do it!”
How to find and develop good friends:
1) Choose to not isolate
2) Go to good places
3) Be a friend
4) Stay away from negative people
5) Make hanging with good people a lifestyle
Albert Schwitzer once said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
We have that power to help others.
But we also must make sure we have those people to help us.
Jack Canfield writes, “If asked could you name the five wealthiest people in the world or five people who have won the Nobel prize or the last five Academy Award winners for best actor or actress? None of us remembers the head liners of yesterday. When the applause dies, awards tarnish, achievements are forgotten no one cares about who won which award. But if I ask you to list five teacher’s or mentors who believed in you and encouraged you, five friends who have helped you through difficult times, five people who have challenged and taught you something worth while or five people who have just made you feel special. That’s much easier to do isn’t it? That’s because the people who make a difference in your life aren’t the ones with the most credentials, the most money or the most awards. They’re the ones who care.”
Who is that person who would ride the bus with you?