Friends: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Laraine Bennett

This article originally appeared on Catholic Match.com, which is a part of the 4marks Network. 4marks offers a variety of online services to Catholics, including our Temperament Test, single Catholic service and Trivia. To learn more about any of our services or how 4marks is helping Catholics connect online in order to deepen their faith offline visit www.4marks.com.

The first in a two-part article on friendship: what is it, how important are our friends, and what happens when our friends are hurting us.

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.

Topics: Relationships

Laraine Bennett co-authored, with her husband Art, The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse and The Temperament God Gave You, published by Sophia Institute Press. Their new book, The Emotions God Gave You, is due Spring 2011. Please visit their website at http://temperaments.sophiainstitute.com/.

View all articles by Laraine Bennett

Ads by Google
(What's this?)


Ads by Google (What's this?)


Abortion (48)  Advent & Christmas (19)  Beauty (3)  Bioethics (4)  Books (55)  Church history (16)  Church teaching (31)  Contraception (26)  Culture (123)  Current Events (93)  Dating (15)  Death (4)  Depression (14)  Divorce (7)  Education (14)  Eucharist (4)  Exercise (3)  Faith (220)  Family (89)  Fashion (5)  Feminism (14)  Fertility (2)  Fitness (1)  Food (2)  Forgiveness (18)  Friendship (18)  Generosity (2)  Girl Scouts (2)  Grieving (1)  Health (23)  Home Management (17)  Humor (14)  Leadership (4)  Lent & Easter (13)  Liturgical Year (11)  Marian devotion (8)  Marriage (35)  Mature Years (5)  Meditations (17)  Mental illness (1)  Mercy (2)  Military Families (2)  Ministry (5)  Miscarriage (1)  Motherhood (58)  Movies (2)  Music (5)  Natural Family Planning (2)  Nutrition (4)  Parenting (44)  Personal Growth (105)  Politics (4)  Pope Francis (1)  Pornography (3)  Prayer (33)  Pro-Life (27)  Psychology (1)  Reflections (6)  Relationships (44)  Religious freedom (11)  Saints (11)  Scripture (7)  Service (8)  Sexuality (19)  Single years (4)  Social justice (1)  Social Networking (5)  Special Needs (3)  Spirituality (2)  Suffering (14)  Suicide (1)  Travel (11)  United Nations (1)  Welcome (1)  Women in the Church (4)  Women's Health (20)  Workplace (12)  Writings of the Saints (10)  Young Women (40) 


Liturgical Calendar

July 28, 2014

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Featured Videos

#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Dedicating art to San Juan de la Cruz
A state without territory elects new government
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Synod on the Family October 2014
Preferential option for the poor
God is alive, even in sport
'A forbidden God' named Best Film at the International Catholic Film Festival
Vatican backs a 'Pause for Peace' during World Cup final
The effects of religious violence in Sarajevo 
The origin of Corpus Christi 
Corpus Christi at the Vatican 
Homage to an Indian Cardinal
Train of the Child's Light
New book explaining gestures of the Mass
Encounter between Pope Francis and the Charismatic Renewal in the Spirit Movement.
Religious tensions subside amid Balkan floods
John Paul II Center for Studies on Marriage and Family
Saint John Paul II on cartoon

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 13:31-35


Daily Readings

First Reading:: Jer 13: 1-11
Gospel:: Mt 13: 31-35

Saint of the Day

St. Victor I, Pope »


Homily of the Day

Mt 13:31-35


Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
Text only

Follow us: