I recently attended an event where I heard many stark and sobering statistics about the state of friendship in America. We’ve talked about friendship here before, but I know I could use a reminder. Maybe you need one too.
In America, about one in five adults often feel lonely, and only a quarter of us have meaningful relationships with our neighbors (Barna). It gets worse. According to one sociological study, our networks are shrinking, and the average adult has only one close confidante (Business Insider).
These numbers are alarming. Not only is a lack of close friendships linked to a myriad of health issues, but it’s also creating these three big problems for the young American adult:
1) A loneliness epidemic. We are in the midst of an epidemic of loneliness, and I believe the antidote is close friendships (emphasis on the plural!). My wife Laura is my very best friend, but I believe that having a close relationship with your spouse is not enough. We need multiple people in our lives who know us well. We need some friends.
This lack of friendships and the epidemic of loneliness leads us to two additional problems.
2) A lack of encouragement. It’s no surprise that a lack of friends means a lack of meaningful encouragement. We need the people who know us well to cheer us on in the work we’re doing. A true friend will know what we feel called to do, they will affirm that calling, and they’ll genuinely build us up with words that put wind beneath our sails when we want to give up.
3) A lack of accountability. Without friends, we are missing people who will speak truth into our lives. Friendships aren’t only about someone telling us how great we are. The best friendships also involve accountability. Our close friends know when we’re off track, and they feel comfortable telling us that we need to change our course. If we’re not known by other people, we may miss an opportunity to grow, or worse, fall flat on our faces without warning.
As Americans, we don’t have enough friends, and we desperately need them. So what can we do about it?
Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut. There’s no quick solution. We must be intentional, and we have to invest the time.
The conscious cultivation of friendship requires a conscious commitment of time.
Honestly, that’s tough news for me—friendships require something I feel like I don’t have enough of. In the midst of marriage, being a parent, trying to stay plugged into church, and building my career, taking time to invest in friendships feels impossible. That’s why I often place it on the back-burner.
I hate to admit it, but I struggle in this area.
So here’s my challenge for you (and especially for me): Find the time to invest in close friendships anyway. Schedule it. Prioritize it. Do whatever you need to do. The quality relationships you cultivate will ease a sense of loneliness, encourage you, and hold you accountable to be the individual and the leader that you were created to be. Previous blog posts on friendship:
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