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  • Bella Archer

Op-Ed: Examining layers of human connection through friendships


Bella Archer embracing her friend, Lexi Wink

In our busy world of human relationships, friendships stand out as vibrant threads woven through the fabric of our lives. Best friends, in particular, are the master weavers, intricately crafting patterns of support, love and resilience.


“Typically, friendship is considered an aspect of social support. Social support has a lot of evidence in building resilience, so the idea of people who have friends or people they're close to do better with stress and are less prone to physical illness,” said Dr. McCulloch, a local psychologist and beloved professor at Palm Beach Atlantic University.


An article from the American Psychological Association by Zara Abrams echoes this statement by stating, “Loneliness among people who lack quality friendships increases our risk for heart attack, stroke and premature death.”


Another important point from Abrams is that “loneliness increases the risk of early death as much as 26%.”


Friendships, as Dr. McCulloch suggests, can be compared to emotional vitamins, nourishing our mental and physical health. Drawing upon a diverse collection of perspectives, ranging from biblical insights to personal stories, it is clear that the importance of friendship is profound and complicated.


“Even Jesus is described as a friend who sticks closer than a brother, sometimes family relationships can be difficult but if you choose friends that offer social support they can help,” said Dr. McCulloch.


Proverbs 18:24 says, “Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.”


These words help to instill the timeless truth that friendships can often provide the comfort and understanding that familial relationships may lack. Sometimes family dynamics can be difficult, but choosing friends who offer social support is a step in the right direction.


“Romance can be a meaningful part of life – the benefits of friendships should not be overlooked,” Abrams said.


Stephan de Lange, Julia Kirk and Micah Rohan, paint a portrait of friendships as lifelines in difficult times. Their accounts reveal the important impact of best friends on mental well-being, personal growth and emotional stability.


De Lange’s journey illustrates the transformative power of friendship during times of emotional rollercoaster, showing that true friends are not just witnesses to our struggles but active participants in our healing.


“A few years ago when I felt like I was at my lowest point, my two best friends picked me up and took me to dinner, then to church, and that not only helped me mentally but also strengthened my faith in Jesus,” he shared, recalling a challenging period in his life.


De Lange highlighted the positive influence on his mental health, stating, “My best friends know I often struggle with mental health but it has improved tremendously just by them being there for me.”


All of these individuals emphasized the importance of qualities such as honesty, acceptance, respect, forgiveness, dependability and kindness in a best friend, explaining how these qualities have shaped their relationships for the better.


De Lange's story showcases the profound impact of genuine friendship and the power of understanding, acceptance and support in overcoming life's challenges.


Abrams believes, “Having a close friend or confidant is undeniably good for us, but psychologists have found that interactions with acquaintances, even strangers, can also give our mental health a boost.”


Bliss Archer’s story is a testament to the unconditional love and guidance that can flow between generations, highlighting that friendships do not have to be with peers but can also be from family relationships. Archer shares thoughts about the bond she has with her mom, reflecting on their deep connection.


“She has been there for me my whole life. She's not just my mom; she's my best friend. She gives the best advice and is always right when it comes to school and even other friends.”


Archer acknowledged the important role her mother plays in her life by saying, “My life would be different because I wouldn't have my mom. She raised me and loves me so much. My mom gave me so many best friends including God, my three other sisters and my dad.”


“My mom is my best friend, and my love for her is eternal. She's not just my mother; she's my forever best friend. She comforts me and gives me advice to help whenever I need it,” Archer added.


Julia Kirk’s story describes the beauty of acceptance and love, proving that true friendships accept us in our entirety, flaws and all, showing a sense of belonging and self-worth.


Kirk opened up stating, “I was feeling really low after not getting cast in a show I desperately wanted to be in. My best friend stayed on the phone all night, reminding me that no matter what, I was enough. Their support pulled me through.”


When discussing essential qualities in a best friend, Julia emphasizes care, love and understanding -- “Someone who loves you like Jesus loves you -- and someone who understands you are a flawed human, not perfect.”


These qualities have impacted her relationship with her best friend tremendously, fostering a positive and supportive connection.


Micah Rohan’s narrative brings attention to the spiritual and emotional dimensions of friendships, illustrating that friends can serve as guides in matters of the heart and soul.


“Without her, I wouldn't have someone to turn to for spiritual and emotional advice.”


Despite the physical distance, friendship has been important in dealing with mental health challenges.


"She helped me navigate my mental health when we lived together, and even though we're in different states now, we still check in every few weeks," Rohan explained.


Rohan simply stated, "It is what it is," acknowledging the natural differences that make their friendship genuine and impactful.


These narratives are not formed without challenges, disagreements and differences. They are natural aspects of friendships. Learning to navigate these differences with open communication, understanding and forgiveness is key. Kirk’s approach of talking it out and embracing each other’s flaws highlights the view of many others. True friendships are not about perfection but about acceptance and growth, even in moments of conflict.


“You can choose your friends wisely but you can’t choose your family,” stated Dr. McCulloch.


In this chaotic world, human relationships and friendships emerge as the brilliant, enduring strokes of color that fill our lives with meaning. They are not just social bonds; they are the mirrors reflecting our joys, the safe places sheltering our vulnerabilities and the guiding stars to light our paths. Best friends are not just companions; they are the architects of our emotional landscapes, shaping the very walls of our hearts.


In a world often taken by social media and division, these stories of friendship show a spark of hope, reminding us of the profound connections that make us human. As we celebrate the impact of best friends, while also recognizing the potential within us to be best friends, not forget to listen, support and uplift. In these important bonds, we find not just happiness but the meaning and purpose of what it means to be alive.


By Bella Archer


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