By Paul Monahan
Did you know that having friendships could help you live longer?
“Having no friends could be as deadly as smoking, researchers at Harvard University have suggested, after discovering a link between loneliness and the levels of a blood-clotting protein which can cause heart attacks and stroke.” Daily Telegraph 2016
This brings having good friends to a whole new level. We must have known that this was going to be an important topic when we put the Livestream breakfast, “Real Mates You Can Count On” on the calendar 12 months ago.
Interestingly, we nearly didn’t have it at all. One month out we had no speaker and no technical crew as both became unavailable for various reasons. What resulted was logistically the most challenging Livestream breakfast yet. But from the feedback it was one of the most well received men’s breakfasts we have ever had! We tried a new format, with a new technical crew, changed venues and even changed cities.
It certainly paid off! If you haven’t seen it, check out our website [here]
Below we are going to look at the five types of friendship that our speaker Aaron Ironside talked about, plus three other friendship types that he didn’t specifically cover. These can help you examine your friendships and learn how to intentionally improve them - and maybe develop some more.
Just think… it could save your life!
If you are a millennial, or the parent or grandparent of a millennial, you will probably be familiar with the catch-phrase “Can we fix it? Yes we can!” Yes, you are right, it is indeed the favourite saying of Bob the Builder and Friends - an animated children’s television show dating back to the 1990s.
When it comes to friendships this is an apt catch-phrase for the type of friend we are going to highlight today, “The Builder”. So let’s look at “The Builder”, who is happy to invest in your development and who genuinely wants you to succeed. No task seems too big or insurmountable to our builder friend. They are motivators, helping you to get across the finish line. They are generous with their time as they support and invest in you and your strengths. As with Bob the cartoon character, they help you plan, execute and succeed in your tasks. A bit like a coach, these are people who help you achieve more in your life each day.
If you are not sure about who is a builder in your life, start asking for advice and see who responds. Was the advice sound? Did they come back to follow up? If they do, be prepared to share a little more and learn to encourage and appreciate them. If it works, give them permission to speak into your life even more, even nag you if you need it!
I know I need encouragement. There is enough in life that can begin to drag us down, so we need to treasure the builders in our lives. Which makes me wonder, could you be a builder for someone else?
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. - 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Now I am probably showing my age but I was looking at YouTube and I stumbled across something that triggered a lot of memories from my early Christian days in the early 1990s. I found a very grainy video of Carman singing The Champion! I remembered how excited we were, how our imaginations were fired up, at this epic portrayal of the battle between good and evil. Which of course we win with true late-1980s flair. Now I am not suggesting you find the video clip because by 2018 standards it is pretty corny, but back in the day… wow!
It started me thinking that beyond Jesus who are we called to emulate? We all still need champions in our lives who believe in us. Champions who stand up for us and what we believe in. People who meet us at an emotional level, who have confidence in us, in who we are, in who we can be and the importance of our destiny. These people are totally committed to us even when they face resistance and it may even cost them personally.
Our champions are not judgemental even when others may be. They are like the ideal grandfather - always proud when you succeed and can’t help getting out their brag book about their grandson when they meet others. Your champion thrives on your accomplishment, success and happiness!
If you need a champion in your life, have a look around for those who are always praising others, and consider if you can form a friendship with them. If you work out you have a friend who is a champion already, keep them up to date with how you are doing and what you are aiming to do! Remember we all need appreciation and thanks, so show your appreciation to them often.
There is a common saying around at the minute about “paying it forward,” so who in your life can you be a champion for?
This week is a huge week in V8 Supercars. After 15 rounds there are only 14 points between the first two drivers. With 300 points on offer for this next round in the Newcastle 500, the tensions are high. The Supercar circus arrived in Auckland two weeks ago and left with the unlikely result of no change in points between the first two drivers, who incidentally are both New Zealanders. So it all hangs on the next two races, which are the last two races of the season - as it was in 2017. It was a real nail-biter last year, right down to the wire.
So I know where I will be on the afternoons of 24 and 25 November. There is a good chance I will have some mates with me who are just as excited about the process as I am.
These kinds of mates are called collaborators as they share a similar passion or interest. It doesn’t have to be a sport, it can be a hobby, religion, politics, books, movies or food. When you are with a collaborator mate there is a certain familiarity, safety and sometimes even a common language. This can be a very solid foundation to a long-lasting friendship and a straightforward one to develop.
So if you have a passion, make it known and hopefully you can find a co-conspirator who shares your passion and interest. Invite them for coffee or to watch something with you or maybe you could send them articles and information through social media or email. Be creative in ways where you can share time, enthusiasm and information.
Make it your mission to be a zealot for your cause.
This is probably one of the more common types of friendship and in some ways among the easiest to cultivate. So go strengthen your base and develop your friend network with fellow enthusiasts!
I don’t know if you are into personality types but there are quite a number of them around. One of the ones I am most familiar with is the Lion, the Beaver, the Golden Retriever and the Otter - which can also be called Powerful, Perfect, Peaceful and Playful.
Each has a different personality trait and the one I want to focus on today is “the Otter” or “Playful.” This is the fun one, the one that is the life of the party, the extrovert. They make a good day great and pick you up when you’re down. You could call them “energisers”. Like the batteries, they give you energy!
These friends have a remarkable ability to know what spins your wheels and take you there, usually with a whole lot of other folks on the way. You are more likely to smile and laugh with these guys. Then you will find your natural endorphins are released. Endorphins are pleasure chemicals released in the brain. These chemicals interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine, so it’s a desirable result.
So if you don’t have this natural energy source in your friendship group, find the life of the party and introduce yourself. Then you can begin to share the energy! See if you can join in the positivity and make sure you tell them and show them how much you appreciate them.
Now if you just so happen to be that “Playful/Otter” type, then look for those who are feeling down and work your energising magic! You could be such a blessing and make a friend for life.
Companion planting - now there’s a strange thing for me to be thinking about, seeing as I am not much of a gardener. However one of the definitions of this concept is which plants grow best together. Fittingly, this explains the next type of friendship because these are friends who grow best together. Our companion type of friend encourages us to grow and go deeper in our relationship, for the benefit of our everyday life not just the highs and lows. They are there for the long haul.
This is the guy you choose to ring first when things go well or when things don’t go quite as you hoped. This guy knows you best; he has a sense of where you are at because you are so connected. He understands you, your thoughts, feelings and actions, even before you do on occasions.
This is a relationship that you and he both gain a great deal of satisfaction from and are quite proud of. This is one friendship beyond marriage that you hope will last a lifetime, because there is an element of sacrifice in the process.
These people sound quite rare, which may be true but they are out there. I have one; his name is Colin. There may be some guy you know that you simply think, I would like to know you better. If you want a deeper relationship, sometimes you just have to reach out to become open and vulnerable. Taking a risk is the name of the game. Cut the small talk and discuss the stuff that matters - your fears, your dreams, your future. You will soon get an idea from how your friend responds if he is prepared to go deeper.
From your side, create a safe place for your friend to share. Sometimes when things are going really well this is an ideal time to share. It is more challenging when times get difficult. Be the first to reach out and don’t wait for them to reach out to you. It is a case where actions speak louder than words.
You may be amazed at the results and wonder why it took you so long!
The Mind Opener
Our cultural context, social context and technological advancements are so rapid that it is hard to keep up. I struggle to believe the first smartphone was only 11 years ago. Today we are so entrenched in our anywhere, anytime, online lifestyle! Change is here to stay for the foreseeable future so how do we adapt?
We need to be open to new ideas and discerning enough to know what we need to hold onto with both hands. While all the time looking for the character and activity of God in what we see around us.
Our next friend type is the “Mind-Opener” who challenges what you think, which is not always a bad thing. They ask good questions and this makes you more receptive to ideas. There is safety for you in this person, allowing you to think out loud. Allowing you to be unguarded, to express your opinions, your theories and even some ideas that you may think are a little controversial. You can say things that you may not be comfortable sharing with others. Faith and thoughts are an ever expanding set as we wrestle with our culture and the huge growth in accessible information. Even if we wish to be countercultural we still need to be informed and engaged.
So how do I locate this person? It maybe you put a toe in the water and share some of your ideas with your friends and see who regularly offers you new perspectives. Then slowly open the door to your mind. Encourage them play devil’s advocate. Never shoot down their responses. Allow them and you to fully explore with respect. By doing this you can be the opener of others’ minds as well as your own. It will broaden your horizons and theirs.
Above all learn to listen well. As the saying goes that is why the good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth. You may be intrigued to see who joins your friendship group.
It is said that life is an adventure! Hopefully that is true because it makes it all the more interesting, challenging and fun. There are times however we need someone to help us get through the rapids as safely as we can. In the rafting picture that’s the guy at the back who still has his paddle in the water steering and navigating.
A navigator helps you steer through the good, the bad and the downright ugly! They bring out the pros and cons, giving advice that helps you stay off the rocks of life. In difficult times you need the navigator right with you in the boat. They help you keep things in perspective, moving to a positive future, while keeping things grounded in reality.
When you’re at the crossroads of life the navigator comes into his own. Helping you to know and hang onto who you are, and just as importantly, who you are not! You can safely share your hopes and dreams with them. These guys are imperative if you want to continue to grow and learn, taking advantage of your opportunities.
Experience is a key factor so find out who has been in a similar position to you. What challenges have they faced and overcome? You may be surprised at the talent and experience around you. If you are not sure who can help you, just ask, you will soon work it out. Remember you are looking for experience not just opinion. Even what not to do can be useful! Give them the big picture of your hopes and dreams. Then ask how they would get to where you want to go. Above all else keep it real with them and yourself.
If you have expertise in an area someone else is struggling in, offer to give advice and help. You must also acknowledge when you are at your limit or out of your depth! You might make all the difference between navigating the white-water well and ending up on the rocks!
Link, relationship, relation, interrelation, interconnection, interdependence, association, attachment, bond, tie. These are all words that a have a similar meaning to connection. With a connection we often need a connector of some sort. When we are talking friends, a connector is a bridge-builder; someone who bridges the gap between people you don’t know or may want to know.
Having worked with the development of Set Free, our Pornography Recovery Ministry, I understand the value of community. Being part of a community or tribe is imperative in recovering from addiction in most cases. In the case of addiction, people gather out of mutual need which drives us towards each other and friendship develops from that.
When you need something – a job, a doctor, a friend or even a date the “Connector” seems to know the right people. In fact they seem to “know everyone”. Connectors do social really well, they invite all sorts of people to all sorts of events, where you meet other people.
So how would you know a connector? Well they seem to know everyone in any given situation. To identify your connector just ask them to introduce you to whatever type of friend you might be looking for. It is easy, then pray your connection takes off!
If you suspect you maybe a connector don’t wait to be asked instead offer people introductions when you see connections that may bless. Maybe throw a party and get everybody talking, you are probably a great host!