It’s been such a difficult and emotional week following the murders here in Los Angeles. In my last blog post, I called for calm in the Chinese-on-Chinese hatred that some people have expressed online.
Today, I want to talk about the only antidote to hatred, which is love.
Not the romantic sort of love, though I do talk a lot on this blog about love between a man and a woman.
Today, I want to talk about a broader definition of love.
After all, as modern women today, we don’t need marriage to survive, but we do need love in the form of true connections with others. I agree with actress Rene Liu when she says, “I believe that the friendship between females is as indispensable as the relationship between male and female; neither the friendship nor the relationship is replaceable; I enjoy them both.”
The plight of those who lack friends
New York Times bestselling author Tom Rath of the worldwide polling company The Gallup Organization once set out to study the roots of long-term homelessness in America. When he began his research, he assumed that most homeless men and women were homeless as a result of alcohol or drug addictions or mental illness. But when he and his colleagues interviewed homeless men and women in depth, they discovered that addictions and other problems were more a symptom than a root cause.
The men and women who remained homeless for decades had one thing in common: a lack of healthy friendships. More than anything else, they were “friendshipless.” Being without a home was only the most obvious and visible part of their plight.
Rath and his colleagues then turned their attention to those who had emerged from homelessness, to see what enables some people to conquer homelessness. What they found was just as striking: those who overcame their homelessness had found someone – a volunteer, a long-lost family member, or someone else – who believed in them.
Rath condensed his homelessness research and his analysis of over eight million interviews from the Gallup organization international databases into the book Vital Friends: The People You Can’t Afford to Live Without.
To be healthy and happy, make more friends
Whom we surround ourselves with is very important, since we become like our best friends. He concludes that friendships are among the most fundamental of human needs: “Without friends, it is very difficult for us to get by, let alone thrive.”
It’s no wonder that prisoners held in long-term solitary confinement suffer mental-health damage. As humans, we’re social creatures. Having a broad social network makes us happy and gives us a sense of community. Our brains control many of the mechanisms responsible for disease, and just as stress can trigger ill health, friendship protects us.
Not only do we need friends, but it matters what roles our friends play in our lives. In order to feel satisfied and to reach our full potential, says Rath, each of us needs these eight specific types of friends:
Builders motivate and coach us. Champions stand up for and praise us. Collaborators share our interests and passions. Companions are always there for us. Connectors introduce us to others. Energizers are our fun friends. Mind Openers share ideas with us. Navigators advise and help steer us.
No one person can play all these roles at once, and one mistake people often make in relationships is asking that of one person – often a boss or a spouse. Having a range of friends helps us to develop different parts of ourselves and to become more complex and autonomous as individuals. Bottom line, the wider and deeper your friendships, the better.
To become a better you, be a good friend
Given the cold and often brutal world we live in, it can be easy to forget the importance of love. That leaves a terrible void in our lives. Because we really need love. We need love in a variety of human relationships. By deeply understanding others through empathy, we can learn to love them, and by loving others, we can become better, more complete versions of ourselves.
We’ll all live longer, healthier, more productive and successful lives when we experience true friendships every day. That may sound simple, but in reality, love is essential to us all.
Friends! Join me live online in Chinese for my very first SINA Interview. You can participate from anywhere in the world at 12:00pm-1:00pm China time this Saturday April 21. What fun! Details here.