Recently on Morning Air, John Morales welcomed Emily Jaminet onto the show to talk about friendship and the ways that it reduces our brain’s levels of cortisol, the hormone primarily responsible for causing stress and anxiety.
Emily pointed out that August can be an especially stressful time for parents and children as it is the beginning of the back-to-school season. But more than an unattainable to-do list, many of the things that we worry about in conjunction with our physical responsibilities are things that we have no control over. Emily called them “vain worries”, not to imply that their outcome doesn’t matter, but to say that our worrying has no bearing on them.
Emily Jaminet co-authored a book with Michele Faehnle called The Friendship Project and in it, they talk about the value of spiritual friendship and our obstacles to attaining this amazing blessing. One of the greatest modern obstacles to friendship is social media and other agents of isolation often manifested through digital media.
Not so long ago, it was commonplace to meet up with a friend or two to talk about the different things in our lives that are stressing us out. Teens would meet up to talk about romantic interests, drama at school, confrontations, arguments, and interactions. Parents would meet up to ask for advice about issues with their spouse or child or in-laws. Cafes and coffeehouses were the unofficial meeting place for cultivating friendship through problems and problem-solving. But with the relatively new introduction of digital devices into every aspect of our lives, it’s not uncommon to bury your stress and anxiety with phone addiction and more stimuli.
Emily emphasized the importance of having facetime with good friends to talk about stressful things. Because these conversations and the counsel we receive are influencing the trajectory of our lives and decisions, it is vital that we have Christ-centered relationships with those around us. Christ-centered and righteous people will direct us toward good things while misguided and broken people will direct us toward bad things.
John and Emily took a look at a study that said that the fight-or-flight dichotomy might not be the only option in responding to stress. Whereas someone under duress might impulsively feel the need to quickly remedy the problems weighing on their mind, others have found a new strategy: “tend-and-befriend”. A trait primarily found in women, this concept revolves around the practice of befriending other women or cultivating friendship through sharing problems, experiences, and solutions.
Part of Emily’s favorite part of writing the book The Friendship Project is that she got to do it with her friend, Michele. They are very different people, but they got to face obstacles together, tackle topics together, and ultimately succeed in the completion and publication of this book. The reason they titled the book what they did was to convey the fact that friendships can’t be stagnant; they should always be in motion, evolving, growing, and maturing. A good friendship always results in both members becoming closer to God.
“To have a friend, you must be a friend,” said Emily. One of the biggest obstacles to finding good friendships, and ultimately happiness, is the failure to grow in virtue. If we take it upon ourselves to grow in virtue, we can lead our friends through the same growth. In doing so, we benefit those around us as well as ourselves because our friends will be better equipped to guide and advise us. These good friends are the ones that we will be leaning on when we’re stressed out and going through tough times.
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