The value of Community

Friday, December 08, 2006
I"ve been doing research on the value of true community in our lives for a seminar I"m prepping for. Yesterday I came across some statistics that are a bit shocking if you see their implications.
“As of 2004, the average American had just two close friends, compared with three in 1985. Those reporting no confidants at all jumped from 10 percent to 25 percent. Even the share of Americans reporting a healthy circle of four or five friends had plunged from 33 percent to just over 15 percent.”?

I had been suspecting this was the case, but these numbers seem to prove my suspicions. I think that less and less people have other people in their lives enough. People don"t have close friends, or at least friends they are willing to confide in, trust, and love.

Whatever it is due to, maybe moving too often and not having time to establish friendships, or maybe being so busy with one"s own life that you don"t have time to cultivate a decent caring friendship, we just don"t have good friends any longer.

This leads to constant low levels of stress, because nobody has your back. Nobody calls if you don"t show up at work because you have the flu. There"s nobody to listen to your frustrations about work, nobody to talk you off the ledge of quitting because you had a bad day, nobody to celebrate with you because you just proposed to the woman you love. Nobody.

And what of being cared for? That has to effect you too if the only person who cares for you is your mom and she lives 2000 miles away from you!

No one to check up on you or bring you chicken soup. No one to help you out if your basement floods or you need a couple bucks for the cab fare home.

This emptiness forces people to talk to counselors often about things that friends should be listening to and helping you to process in healthy ways.

It also leads to all manner of stress related illnesses. Lonely people are often sicker (Physically!) than people with a few friends. Studies show that individuals who have even a couple of good friends actually live longer than those who are alone.

We have replaced comfortable relationships with people, with comfortable relationships with other things. Food, alcohol, and drugs become comforting for our loneliness. The internet becomes a familiar friend to us, or television with it"s half hour comedies becomes a comfortable relationship for us.

We can come home after a long tiring day, sit back with a cold one, turn on the TV and the consistent safe relationship we have with a few characters fills our need for relationships.

We laugh at their familiar mistakes and stories and they treat us like old friends by coming back tomorrow at the same time.

Besides, it"s easier to do that than to work at being a real friend, because sometimes being a real friend is just hard work.

I think we need a revolution in how we value friendships. They are not an extra to life, but life itself. We need to carve out space and time to have friends. To cultivate and grow a good friendship.

Yes it"s work, but in the end somebody will have your back, you will have somebody to care for, and hey, you"ll live longer.

If you want a friend, be a friend.


  1. Do you think that part of the reason we don't have close friends is the fear of letting people get too close, are we afraid of being hurt?

    I know I have often been too insecure to be a friend. What if they don't like me?

    It is a very interesting post and one I agree with. Our view of friendships have changed over the years.

  2. I would tend to take it a bit further. I agree that many people have few or no close friends... I take it a step further. I think - I have no research to back this up - that people have wider 'social' circles though. I've been noticing that people my age and younger know a lot of people, usually through the internet. They know them, but don't KNOW them if you catch my meaning.

    I even find that they prefer talking over the internet - after all it's a way to feel connected without actually being connected. While I do enjoy the internet - it's a way cheaply to keep in contact with my sister in New Zealand, and a few other people I know - in a lot of ways I hate it. You can't understand the tone of what the person is saying, you can't see their face, are they serious? funny? sarcastic? So much you just can't tell by the written word.

    My insecurity or the reason I don't have a lot of close friends besides the one? After awhile it gets tiresome. By that I mean, that I do try to call, or e-mail or stay in contact. I really do. But how many e-mails, phone calls does a person have to give without the other person returning them? If confronted - let's face it outspoken I am! - there is always an excuse.

    Right now as I'm going though quite a dark time in life, it does hurt that I have so few around me. The few that are there, are busy in their own lives and don't seem to believe my cries of everything is not okay. While understandable, it also makes it even more difficult to build up those 'junior' friendships into 'senior' friendships. After all who wants a friend that won't be there to hand kleenixs, take you out, call you or show some concern over the pain that a person feels.

    Well, another soap box for me apparently! I do agree with your musings though is the short version!


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