By Jacqueline J. Holness
“Squad goals” is a social media term that gained popularity in 2015 and still continues to be used to define what you hope your group of friends (your squad) embodies. In August the U.S. women’s gymnastics team wore shirts with the term and posted a picture of themselves on Instagram. With the nine medals they won in Rio this past summer, these young women are a squad that most definitely achieved their goals and are to be admired.
I submit that Jesus Christ and his disciples—his squad—achieved the ultimate in squad goals as they spread the gospel, and thousands of years later people all over the world call themselves Christians. Daniel and his squad of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are also a squad to emulate as they demonstrated the sovereignty of God by only eating vegetables and drinking water and were healthier than those who were nourished by the royal food and wine.
But even if you don’t have a squad, the point is that friendship enables you to accomplish more than what you can achieve alone. There are other examples of powerful friendships in the Bible. There is David and Jonathan; Jonathan helped David escape the wrath of Jonathan’s father, Saul. Naomi and Ruth were friends in addition to being mother-in-law and daughter-in-law; when Ruth’s husband died, she remained with Naomi. Paul and Barnabas were great friends and spread the gospel as a team.
In addition to these examples of wonderful friendships in the Bible, there are other verses that highlight the power of friendship. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6) emphasizes that a truthful critique from a friend is better than false compliments from an enemy. Also in Proverbs 27 comes this endorsement of friendship: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice” (v. 9). And the most powerful verse about friendship in the Bible is, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
In addition to friendship being an important support system in achieving goals, friendship has been shown to be important in health as well. According to a Washington Post article earlier this year, “The absence of social connections carried the same health risk as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day” (by Emily Sohn). In addition, a 2016 CNN article reported, “Researchers found that the more socially connected a person was, the lower their blood pressure down the road” (by Carinna Storrs). Another 2016 CNN article found that mental health and friendship are also linked; to capitalize on this and boost friendships among men, a Friendship Lab was created in Philadelphia that allows men to “become more comfortable opening up about their problems” (by Amy Chillag).
Although it may seem easy to make friends, having friends and maintaining friendships may be more of a precious commodity than commonly believed. Clay Kohut has created an app, Ameego, which helps millennials find friends when they move to new cities. He compares his app to Uber or Airbnb—but for friendships. Perhaps it’s needed more than people realize. Keith Hampton, Social Media & Society program cochair at Rutgers University, said, “People do report having fewer closer friends and confidants than they may have had previously” (by Caitlin Dewey in Washington Post).
While many of us have several hundred or more Facebook friends, very few of those friends are real friends, according to an Oxford University study by psychology professor Robin Dunbar. Dunbar said that only 150 friends are able to be “dependable” and responsive during an “emotional crisis” (by Amit Chowdhry in Forbes).
People fail to prioritize friendships as they get older, despite the known benefits of strong friendships (according to a 2015 Atlantic article by Julie Beck). “After all, it’s easier to put off catching up with a friend than it is to skip your kid’s play or an important business trip.”
With all of the evidence, biblical and otherwise, that supports the importance of squads—otherwise known as stable friendships—do you make time to find friends and cultivate friendships?
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service. Read more on her website (afterthealtarcall.com).