Let’s Recover Friendship as a Holy Calling

Friends: they celebrate our birthdays, pop a cork over our new jobs, become bridesmaids and best men at our weddings. But fewer of us seem to have them. In the UK, a recent YouGov survey found that more than 1-in-10 Britons have no close friends and a further 1-in-10 have no friends at all. In the US, 35 percent of Americans over the age of 45 are chronically lonely. In Australia, a 2018 report found 1-in-3 Australians don’t belong to a friendship group. 

What is causing this ‘friendship poverty’ and how can we fix it? 

Romance’s Overlooked Sibling

For months now I’ve had a sense I should explore this topic of friendship. I dipped my toes in the water on Saturday with an article for The Times on why I think friendship has been undervalued and how it can be recovered. You can read the column here (you’ll need to sign up for free) or else you can read a picture of it on social media where it got a lot of response.

“What is to blame for this devaluing of friendship?” I wrote. “Romance. Or more precisely, our obsession with it. Captivating and provocative, romance’s presence in the room draws all eyes away from its less glamorous sibling.” We need to rectify this, I add, because to be a friend is a “holy calling as valid as parenthood or a career.”

Here are some other quotes from the article:

“If friendship is rarely written about, it is sung about even less. A scroll through our playlists proves it.”

“Yet friendship may be our most fundamental bond. When a business fails, family bonds break or romance flitters away, it is to our friends that we turn.”

“To be a close friend is a high and holy calling. Just ask the two in ten of us who long to have one.”

Read the full article here or here.

BBC Radio 2’s Friendship Season

With Zoe Ball (pre-lockdown!)

But there was to be more.

A few weeks ago I had an idea for a radio documentary on friendship. I took it to the team at TBI Media who produce BBC Radio 2’s Pause for Thought segment, which I present for, and soon found myself on a Zoom call with the head of Radio 2 and senior producers. Long story short, the original idea became Radio 2’s Friendship Season which ran Thursday 30th July to Sunday 2nd August exploring “Why mates matter and how to make more.”

I joined Zoe Ball on the Thursday to discuss the importance of friendship in our lives. Wonderfully, almost every Radio 2 show over the four days also picked up the theme, something that rarely happens on the network.

Just the Beginning

It’s not everyday that your little idea gets picked up by Europe’s largest broadcaster. Which is why I think something’s brewing. In a few weeks I’ll be inviting you to take part in a brand new friendship-exploring project. I’m excited and nervous all at once but hope it will be of benefit to you and those around you.  Subscribers will get first notice so do sign up now.

In the meantime I hope the Times article gives you food for thought on treating friendship as your calling today.

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  • July 30, 2020

    I agree there is such an emphasis on romantic relationships and very little on friendships. I also see a general lack of commitment as a major factor. It spans across ALL demographics. It seems as though FOMO rules everyone’s lives: don’t commit to anything just in case something better comes along.

    I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve suggested getting together with someone and they say, “sure, I’ll text you” and as the date gets closer I reach out to them, only to find out days or weeks after we should have gotten together, they did something else “more exciting”. This is not a quality of a friend.

    It also applies to community, church, or other areas of life where one needs to sign up (commit) to attending. These are typically places where you meet people and grow friendships. It leads to a vicious cycle of claiming you want friends but not commiting to doing anything with the people you already know, or not wanting to commit to new experiences that could lead to new relationships.

    Friendship is a very interesting topic and I’m looking forward to reading/hearing more of your thoughts on it.


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