Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without

Article excerpt

VITAL FRIENDS: THE PEOPLE YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO LIVE WITHOUT. Tom Rath. Washington, DC: Gallup, 2000. Pp. 213. Reviewed by Geoffrey W. Sutton (Evangel University/Springfield, MO).

What is the relationship between friendships and religious preference? Rath surveyed more than 1,000 people and found that "fewer than 2% have a religious preference that differs from that of their best friend or a parent (p.22)." Weaving together stories, historical examples, published research and survey data, Rath makes the case for the importance of close friends (i.e., vital friends) to life-satisfaction and productivity. The author organized 14 chapters into four parts. Four appendixes, research notes, suggested reading, and acknowledgements complete this easy-to-read paperback.

In the six chapters that comprise part one, readers learn Rath's point that our culture may have focused too heavily on personal growth to the exclusion of developing relationships with others. In addition to examples from daily life, Rath invokes the research of Gottman to show the importance of positive interactions to marital and individual well-being.

The three chapters of part two focus on the importance of friendships at work. In contrast to companies that discourage friendships on the job, Rath points to research demonstrating the value of friendships to employees and ultimately to productivity. Among other findings, those having a best friend at work "are significantly more likely to engage customers, get more done in less time, and have a safe workplace with fewer accidents ... (p.. 53)." If one friend is good, how many friends are enough? Rath reports that a "three-friend threshold" maximizes reports of life satisfaction.

Readers will find practical applications in part three. Chapter 11 describes eight vital roles that friends can play in a relationship. The reader's task is to use the examples and descriptions to identify these varied roles and find ways to enhance the strengths that others bring to the relationship. …

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