In 2014, there was enormous outcry over video footage of pro football player Ray Rice knocking his wife Janay unconscious, then dragging her off an elevator. In the midst of the coverage, the Rices appeared together at a press conference, and she clearly seemed to have no intention of leaving him. This set off a whole new barrage on social media asking why in the world she would stay.

In the U.S., it is estimated that every nine seconds a woman is beaten. Moreover, research indicates that 85 percent of reported cases of domestic violence are by men against women. These relationships usually involve intense jealousy, controlling behavior, denial and blame, intimidation, coercion and threats, and isolation.

  • Approximately 50 percent of men who assault their partners also assault their children.
  • As many as 10 million children witness domestic violence annually.
  • Men and women engage in comparable levels of abuse and control, though women are more likely to use emotional manipulation. In contrast, men are more likely to use sexual coercion and physical dominance. (Statistics from Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)

Dr. David M. Allen, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, says it’s important to realize that not all abusers were abused as children. And, that many – if not most – people who are abused do not become abusers. However, child abuse is most likely the single largest risk factor – biological, psychological or sociocultural – for later adult abusive behavior.

According to Allen, significant family dysfunction is almost always present in a repetitive abuser’s background. Unfortunately, these dysfunctional patterns rarely stop when abused children grow up.

Why do people stay?

Fear, reliance on the abusive partner, pressure and conflicting emotions are all reasons why someone would stay in an abusive relationship.

“The reason many of these victims stay is because they are brainwashed to believe that the violence is their fault. They may think they cannot survive without their abuser and that they are too stupid, too ugly or too unfit to be a good employee, wife, friend or mother,” says Dr. Charlotte Boatwright, President of the Chattanooga Area Domestic Violence Coalition.

So, what can you do if you have a friend who is in an abusive situation?

  • Recognize the abuse. Help your friend see that what is happening is not normal. Healthy relationships revolve around mutual respect, trust and consideration for the other person. Intense jealousy and controlling behavior, which could include physical, emotional or sexual abuse are all indicative of an unhealthy relationship.
  • Support your friend’s strength. Acknowledge the things she does to take care of herself.
  • Help your friend with a safety plan. There are resources available in our community to help victims of domestic violence. Express your concern for your friend’s safety and the safety of her children. Encourage her to get help as soon as possible. Give her the phone number to Chattanooga’s domestic violence hotline, 423-755-2700 or the National Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-799-7233. Assure her that when she is ready to leave, you will be there for her.
  • Be a good listener. Empower her through listening. Be nonjudgmental.

“Never underestimate the power and encouragement of a friend,” Boatwright says. “Sometimes all a victim needs is permission to seek help.”

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

You probably recognize this childhood rhyme, but is it true?

Social media posts, letters to the editor and rants to American newspapers increasingly spew angry and hateful words. In the spirit of supposedly expressing opinions and being helpful, writers name-call, judge from afar and are just plain mean. The words are cringeworthy, yet the writer somehow believes they are acceptable. Are we crossing a line?

The words we use can either build others up or tear them down. Is our society so angry and insecure that we need to tear others down to feel good about ourselves? Can we discuss an issue without verbally attacking someone?

In 2014, pop artist Taylor Swift took things to a whole new level. Responding to the hateful things people say about her, she wrote Shake it Off – and it skyrocketed to the top of the charts.

In an interview, Swift told Rolling Stone magazine the meaning behind the song.

“I’ve had every part of my life dissected — my choices, my actions, my words, my body, my style, my music. When you live your life under that kind of scrutiny, you can either let it break you, or you can get really good at dodging punches. And when one lands, you know how to deal with it. And I guess the way that I deal with it is to shake it off.”

Shake it Off has become an anthem for millions striving to shake off haters, players and fakers in their lives.

There’s another childhood saying, too: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” Either we have forgotten the saying’s wisdom or a whole generation apparently never learned it.

In Let it be Christmas, Alan Jackson sings:

“Let anger and fear and hate disappear. Let there be love that lasts through the year.”  

We all have hearts and minds. Some hearts harden over time and are a little rough around the edges, while other hearts are broken and in despair.

So, what would happen if we remember that the words we speak and write have power? Communication has power to incite anger, discourage and create distrust among people. It can also encourage, give hope, affirm and bring out the best in people.

Our words matter. If we intentionally give life through our words and actions, can it make a difference?

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.

We are a nation of millions, but Cigna Health Insurance recently released a national survey that reveals we are a lonely nation. 

According to the survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out.

  • One in 4 Americans rarely or never feel as though people really understand them.

  • Two in 5 Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful and that they are isolated from others.

  • One in 5 people report they rarely or never feel close to people or feel like there are people they can talk to.

  • Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely compared to those who live alone. However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians – even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.

  • Only a little more than half of Americans have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family.

  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.

  • Social media use alone is not a predictor of lonelinessRespondents defined as very heavy users of social media and those who never use social media have similar loneliness scores.

Even though there are more ways than ever before to connect with others, the struggle to feel connected is very real and can not only lead to emotional issues, but physical ones as well.

According to David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna, this lack of human connection ultimately leads to a lack of vitality. 

The good news is that this study reinforces that we are social creatures made for relationship and that communities matter. Less-lonely people are more likely to have regular, meaningful, in-person interactions and are in good overall physical and mental health. They have also achieved balance in daily activities, are employed and have good relationships with their coworkers. 

More specifically, the survey showed that getting the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and “me time” is connected to lower loneliness scores. However, balance is critical, as those who get too little or too much of these activities have higher loneliness scores. Here are some details:

  • Sleep: Those who say they sleep just the right amount have lower loneliness scores.

  • Spending time with family: Those who spend more or less time than desired with their family are on par with one another when it comes to experiencing feelings of loneliness.

  • Physical activity: People who say they get just the right amount of exercise are considerably less likely to be lonely

  • The workplace: Those who say they work just the right amount are least likely to be lonelyloneliness score of those who work more than desired increases by just over three points, while those who work less than desired showed a 6-point increase in loneliness

If you are one of the millions feeling trapped by loneliness, here are five strategies for overcoming it.

  • Put down the technology. While gaming and social media make you think you are connecting with people, your brain knows otherwise. 

  • Make a move. When you are lonely, it is easy to tell yourself nobody wants to be around you anyway. If you are breathing, you are meant to be in relationship with others. Making the first move toward relationships with others can often be the most difficult. 

  • Be intentional about putting yourself in situations where you can have human interaction and create relationships. It could be a class, a recreational hiking club or something else. Think about things you enjoy doing. Find others who are doing that thing and join them.

  • Know the difference in being lonely and spending time by yourself. Quiet time to rejuvenate and get your head together is healthy. Spending all of your time alone and away from people is not.

  • Find a way to help others, minimize your time alone and utilize your talents in the community. Volunteer at a local food bank, pet shelter or other nonprofit. 

What can destroy a relationship, cause a company to lose customers and make athletes sacrifice millions in endorsements?

It’s trust, of course.

If you’ve ever regretted giving your heart to someone or done business with a company that didn’t deliver on its promises, you know that trust is a BIG DEAL.

“The single uniqueness of the greatest leaders and organizations of all time is trust,” says David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships and a Stronger Bottom Line. “When there is low trust, everything takes more time and money and creates more stress. Lack of trust is your biggest expense. Companies with high trust levels outperform companies with low trust levels by 186 percent. Everything of value from relationships to financial systems are built on trust.”

Whether you’re trying to build a strong marriage and family or a multimillion dollar organization, trust matters. In fact, Horsager contends that, even if you have excellent communication skills, insight, vision and charisma, you won’t go very far without trust.

He also says it’s the currency of business and life.

So what is trust, exactly?

According to Horsager, it’s a confident belief in someone or something. It’s the confident belief in an entity to do what’s right and to deliver on what is promised and to be the same every time, whatever the circumstances. For example, being trustworthy implies reliability, dependability and capability. You are trusted to the degree that people believe in your ability, your consistency, your integrity and your commitment to deliver.

Horsager’s research has identified eight pillars which are key to building and supporting trust:

  • Clarity. People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.
  • Compassion. People put faith in those who care beyond themselves.
  • Character. People notice those who do what’s right over what’s easy.
  • Competency. People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant and capable.
  • Commitment. People believe in those who stand through adversity. In this instance, actions definitely speak louder than words.
  • Connection. People want to follow, buy from and be around friends. It’s easier to trust a friend than a stranger, so look for ways to engage with people and build relationships.
  • Contribution. People immediately respond to results. By giving of yourself and your talents, you are investing in others.
  • Consistency. People love to see the little things done consistently.

Remember, it’s not likely that you’ll get just one big chance to be trusted. Instead, you’ll have thousands of small ones. Just like a savings account, when you respond consistently you will see the results build up over time.

“What in the world do you have to be depressed about?”

“Did something happen to make you sad?”

“Just snap out of it.”

Susan* has heard all of these statements her entire life from friends and family as she battled clinical depression.

“Growing up I was a very shy person in a family of extroverts,” says Susan. “My siblings all love being social and funny. I’m the one who just wants to stay home and read. Throughout my childhood I was very moody.”

It wasn’t until law school when she was waking up in the middle of the night with her jaw clenched that she decided to talk with a counselor. During her first session, the counselor asked, “At what point in your life did you determine it was your job to be the savior to everyone?”

“It was at that moment that it hit me,” Susan recalls. “Up to that point, I was the person everybody came to with their problems. I learned I needed some serious boundaries in order to stop letting people walk all over me. I also learned I was clinically depressed.”

Susan knew she had much to be thankful for, but that didn’t stop her from feeling horrible on a daily basis.

“Living with depression is like this fog that minimizes joys and magnifies hurts and criticism,” Susan shares. “People who don’t have depression see the world in color. People with depression see the world in black and white. I have dealt with suicidal thoughts for 20 years.”

Susan recalled a time three months before her wedding. She was driving home from work, planning her suicide in her mind. She wanted the pain to be over. Clearly, she did not follow through with her plan. Susan’s fiance was out of town on business, and she could not think of one other person who would know what to do. She got the help she needed to get through that moment, but every day is still a battle.

“In listening to people talk about the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I think people don’t understand that when you suffer from depression, it’s like every day on this earth is a living hell,” Susan says. “My depression is so severe, it often interferes with my ability to function. For me, and I think many others dealing with depression, the thought of not having to deal with the pain anymore is very appealing.”

When asked what people say as they try to help, Susan shared that it isn’t helpful to tell a depressed person to just snap out of it, pop a pill or ask if they had a fight with their spouse.

“It is helpful to ask, ‘What can I do?’ or to send a text to check in or call and ask how things are going,” Susan says. “Both my husband and I suffer from depression. He knows that when I am having a hard time, the best thing he can do is give me space and let me be quiet. I know that when he is struggling, the thing that helps him most is to get out and do something.”

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can feel awkward. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. Giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings, however, can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

If you want to be helpful to a person who you believe may be having suicidal thoughts, here are some things you should do:

  • Be yourself. Let the person know you care and that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
  • Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair or vent anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, its existence is a positive sign.
  • Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm and accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
  • Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
  • Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.
  • Ask them how you can be helpful. They may not be able to immediately answer this question, but asking it encourages them to think about it.

Here are some things you should not do. DO NOT:

  • Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look on the bright side.”

  • Act shocked, lecture on the value of life or say that suicide is wrong.

  • Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.

  • Offer ways to fix their problems, give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.

  • Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

What kind of communicator are you? Would your family describe you as soft-spoken or loud? Do you tend to shy away from conflict or embrace it wholeheartedly? Has anybody ever described you as sarcastic? When you are angry, are you more likely to fly off the handle or wait until you are calm to address the issue?

The way you communicate with family, friends and co-workers dramatically impacts the quality of your relationships. It has the ability to shut down communication or to encourage it.

Based on decades of research, Dr. John Gottman has discovered four common communication styles that can really damage relationships.

1. Harsh startup – Whether at work or at home, a tendency to attack someone verbally while you are upset with them is considered a harsh startup and usually shuts down communication immediately.

2. Flooding – Have you ever felt your heart race, your blood pressure rise, your muscles tense and your body break into a sweat when trying to communicate with someone? Gottman refers to this as “flooding.” It is impossible to think and react rationally in this state. Consequently, discussion at this time usually escalates uncontrollably with no resolution.

3. Body Language – Here, Gottman is referring to eye-rolling, heavy sighs and what many call “the look.” Those are things your teen does that get on your last nerve, but they are not things you would typically expect from an adult.

4. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which involves:

  • Criticism – Blaming, using negative labels to attack a person’s character, and fault-finding.
  • Contempt – Lack of respect for a person’s dignity, an attitude of superiority, mockery and hostile humor. As a result, communication is condescending and demeaning.
  • Defensiveness – Refuses to take responsibility, will not admit their role in a situation, and deflects complaints back on the other person, as in: “it’s your fault.”
  • Stonewalling – Also known as the silent treatment. Stubbornly refusing to give any verbal or non-verbal feedback that they are listening or attending to what the other person is saying.

If you are seeking to have healthy communication with the people in your life, try these strategies.

  • Be intentional and specific. Ask for a good, undistracted time to talk. While you may want to discuss many things, choose only one thing and stick to it.
  • Listen without being defensive. After you have shared, listen to their response without planning your defense at the same time. It’s impossible for your brain to do two things at once.
  • Avoid mind-reading. Everybody knows the old saying about assumptions. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you can read someone’s mind.
  • Express negative feelings constructively. You can talk about hard topics without being ugly and tearing somebody down. Choose your words and your tone carefully.
  • Don’t withhold the positive. Even in the most difficult circumstances, you can often communicate something positive.

When it comes to communication, people want emotional safety, whether it is spouse to spouse, parent to child or co-worker to supervisor relationships. It is possible to talk with someone about a very complicated situation without destroying them. So, if your goal is to win, have the last word or prove you are right, you might need to ask yourself exactly what you hope to accomplish.

Tired of the so-so communication in your marriage? 

Check out this hefty DIGITAL E-BOOK by Marriage Researchers & Therapists

Inside, you’ll find:

  • How and why you and your spouse communicate differently, and what to do about it
  • 5 proven listening techniques that will pump up the intimacy in your relationship
  • 4 ways to start and end difficult conversations well
  • 5 ways you may be hindering communication with your spouse without realizing it
  • AND MORE!

PLUS! Every section has an easy, no-stress discussion guide created for you and your partner to build the communication you want in your marriage.

Joseph Hernandez and his wife of 47 years were preparing for retirement and discussing how they would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. At 67, Joseph was full of life and had just received a clean bill of health from his doctor.

Joseph loved people, and he devoted his life’s work to helping others build strong families. While attending a conference this past July where he was teaching on how to help families thrive, Hernandez became ill and passed away. In the blink of an eye, an undetected aneurysm took him from his bride, his family, friends and colleagues.

In the midst of tragedy, meaningful moments can offer powerful takeaways about living life.

When Mrs. Hernandez realized something was wrong and called the ambulance, team members and colleagues who had become friends immediately surrounded her. Some put their dinner plans on hold when they realized what was happening. Friends rushed to the hospital, orchestrated phone calls and tried to thoughtfully anticipate potential needs.  Although they had no idea what to expect, they wanted to be there and offer support.

Joseph left this earth doing what he loved, surrounded by the people he loved. While remembering him, many felt it was amazing that he died doing what he was most passionate about. They discussed the importance of doing what you love and making the most of every day. “Life is short,” they said. “Make what you are doing count.”

While it is hard to believe that Joseph is gone, it reminds those left behind to focus on what really matters in life – relationships.

At the end of the day, the relationships we cultivate make life rich. Life’s pace seems to move faster and faster. Relationships are often neglected while people pursue career aspirations, take care of children and fulfill community commitments.

Have you told your loved ones how you feel lately or taken time to catch up with a longtime friend? Have you forgiven those who have offended you? It is easy to assume there will always be tomorrow, but there is no guarantee.

Have you ever felt the nudge to visit a sick friend or provide child care for a busy parent? Have you thought about calling someone just to check in? If so, did you talk yourself out of it because it would throw your entire schedule out of whack? Or maybe you thought you weren’t the right person, wouldn’t know what to say or that it might have been awkward somehow. Perhaps you look back and wish you had taken the time because everything else wasn’t that important. You might even understand that whether you had the words or not, your presence would have been comforting.

During the ordeal and its aftermath, Mrs. Hernandez said it meant a lot that people came to be with her, knowing they had stepped away from important work.

Simply being willing to show up says you care. Life is short, so make your moments count.

Do you ever wonder at the end of the month where in the world your hard-earned money went? It’s like money is falling out of a hole in your wallet!

Consider this: if you buy a cup of coffee for $1.96, one chicken biscuit for $1.99, and a $3 magazine, you’ve spent almost $10 at the drop of a hat.

“Little expenses really add up,” says Laura Coleman, personal financial educator with LFE Institute. “Most people don’t think about where their money is going. They make money and spend it, but they don’t have a system for managing it.”

Coleman worked with one couple living paycheck to paycheck. With five children and a sixth on the way, the couple’s goal was to live on one paycheck so she could be a stay-at-home mom. When Coleman started working with them, they had basically decided they had to have a second income.

“Money was causing a lot of conflicts and they had no idea what was happening with their finances,” Coleman shares. “They moved to a smaller home, lowering their monthly payment and got rid of a vehicle, but still needed two incomes. I worked with them to open communication and develop an overall strategy to find extra money and plug leaks. Within a short amount of time, we found $1,600. They were shocked.”

Coleman contends that two of the biggest issues for couples concerning money are different spending styles and lack of open communication. When people don’t have control over their money and have no idea where it is going, they buy things they can’t afford, use their credit cards as part of their income, and there’s never anything left to save for the future.

“I have been helping people with their finances for many years, starting out as a mortgage originator,” Coleman says. “Our clients were buried in debt and struggling to pay their bills. What they needed was education and the skills to manage the money they had, not another loan. I wanted to provide solutions, not create more problems.”

As a financial coach, Coleman helps people develop a plan for managing their money. One of the first steps is to understand that spending is often a choice and as consumers we only have one chance to spend that dollar. LFE’s “$1,000 Card” helps people ask the right questions to make smart choices and save money.

  • Did I plan to buy this?

  • If I have to pay cash do I still want it?

  • What will happen if I don’t buy this?

  • Do I need this or just want it?

The next step is to discuss financial goals.

“When people tell me they want to be financially successful I ask them to define success,” Coleman says. “One person might consider success being able to pay down their mortgage while their spouse defines success as having money in the bank. We work together to establish goals the whole family can get excited about.”

But there’s more! Once couples have common goals, Coleman teaches them strategies to stretch their paychecks, reduce debt, avoid financial traps and ease family conflicts over money. “Financial freedom comes from taking control of your finances,” Coleman asserts.

The media often talks about the economy, and they usually say it will probably get worse before it gets better.

“Families are getting hit hard on the basics like gas and food,” says Debbie Brown, vice president of investments with Raymond James & Associates.

“Studies indicated that close to 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year. People have been so focused on buying what they want regardless of the terms. Now, they are forced to rethink how they spend money.”

An analysis of Federal Reserve statistics in early 2015 revealed that the average U.S. household owes $7,281 on credit cards. Average indebted households carry $15, 609 in credit card debt.

“When people make decisions about spending they often operate out of emotion instead of thinking through the decision,” Brown says. “I know people who purchase items based on what their next paycheck will be versus what they have in the bank. In this economy nothing is certain. I encourage families to take a hard look at their spending, to set priorities and a budget and to live within their means. With energy and food costs going up, this can truly be challenging.”

Brown says these ideas can help families stretch their dollars as far as possible:

  • Establish a family budget. Use this as an opportunity to teach your children about the cost of living. Involve them in the process so they understand what it costs for electricity, water, cable, eating out, clothing, insurance, etc. Ask them to contribute ideas for ways family members can help conserve like turning off lights when leaving a room, carpooling or riding the bus.

  • Take your lunch. Instead of buying lunch at school and work, take your lunch. The Browns figured they could save at least $50 a week ($2,600 a year) by not eating out.
  • Be intentional about running errands. Think about where you need to go and whether or not you will be in the area for some other reason during the week.
  • Examine your cable options. You may be able to significantly reduce your fee by agreeing to fewer channels.
  • Buy your specialty coffee at the grocery store. Instead of spending $3.50 on a daily cup of coffee, get specialty coffee from the grocery store and brew it yourself for about 17 cents per cup.
  • Go through the drive through to cash a check. Paying ATM transaction fees can add up to some serious cash.
  • Don’t buy on impulse. Many times we see things we think we need, but the truth is we can live without it.

“So many people think of budgeting as a negative,” Brown says. “I think this is a great opportunity for parents to challenge their kids to see how far they can help make the family income go each month. Most young people have no idea how much it costs to fill up the gas tank or buy groceries, much less heat or cool a home.”

As I started the new year, I chose a different kind of resolution. Instead of adding a new activity or giving up something, I decided to work on two skills: having balance throughout life and being intentional in my friendships. It’s so easy to let the business of life takeover, but I’ve decided to be intentional with the people in mine. If someone crosses my mind, I contact them just to let them know I’m thinking of them.

Yesterday, a friend came to mind so I decided to give her a call. My intention was just to touch base with her so she would know that I was in her corner no matter what! After we talked, I started to think about the word “friendship” and what friendship looks like now that we have social media…

I thought about my childhood, how I saw my mother and my aunts sitting around the table talking about life, parents, work, husbands… kids. There was an understanding that this was a “safe zone” – and what was said at the table stayed there.

I think about my life now and how I have a table that no one talks at. Instead, I sit with my computer, connecting with my friends on Facebook. I see their pictures, watch their Facebook Live videos and celebrate their personal wins by clicking like or sending them a message.

Do I acknowledge my jealousy and envy when I see the fancy date night pictures, the brand new cars or the spectacular couple trips to beaches and exotic countries? How do I figure out if I am being a friend to them or if I’m only being a fan of their life? And what is the difference? Where is the personal connection? How are we engaging our hearts and hands aside from pressing letters on a keyboard? Physical presence can not be replicated in an online relationship.

A friend seeks and wants joy and success, no matter what is going on in life. A friend walks beside, and supports when times are tough. A friend tells the truth even when you are afraid it might hurt. A friend spends time – in real time.