The science of neuroplasticity: that’s what we all think of when we hear the word friendship, right? I mean, all I’m looking for in a friend is the right combination of elements to come together for good social chemistry…
Wait, this is not an eHarmony commercial. We are talking about friendships–not soul mates, significant others, or whatever your relational term-of-the-day happens to be. But the science is real, my friends, and applies to more than just the dating arena.
Traditionally, it was thought that the physical brain stopped developing in early childhood, but recent studies have shown that we can grow our brains throughout our lives! Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf points out that connections between the nerve cells change each time we have an experience. Our brain can actually rework its anatomy in a positive love direction or a toxic fear direction by what we choose to contemplate, and successive actions associated with those choices. So, this, my friends, is the science of neuroplasticity (Don’t you feel smart now? I challenge you to toss that phrase into your next conversation).
Let’s link the Bible with science for just a moment and look at some Old Testament friendships. I recently read over the scenario of Job’s friends coming to sit with him while he suffered. After Satan takes his property, children and health, Job’s friend Eliphaz tells him: Of course you’ve done something sinful since you lost your children and your prosperity (Job 5:1-5)! Toxic thought delivery? Check! Job’s friend Bildad goes so far as to call him a windbag (Job 8:2) and tell him that God probably took his kids because they were sinful. Negativity? Yup!
Thankfully, these are not the only models of friendship we have to draw upon. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 15:15: “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” Literally, the smartest choice we can make for a friend is Jesus. Why? Because, unlike Job’s poorly-trained-in-grief-counseling buddies, Jesus offers these brain-altering words: “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When you have toxic thoughts such as “I can’t do this” or “I don’t have the energy to change”, reflect on Your Friend Jesus the Overcomer. His Truth will actually re-wire your brain.
The beauty of Jesus’ friendship with us is that our relationships with others are impacted, too. You knew this already, so let me give you some scientific tidbits to back that up. When we choose to help another person and show love in some way, our body produces two chemicals called dopamine and oxytocin to “melt down” toxic thought pathways (Perfect love casts out fear—1 Jn. 4:18). Conversely, if you want to harbor bitterness toward another or wallow in self-pity, remember that you are creating chemical “water” to expand deadly branches in your brain. Choosing forgiveness and repentance physiologically alters those branches to flourish and become healthy.
Jesus wants to be our true BFF and renew our minds! When we choose Him first, we can then love one another and truly experience supernatural spiritual chemistry.
This post was written by Shelli Jarvis. To read more about her, click here.