The challenge of social wellbeing

I’m having a hard time writing about a topic.   I hope you can help.

Perhaps you’ve figured out I’ve been blogging about Gallup’s Wellbeing project.   Gallup identifies five areas of Wellbeing: Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community.   These five areas work together, contributing to one another, supporting and bolstering one another.   Together they shape our overall sense of thriving.

In previous posts, I’ve tried to interpret Gallup’s work through my understanding of Christianity.

Here’s my problem.   I’m stuck on Social Wellbeing.

I’m not stuck because Gallup’s data is bad.   They clearly demonstrate the powerful and often subconscious influence our friends have over us.

Did you know that if a friend of yours becomes obese, it increases your chances of being obese by 57%?

Even more potent, did you know that your friend’s status posts on Facebook affect your own mood?

We become who we befriend.

Not only that, but Gallup presents data about the value of social time in our day.   They say that for every hour of social time, we increase our chances of having a good day.       I had a hard time buying this until I saw it corroborated by other studies.

Finally, Gallup suggests that we need to seek out multiple friends who contribute to our lives in different ways.   Rather than expecting one friend to fulfill us, we should celebrate what each friend contributes.

These are all interesting and good points.   I don’t have a problem with their findings.   It’s their advice for implementation that is so dismally shallow.   The Wellbeing book offers three points of advice based on the data:

1)   Seek to increase social time (including texting, emailing, phone conversation – even work based conversation) to six hours a day.

2)   Strengthen mutual connections within your network.

3)   Mix social time with physical activity.

That’s it?

Six hours of social time a week will do us no good we’re with people who yell at us all the time.  It will serve us no good if we’re with people who lead us into self-destructive behavior.

Terrorists work hard to strengthen the mutual connections in their networks.  Mafia bosses like to strengthen mutual connections in their networks, too.

Thus we see the difference between data and wisdom.

Gallup is on to something, but their work does not take into consideration everything I know about human nature.   We are strange creatures, having both great dignity of being created in the image of God, and also deep depravity of being sinners who are more selfish than we ever imagined.

While Gallup’s findings on social wellbeing are interesting, there is deeper wisdom for applying the data.   The book of Proverbs, an ancient text about wellbeing, teaches: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.   The path of wisdom is this: ground your social wellbeing, and all other aspects of wellbeing, in a deep awe, reverence, and respect for the Allmighty who fashioned your very existence.

So, how do we write concisely about the complexities of Social Wellbeing?   How can we encourage one another toward healthy Social Wellbeing?   As I use this blog to reflect on all the aspects of Wellbeing, how can we apply the insights of true wisdom to the topic?

How to be both pithy and potent in the same post?

Looking forward to your thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria.


One thought on “The challenge of social wellbeing

  1. The Gallup stuff simply reports that which the Bible says in principle. The data presented as health and life giving in my Masters and Doctoral programs are certainly consistent with what Jesus and the Apostles taught. For example, “These three remain, Faith, Hope and Love but the greatest is love” On my dissertation I integrated the skills and principles I was learning in Graduate School with the biblical statements on relationships.

    Since 1975 I have trained many thousands of Christians all over the world in Theology Into Practice and have built “Healing Communities” for numerous churches. Gallup simply does research and tells people to stop doing negative things but the church has forgotten how to disciple and follows the secular world in offering advice rather than teaching skills.

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