"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: What Makes a Good Support Network?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Makes a Good Support Network?

One of my semi-developed opinions (I have lots, free for the taking!) is that Laestadianism's superpower is its support network. I think about it whenever someone says "I would leave if I could." Well, why can't they? Nobody is holding a gun to their head. They aren't held captive by Spiderman's web.

Not physically, no.

But those of us who have broken those chains know very well their strength.

We did not evolve to live alone. None of us was born or survives without the help of others. Those who leave their old social group must find a new one or risk "failure to thrive," like Harlow's baby monkeys who were isolated for months and emerged broken, or died.

Isolation, even when chosen, can make us sick, depressed, and stunted in our growth. Yet so much about our modern lives keeps us from connecting to one another in any significant way.

I've been thinking of this as I prepare for major surgery later this month. Medical studies show it is not just practical support (information, care, nutrition, etc.) but social support that leads to better outcomes for the surgery patient. I have asked friends for help, for positive thoughts, for prayers.

Prayer works not because it moves the hand of God (or we wouldn't need surgery at all) but because it moves the hearts of patients. When we know there are people pulling for us, we are more optimistic about the future and more committed to self-care. Love is powerful medicine.

I found this advice from the Mayo Clinic relevant to us exes:

Benefits of a social support network

Numerous studies have demonstrated that having a network of supportive relationships contributes to psychological well-being. When you have a social support network, you benefit in the following ways:
  • Sense of belonging. Spending time with people helps ward off loneliness. Whether it's other new parents, dog lovers, fishing buddies or siblings, just knowing you're not alone can go a long way toward coping with stress.
  • Increased sense of self-worth. Having people who call you a friend reinforces the idea that you're a good person to be around.
  • Feeling of security. Your social network gives you access to information, advice, guidance and other types of assistance should you need them. It's comforting to know that you have people you can turn to in a time of need.

Cultivating your social support network

If you want to improve your mental health and your ability to combat stress, surround yourself with at least a few good friends and confidants. Here are some ideas for building your social network:
  • Volunteer. Pick a cause that's important to you and get involved. You're sure to meet others who share similar interests and values.
  • Join a gym. Or check out the local community center. Start a walking group at work or at your church. You'll make friends and get some exercise.
  • Go back to school. A local college or community education course puts you in contact with others who share similar hobbies or pursuits.
  • Look online. The newest generation of social networking sites can help you stay connected with friends and family. Many good sites exist for people going through stressful times, such as chronic illness, loss of a loved one, new baby, divorce and other life changes. Be sure to stick to reputable sites, and be cautious about arranging in-person meetings.

Give and take: The foundation of social networks

A successful relationship is a two-way street. The better a friend you are, the better your friends will be. Here are some suggestions for nurturing your relationships:
  • Stay in touch. Answering phone calls, returning emails and reciprocating invitations let people know you care.
  • Don't compete. Be happy instead of jealous when your friends succeed, and they'll celebrate your accomplishments in return.
  • Be a good listener. Find out what's important to your friends — you might find you have even more in common than you think.
  • Don't overdo it. In your zeal to extend your social network, be careful not to overwhelm friends and family with phone calls and emails. Save those high-demand times for when you really need them. And while sharing is important, be wary of "oversharing" information that's personal or sensitive, especially with new or casual acquaintances and on social networking sites.
  • Appreciate your friends and family. Take time to say thank you and express how important they are to you. Be there for them when they need support.

The bottom line

Remember that the goal of building your social support network is to reduce your stress level, not add to it. Watch for situations that seem to drain your energy. For example, avoid spending too much time with someone who is constantly negative and critical. Similarly, steer clear of people involved in unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol or substance abuse, especially if you've struggled with addictions.
Taking the time to build a social support network is a wise investment not only in your mental well-being but also in your physical health and longevity. Research shows that those who enjoy high levels of social support stay healthier and live longer. So don't wait.
Start making more friends or improving the relationships you already have. Whether you're the one getting the support or the one doling out the encouragement, you'll reap a plethora of rewards.
What is your experience with support networks? Do you have advice for those who are worried about leaving the church?


  1. Part of the difficulty of leaving is that it is hard to find healthy supports who have any comprehension of what is being left behind. Leaving is difficult, but for me the leaving part has been simple and easy compared to the changing of lenses that I view things through. When one sees everything through a rigid lens of right and wrong, the transition to a world of possibility, a world of nuance etc. is difficult. One leaves because they feel they don't fit in, but the sense of not fitting can persist once one has left. The change is a cultural one, akin to moving to a different country. So yes, good support systems, if found, are invaluable.

    1. Well said, unbeliever.
      I have found that as circumstances change, so does the kind of support. What I needed as a young mother, for example, is not what I need now, and what I could give then is not what I can give now (I'm pickier). The internet is wonderful for bringing together strangers around a common goal such as fitness or simple living (my current faves), but we all need deeper relationships, the kind that weather storms together. Those take time -- and shared experiences -- to nurture. I want to get better at that.

  2. I guess I was really lucky in that I never felt the need for a support network beyond what I already had. I -- and my entire family -- had always had close friendships with people who were not Laestadians. We socialized with neighbors of all walks, faiths, and nationalities. As a result, when I drifted away, I just maintained life as always. To be fair, in our slip-sliding little community, most of the other Laestadians felt the same way, and so I didn't really lose any friends from within the church either.

    I do have a minor nit to pick with you, Free, from your original post! I do believe prayer works because of its effect on people, but I also believe that prayer does move the hand of God, as you put it. I believe God does answer our prayers -- sometimes the way we hope and sometimes in other ways -- and I see that as "moving the hand of God". We can see testimony in the Bible about dialogue between humans and God, and how sometimes man has influenced God to modify his thoughts because of those negotiations. Whether those stories are literal or are allegorical fiction illustrating a concept is immaterial -- the point seems to be made, wouldn't you agree? (Perhaps I was misinterpreting what you said...)

    1. Cvow, thanks for pointing out my hubris in the original post. Of course I do not know if prayer works or how, and while I am usually agnostic about the existence of God as some universal force, I think there is plenty of evidence to suggest that prayer / intention / positive thoughts is transformative, even at the chemical level. God is often said to be love. If prayer increases the sensation, thoughts, and expressions of Love, then prayer does indeed move the hands, so to speak, of God.

  3. When we see everything thru the ridged lens 'of right and wrong', that's what the Church has taught. And satan loves it. No wonder we have dozen's of Church factions each claiming that they are right and and everyone else is wrong. It is very difficult to survive such a Church teaching.After nearly 50 years in the Laestadian system, God finally took away from me some Church lie's. I'm sorry I have to put it so bluntly. One of those lies is that you have to belong to a certain church to get saved.That's so silly,I mean stupid silly. We are allowed to think for ourselves, but we don't. The whole of the Laestadian movement is less then .003 0f one percent of the p0pulation. What ever happened to the Written word, "'who so ever will come'',and ''believe on the Name of Jesus and you will be saved. The problem is most people can easily believe that Jesus paid for their sin's,but then satan comes along and adds something, anything,just so that you will be sharing your Faith and not trusting in Jesus alone. God is jealous and know's the enormous price he paid to save you. He will never allow you to be believing that your particular church is important If you are doing that, you will have to settle for a ''good feeling religion if you are in good standing , but hell on earth if you are on the outside. The truth is Jesus died for the sin's of the whole world, the sin's of every person, and that includes all the extoots and everyone else. Now here is the most amazing part, we don't have to belong to a certain church, our only responsibility is to believe. To believe when Jesus cried out on the cross "it is finished" that it indeed is finished, and we no part to play, except just believe it. Of course who in the Laestadian movement is able to do that, not very many.And don't think that a good confession of sin will get you closer to God, the confession that God requires is simply that we agree with God , that I am a sinner, and I agree with God that I need Jesus and that's all I need. All of your confessing of sin's will come later out of a Born again heart. It's amazing how satan has been able,to pull the wool over our eyes, and whispering" you belong to a special church, more important then others.That's the ploy he uses on the Catholics, The seventh day, Jehovah's witness, Amish, Menonites just to name a few, they're are hundreds, so I am not picking on the Laestadian movement. But they have no shame, I'm talking about the preachers, when I confronted one well known preacher, why don't you just tell the truth about this subject, he said I can't do that people would probably leave. So I suggest that people just go home, and in the privacy of your own home tell God no more false religion, no more right church. You don't need to tell your preacher that you asked God to save you without the help of your church, it will work, acknowledge to God that you have been hoodwinked by those that were supposed to help.

  4. Please use a nickname when posting.

  5. If you don't get vaccinated and get exposed to measles you probably will end up with measles. In religion if you don't take the. preventive measure of reading the Bible for yourself and thinking for yourself, you will probably end up in a self righteous church liker the Laestadian movement, you can pick out of 30 or 40 factions, each claiming to be the true church....the Bible say's if you add to the gospel of Grace,you have fallen from Grace and Christ profit you nothing. Then it says. Let the preacher be accursed, and it is repeated, let that preacher be accursed. Can we believe the Bible when God say such things, I'm afraid for my family, they are being held hostage by Laestadian. doctrine.

  6. I was raised in the Apostolic Lutheran system, I'm thankful that in Sunday school I was taught the 10 commandments and in confirmation class I was taught the 10 commandments again and what is meant by them, but that's old testament. This is New testament time, and the new Covenant. While in my learning years the Church hardly ever taught anything about the Grace of God and how all of our sin's were already paid for on the Cross.