by Kenny Rader
Beginning in 1938, Harvard began a study on 268 Harvard Sophomores. Harvard also simultaneously studied 456 boys from the inner city of Boston in the range of 1216 years old. The Harvard project followed and studied all 724 of these boys-turned-to men over the years.
The research included tracking the quality of their marriages, job satisfaction and social activities, but the study also tracked their health. Every two years the men received blood tests, a chest X-ray, an echocardiogram and urine tests.
The group encompassed every aspect of life, even several of the men fought in WWII. Some poor boys became very successful and wealthy while some rich boys became poor. Most married. Some didn’t. Some divorced and some had long-lasting marriages.
Very few of these men, now in their nineties, are still living today, but Harvard still tracks them.
The most significant discovery of the Harvard Study is that close relationships matter. Whether wealthy, middle class or poor, the key to quality of life and longevity is not money. The key to life is close relationships.
The study found that couples in good supportive relationships were the best off, not necessarily financially, but in quality and enjoyment of life. Those in a low affection marriage relationship and who argued constantly were less happy than unmarried couples.
Of great significance, good relationships with people were most important both in enjoyment of life and in longevity. Those with the best social support: marriage, family, friends, and community had the best health. Loving relationships were the key. Men interacting with people in a loving relationship mattered the most, even to the point of some with high health-risk factors often outlived men with low health-risk factors.
When examining marriages, stable, supportive marriages proved beneficial in more ways than one. Couples in good marriages not only lived longer with better physical health, but those good marriages also helped reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia. Here again, marriage was not the key as much as good healthy relationships with people in general.
Consider the results of the Harvard Study and the nature of Christ’s intent of His Church. Of all the organizations on earth, which one can fulfill the results of the Harvard Study better than the Church? If good relationships are the key to real happiness; if good relationships are key to longevity; if good relationships are key to mental health, what organization can help you and I build good relationships better than the Church? The answer is – none.
Notice that the key is not only good relationships in marriages; the key is good relationships with a variety of people. Jesus taught us to focus on building our lives on one major principle: love. How important is love in Jesus’ view? The Pharisees asked Jesus about the greatest commandment in the Law.
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
– Matthew 22:37-40
The whole idea of loving God, one another, and even our enemies goes far beyond a marriage relationship. Sure, love is within the marriage, but the love Jesus tells us to have encompasses loving our entire community and beyond. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, (Lk. 19:10), thus indicating His love for everyone. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross demonstrates how far He was willing to go to carry out His mission of love.
The key to you and me having the best life ever comes by having good loving relationships with everyone we meet. Think about Paul’ letter to the Galatians.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
– Galatians 5:22-23
For once, don’t think about this fruit as something you do. Rather think of spiritual fruit as a peaceful, calm and loving way of life; the kind of life that may not be stress-free but that you can live as though it were free of stress because you have the Holy Spirit within you.
Compare the fruit of the Spirit with what Paul says you and I should not have within us: the fruits of the flesh.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
– Galatians 5: 19-21
Can you see how living anywhere close to this way will likely cut your life short? The fruit of the Spirit results in a gentle and loving life, whereas the acts of the flesh bring upheaval; causing stress and problems. Our lives have enough stress and problems without living a lifestyle that deteriorates our health more yet.
Let’s consider the results of both the Harvard Study and the biblical teachings of Jesus and Paul. It’s your life and no one can tell you how to live it, but if your life is in turmoil and anxiety; if your life isolates you from others; if your life lacks good healthy social relationships, then you are not only separating yourself from the teaching of Jesus, but you are likely cutting your life short – or at the very least you are not enjoying life to the full that you could have.
The key to really long longevity
Living as Jesus taught gives you a better life and a longer life. The Harvard Study found that good and well-rounded relationships equate to the likelihood of you and me living a longer and happier physical life while here on earth. But living our lives as Jesus taught also results in our longer spiritual life. Living in love and obedience to Jesus, which means lots of good relationships with many people, means that we inherit eternal life forever and ever. Now that’s a life worth shooting for.
Love you & God Bless