Saturday, October 20, 2012

Iron Sharpens Iron: The Effect of Social Support on Positive Religious Coping Skills

           Solomon, a renowned man of wisdom, seemed to hit the nail on the head when he stated in Proverbs 27:17, “iron sharpens iron, as one man sharpens another” (English Standard Version).  According to research, religious social support or accountability may be a positive religious coping mechanism. Essentially, when one undergoes much stress, whether it has physical, mental, or emotional components, they cope with the stress in a variety of positive or negative ways. A religious coping mechanism consists of a person responding to a stressor in a religious fashion. Religious coping mechanisms are, but not limited to, prayer, fasting, biblical counseling, and religious social support. Further, much research has supported the claim that, when a person is faced with a medical stressor, the usage of positive religious coping mechanisms resulted in greater health outcomes (Cummings & Pargament, 2010).  
Similarly, research has also pointed out that social support is a mediator between religious coping and positive outcomes. Essentially, when a person leans on social support as a way to cope with personal stress, it seems to minimize the distress that person experiences. Other research has showed favorable results that religious communities are associated with a greater quality of life (Cummings & Pargament, 2010). Krause, Ellison, Shaw, Marcum & Boardman (2001) in their study  about the effect of social support and religious coping found that  people more often use positive coping mechanisms when they receiver social support from loved ones, friends, or family that share the same religious beliefs as them.  Thus, it should be noted the beauty behind these results. When religious social support encourages the usage of religious coping mechanisms, the church is essentially doing their job: working together to give glory to God while bringing each other closer to the throne of God.  Jesus exemplifies this point when he commands his disciples in John 12:34-35 (English Standard Version), “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 As Christians, we should desire to edify one another, lift one another up, and continuously encourage one another. It is to be noted that empirical research has shown time and time again that people who engage in religious social support will enjoy better health outcomes and will desire to use prayer, fasting, Bible-study and other positive religious coping mechanisms when stress is on the rise. Further, the effect of religious social support increases the body of Christ. Krause et al. (2011) noted in their study that social support increases church memberships. These results make perfect sense in relation to counseling techniques. It is a little blessing when empirical research points to Biblical principles and enhance one’s belief and knowledge of the presence and existence of God. During times of stress, counselors always encourage social interaction; furthermore, they discourage the stressed person to be alone or isolated from others.
 C.S. Lewis notes the importance and blessing in friendship and social support when he stated, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival” As a practical application, it is important for us as the body of Christ to be receptive to the needs of others, especially social needs. We should always be looking to lift one another up; as a result, I believe God will bless us with a person that will do the same for us when we fall into times of stress. “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (English Standard Version). 

Cummings, J. P. (2010). Medicine for the spirit: Religious coping in individuals with medical conditions. Religions, 1, 28-53.
Krause, N., Ellison, C. G., Shaw, B. A., Marcum, J. P., & Boardman, J. D. (2001). Church-based social support and religious coping. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 40(4), 637-656.
Wiley, J. (2011). Bible verses about friendship: 20 good scripture quotes. Retrieved from


  1. That quote from CS Lewis is really true. It is the things that add value that end up being essential, for without them mere survival is meaningless.

  2. Ashton,

    Thank you for your post. For some reason, I had never considered one's social support system as a religious coping method. As you mentioned, as a person leans on their support system, stress is reduced. Thus the relationships we have with others are supportive to us, and hopefully will enhance our growth and overall well-being. As we discussed the other day in class, God's perfect plan was not only that we may live in perfect community with Him, but also in perfect community with one another. We were created to live in relationship with each other, to support, care for, and love one another. Since God created us to be this way, it makes sense that a social support system would only help to enhance one's circumstances and day-to-day life.

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  4. Ashton,

    I agree that as believers we ought to be there for one another in both the good times and the bad. Jesus said we are the body and this could mean that we are all connected, working together in harmony. We as humans thrive in community with others and as believers we should walk in unity and love with one another. Several studies have expressed the advantage of having a positive social support system while going through difficult times or illness as this positively impacts ones outcome. We were created to love and be loved which could be obtained by having a solid group of people to live life with. Dr. Corsini mentioned something in the GSA orientation that I took with me. He mentioned how important the people we surround ourselves were and how they can impact our lives greatly. He advised us to find a few good people to live life with, as this could determine how our lives turn out.


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