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The Smell of a Good Friendship

Lynn H. Pryor

(Photo: Unsplash)

There’s a familiar saying we used to say as kids.

“You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.”

Yeah, I know. That’s disgusting, but we all laughed at it when we were twelve years old. But today, thanks to science, we can revise that saying.

“… but you can pick your friends by your nose.”

We know Rover and Fido sniff each other to determine friend or foe, but according to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, humans may do the same thing, albeit subconsciously. When two friends say there is a chemistry between them, they may be on to something.

The hypothesis is that we subconsciously pick up on similar body odors, and the more similar we smell, the more likely we’ll be friends. If that smells a little … um, fishy, they tested their hypothesis with 20 pairs of same-sex, non-romantic friends.

Everyone was given a white T-shirt to wear. They were to sleep alone, avoid the family pet, and not eat anything pungent.  The T-shirts were then handed to the researchers in Zip-loc bags. Using an electronic nose (which I now want for Christmas), they analyzed the chemical makeup of the T-shirts. They found that the “odor signature” of friends were statistically closer than between non-friends.

But was the electronic nose accurate, or did it just need fresh batteries? To verify the results, they hired human smellers. (That must be a great conversation starter at parties. “I’m in sales. What do you do?” “I’m a human smeller.”) These individuals were given three odors to sniff: two from a pair of friends and one from a stranger. These human smellers correctly identified the friends.

Oh, but these nosey scientists weren’t through. They threw 17 strangers in a room and did a series of tests to get them interacting with one another. Afterwards, they asked the individuals which people they felt they most likely “clicked” with. Our friend the electronic nose analyzed their individual odors and correctly predicted 77 percent of those who “clicked.” [Source]

While I don’t recommend adding sniffing to your church’s meet-and-greet time, I do find a fascinating parallel to the Christian life. Jesus referred to us, His followers, as friends (John 15:15), and as His friends and followers we are “the fragrance of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:14-16). When we come to Christ, He transforms us—we are called new creations in Christ (5:17)—and we are no longer to put off the odor of the dead and dying world. Instead, “through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of him in every place” (2:14).

Some people don’t like that smell because the aroma of Christ points to their own sin and destructive path. But to others who have also experienced spiritual transformation though Christ, they recognize that aroma as their own, and as the scientists in Israel have determined, we are drawn to those with a similar scent!

And why shouldn’t we have the same scent? We are one body—Christ’s body. We are drawn to love one another, serve one another, and care for one another. May the aroma of Christ waft through everything the church does!

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Read more from Lynn Pryor at lynnhpryor.com. This post was used by permission from lynnhpryor.com.

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