Friendships are important, and to a lot of men they don’t come naturally. We’re already not very good at communicating and being open when we’re in a relationship with a woman, but now I’m supposed to do those things with men? I’m a man…I’m not supposed to do that!
After a couple posts dreaming about a perfect world in which I never offend people and never have anyone disagree, I’m excited to finally sit down and write down some opinions. I’m ready to jump into the stereotypical waters where I make sweeping generalizations about my gender. Let the assumptions and accusations fly!
I wanted to make my first post about men and friendships for a couple reasons. The first is that I can avoid having to talk about women for a little longer, and second because it’s a relationship that all men have at some point. Some good common ground to start on. For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to ignore marriage and children, because that adds another complicating variable to the mix. I’m also going to ignore extrovert vs introvert. That probably affects how large our social circle is and how easily we make friends (and to some extent keep them). I think I’ll save how to build authentic friendships for another day. Today we’ll stick to why.
When we’re young, we have friends because we see those same kids at school every day. Maybe you both like the same thing (the sandbox rules). As we reach Middle School we definitely start to value friendship more, but on a fairly selfish level. Having friends makes you cool, and if you don’t have friends, or have the wrong friends, then that new thing called “social status” can way pretty heavily on an adolescent. That continues into High School, but people come into their own. There are still the “cool” kids…but all the weird kids find each other, and in my experience, High School was an easier social exercise than Middle School. Then we graduate, adult life begins, and the meaning of friendship changes. We no longer see friends every day simply because of circumstance. Now, friendship requires intentionality. Instead of friendships falling in our lap, we have to pursue them.
I think there are obvious benefits to friends. They’re people to spend time with, laugh with, and enjoy hobbies with. Most of us would rather do things with people than alone (more on you alone people in a second). But what does an authentic friendship look like? To me, that means moving beyond the surface. Deep and meaningful male friendships are the ones that support each other through the struggles of life. They make us better men because of real conversations. We hold each other accountable when we’re not living up to our potential. And all of that is really hard for most men, because we don’t like to talk about how we feel. Don’t get me wrong, we feel things. It’s probably less than women, but there are feelings inside, and most of the time that’s where they stay. In our heads, in that inner dialogue we have with ourselves. That’s not bad, and a healthy self-awareness is full of inner dialogue, but if we’re afraid to move past surface level friendships, we’re missing out.
So what does an authentic friendship look like? It’s not a big cry fest. You don’t have to check your man card at the door. You may have to check your ego. It means asking about their life, showing concern for what they have going on, and admitting that you might not have everything figured out. It’s having a close relationship that makes life better, and makes you better.
To the lone rangers that aren’t interested, I get it. In a way, trying to form deep friendships is a lot like dating. You have to put yourself out there, and sometimes you get rejected. Or someone you thought would be a great friend turns out to not share the values that you do. It’s messy. Being alone is easier. But perhaps you’re not living the fullest life you could be. More on this in a future post.
What is it about forging deep male relationships that you find difficult? Or for the lone rangers, what are you doubts that pursuing authentic friendship is even worth it?