Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
I walked the earth for too many years without having close male friends. Sure, I stayed in touch with and socialised with guys I’d met through work, church, or my neighbourhood, but they weren’t men in whom I confided, or expected much in return.
Without mutual transparency, my group of guys didn’t share each other’s struggles, weaknesses, bad habits, or the state of our marriages. Without knowing, there can be no helping: no reality checks, no accountability, no emotional support and no genuine encouragement.
How was I okay with that for so many years?
Acquaintances know your “public” persona: what you look like, what you do for a living, and whether you’re married or single. They might know what make of car you drive, your beverage preference, or the level of your golf game. But, it doesn’t get much deeper than that.
Well, we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone”Billy Joel, from “The Stranger”
Looking back, I probably set the terms for those relationships. Distance felt comfortable.
It’s seldom a stretch to trust someone with the public you. But, exposing the more private you — I was always more apprehensive doing that. It felt riskier because I felt more vulnerable. So, I ended up swimming in the shallow end of the pool for a lot of years, missing out on the deeper benefits that Solomon touched upon in the opening quote.
To work, transparency must characterise a friendship. If someone gets too close for comfort, we have two choices: Get real, or get too busy to meet.”Patrick Morley
I had three single stints in my life (once not yet married + two after a couple of divorces), during which I was content cultivating fun but superficial male friendships. Part of my flawed rationalisation sprang from the question: how could time with guys ever come close to competing with time with the opposite sex? I mean, really!
Closer and deeper friendships are sometimes referred to as “bosom buddies”. (I like the images that brings to mind!) Anne Shirley in Lucy Maud Mongomery’s, Anne of Green Gables, referred to her close relationship with her friend, Diana Barry, as “kindred spirits”.
Making up for lost time …
So, in days and decades past, I shunned bosom buddies and kindred spirits, yet today I run to them. Why is that? What has changed?
For me, a lot has changed relationally, but even more so spiritually. When your worldview changes, other stuff (values, behaviour, thoughts, feelings) changes with it.
At the core I think it’s a matter of trust. I’ve always considered myself trustworthy, but I haven’t always trusted. Is it even possible to trust people when you don’t trust God?
After working with husbands and wives in the counselling office for eighteen years (while working on myself), I’m convinced that individuals who grew up in more “discombobulated” homes have far greater challenges as adults entering into trusting relationships. Yet those from more stable, secure and intact families don’t seem to share those trust-based challenges.
My family was definitely more discombobulated than stable.
I’m sure John Bowlby and his Attachment Theory followers would have a lot to say about this situation … my situation — particularly the role of early relationships on human development. (Certainly relevant and worthwhile, but not my primary focus in this post.)
Today, I have two or maybe three men I consider close friends. I meet individually with them on a regular basis. Carving those dates into my calendar, I run to our times together. It’s almost as if I’m making up for lost time. What’s funny is that none of the three seem to be aware of the scenic route I’ve taken to this place of increased trust and transparency. (At least until they read this!). Maybe I should be more transparent and tell them!
I advise husbands and wives in the counselling office to check with their spouses if they really want to know how they are doing. Likewise, as a friend still in the act of becoming a better friend, I really need to check in with each one of my guys, rather than writing my own report card.
While I’ve always considered myself trustworthy, I haven’t always trusted. I must be growing.
Please comment on how you’ve handled (either pushed back or sought out) close friendships in your life. Also, what personal challenges and rewards do close friendship pose for you?
I’d love to hear your experiences via the comment section below.
Blessings on your home,