Men & Christian Friendship: It Won't Just Happen on its Own
- Tuesday, April 15, 2008
A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
proverbs 17:17, NLT
I own many books, but the ones I reference often I keep above my desk at work. One of these is a 1983 edition of David W. Smith's The Friendless American Male. It's a title that, sadly, has only grown more accurate in the last 25 years, its content more applicable. Men, especially us hard-working, married-with-children types, are lacking in close biblical friendships. The reasons are varied and several, and it's not my intent in this space to present or solve them all. Suffice to say that most men I talk with vouch for the lack of friends in their life, even if they speak of different reasons for the condition.
It's something I worry about, something I marvel at when I consider some of the differences between myself and my own father. Back when my father was climbing the ladder in the Tucson Real Estate industry and had children aged 4 and 2 (like I do now), his weekends were all his own. Tennis in the morning on both Saturday and Sunday. Soaking up sun at the pool or doing yardwork in the afternoons. Watching sports or working in the evenings. A quarterly fishing trip with his buddies. Several of these activities involved his friends and acquaintances. Now, it's important to point out that he didn't know the Lord at this time in his life, but also important to note that, to the best of my recollection, we weren't starved for his attention or affection. It still seemed like we were close, and had plenty of time together. So, I use him as an example only as an indication of what I think men were expected (allowed?) to do and be in the 1970s.
At some point things changed, and yes, in most ways, for the better. Men began leaving their work at work. Being conscious about setting aside time for family activities. Reserving weekends for playing with their kids and going to soccer games rather than hitting the tennis court or the golf links or the lake. Furthermore, technology, instead of saving us time, only seemed to create more ways in which we could spend it working. Where my father routinely met his buddies for a beverage after work, it's all I can do to rush home, swallow some food, and not leave my wife and kids feeling neglected before I log on for another couple hours of work and then collapse exhausted into bed. Meeting another dude for a beer or coffee? Seriously, I don't want to laugh, but when? Even if I had a hole in my schedule, what makes me think the person I might invite (even if I knew someone locally well enough to want to spend time with him) would have time and desire, too? I've been heavily involved in our Adult Bible Fellowship class at church for over five years now, and I can count on one hand the times I've done something outside of church with any of the men in that group.
So, something is definitely missing. Somewhere, we went too far. I remember being single and having the privilege to work with some very close friends in our college admissions office, both of whom were newly-married. Getting them to do anything outside work was just about impossible. One of them wouldn't even go see a movie with me - one that I was offering to pay for - on the night his wife was busy studying for her nursing final exams. The other, on a day a mutual friend came to town unexpectedly, wouldn't even leave his lawn chores aside to go to a minor league baseball game with us; he didn't even bother to ask his wife or explain that this was a rare visit/opportunity. What was going on?
I'll admit, I was tempted to blame their wives for not letting their husbands out to play, but even if there was truth to that notion, it wasn't the issue. The issue was, and is, that men simply are not bonding much these days... that the Bible speaks about friendship and male leadership and iron sharpening iron... and we are either purposefully choosing or unwittingly failing to make bonding and sharpening a priority.
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