“Will you be my friend?”
When was the last time you said this or were asked this?
If you’re male, probably aged eight or thereabouts.
Could you even begin to imagine asking it as an adult? What would you do if another man asked you this? Start running?
Over at Salon, Mark Greene asks why men are so bad at making friends with one another. Most of Mark’s answers are based on sociology but here are some of my own answers.
We’re too busy: Deep friendships take time, lots of time, lots of time doing nothing terribly productive but just being together, talking, and listening. Who’s got time for that in today’s busy world?
We’re too selfish: Male friendships are too often based upon what we can sell to someone or what we can get from someone. “What’s in it for me?” is too often the primary or only criteria for whether we build a relationship with someone.
We’re too functional: The Salon article made the point that male friendship usually grows out of organizations – work, sports, clubs. Problem is that when our participation ends, so do our friendships. They were more functional than emotional.
We’re too proud: “Friends are for wimps!” OK, we might not say it, but we often think it. “I’m strong, independent, self-sufficient. I can manage life on my own. I don’t need friends.”
We’re too fearful: I’ll put this bluntly. We don’t want anyone to think we’re gay. I know, it’s crazy, but I know others that have the same fear. If I come across as too emotional, too “touchy-feely,” too close, will he think I’m making a pass?
We’re too safe: We’re not prepared to risk rejection. Better stay in the safety zone of arms-length acquaintance than try to get closer and risk seeing someone back off or push off.
We’re too superficial: Friendships can only thrive where there is real authenticity, where both parties are prepared to let down their guard and show their real emotions and feelings. That requires going beyond the superficial self-images we build up of ourselves.
We’re too brainwashed: I agree with the Salon article that most of us have taken our view of masculinity from TV and Hollywood
A real man is strong and stoic. He doesn’t show emotions other than anger and excitement. He is a breadwinner. He is heterosexual. He is able-bodied. He plays or watches sports. He is the dominant participant in every exchange. He is a firefighter, a lawyer, a CEO. He is a man’s man. This “real man”, as defined by the Man Box, represents what is supposedly normative and acceptable within the tightly controlled performance of American male masculinity.
We’re too competitive: Who wants to be friends with someone who is always the best at everything, wants everyone to know that, and who never encourages or praises anyone else?
We’re too un-Christlike: Think of Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners in general, but also a man who built twelve strong male friendships in just a few short years. These friendships were motivated by a desire to serve and do these friends eternal and spiritual good. He showed endless patience, practiced constant forgiveness, and even ended up with one lying upon his chest while they socialized together (John 13:23).
Any other reasons you can think of? And any suggestions to help us change our ways?