Enter the search terms “loneliness” and “men” into Google and notice many options it gives you. Millions.
Major media outlets including the Boston Globe, New York Times and Huffington Post have all published studies on the phenomenon of male loneliness and its potential to become a health crisis.
As Christians there’s a temptation to think these societal problems aren’t affecting our communities to the same degree. We live in communities based on grace and truth. The danger comes when we take for granted that people in the church are doing significantly better than those outside it. If we don’t see the problem, it must not be there. If we ask the men in our midst the right questions they might tell a different story.
So what is coming between Christian men and the sense of brotherhood they long for?
Vulnerability scares us more than skydiving.
Men are the masters of saying a lot without giving much away.
Many men want great friendships without any risk factor. Sharing an area of struggle or telling someone that you want to get to know them better feels risky. It is risky. People can misunderstand us, judge us or otherwise disappoint us. If we’re honest, we’ve all known some form of rejection in our lives and we’d prefer to avoid that in our future. But the ability to be our authentic selves, our good, bad and ugly selves, is impossible without vulnerability.
Too many men’s events are full of talk about how we can be warriors for God, while ignoring the realities of men who are losing their battles. Our common enemy loves to see an isolated Christian, and many are hiding in the corners of our gatherings or choosing not to come.
If this is you, you’re not alone. If you’re unsure who you can be real with, ask God to point you in the right direction.
We don’t see each other in 3D.
If you only see friends once a week for a Bible study, are you doing life together or checking boxes?
Information alone doesn’t change our beliefs or lead to transformation. Biblical truth experienced through meaningful relationship is a recipe for life change.
Snake hunting in the Everglades. Eleven hours binge-watching HBO’s “Band of Brothers” in camouflage clothing. Monday night football. Coffee and acoustic music. Men need meaningful time with men, whatever form it takes.
We can have great friendships with women, but if that’s all we have it’s a sign that something is amiss in how we relate to other men.
Do something together with no obvious spiritual value. Having fun is a spiritual activity because it lowers the defenses we often put up in small group settings, and allows people to see another side of us.
We paddle in shallow honesty while craving deeper water.
Accountability is a popular term among Christian men. If we say it enough times each week we must be doing something right – right?
The danger is that we fall into the trap of attending a weekly men’s group and confessing the same thing without committing to whatever it takes to change. It’s not authentic because it lacks the courage to look at what’s driving our behavior. We need men to speak into our situation in a robust way.
Are you willing to let others ask you questions you don’t want to answer?
Are you willing to ask someone those questions?
You might have to put your superficial friendship on the line to reach for something better, but if nothing changes, nothing changes.
We search in vain for the “right” small group.
Men’s groups and events abound. We often look for the perfect group based on our stage in life and our first impressions of other people in the group. But this presents two problems. We won’t feel safe with people until we’ve been through something with them. And once the perfect group includes someone as imperfect as you, it’s days are numbered.
Deeper friendships take more time than we’re used to giving anything these days. They also involve working through conflict, which we try to avoid at all costs.
We’ve lost the art of living for others.
The paralytic in Mark 2 could never have had an audience with Jesus without his four friends tearing a hole in the roof and lowering him down. They went the extra mile.
Do you ever feel paralyzed in your life as a Christian man?
Do you know others who fit that description?
What lengths will you go to for each other?
It might be taking calls in the middle of the night or offering to have your friend live with you while they work through something. It might be something much simpler. What’s certain is that you’ll need to do more than “like” your friend’s Facebook posts, but so will they.
This pursuit of deeper relationships is how you really want to live, because it’s how you were designed to live.
We cannot become our truest selves alone.
Many of us have had mixed experiences with male role models growing up, but if we choose to avoid pursuing male friendships we stand no chance of healing old hurts. Those open wounds will wait patiently for the chance to hit you with a sucker punch.
Has your experience of male community been a mile wide and an inch deep? Tell us your story. Comment below.