Recently, as I left a coffee meeting with my friend, Kevin, I thought of how grateful I am to have such a friendship, and how randomly it began.
Five years ago a mutual friend in North Carolina called and told me his friend (Kevin) was moving to my neck of the woods, and asked if I’d help get him connected. I agreed and, as I hung up I thought “Hmmm… I wonder.”
Many of the great things that have happened in my life began with me thinking “Hmmm, I wonder…” Our friendship of 5 years now is one such thing.
Studies say that men are not as prone to develop long term friendships as women. I find this sad. I shudder to think what my life would be without my friends. Studies also say that one of the things I would likely miss out on is life itself, in terms of longevity. Men die five years younger than women on average, and a big part of that seems to be a result of their reluctance to befriend others.
But I think there’s an even more important reason to establish and maintain meaningful friendships, and that’s to share the fatherhood journey together.
When Kevin and I meet for our monthly coffee there’s no agenda, no project, no accountability or anything like that. We talk about many things: our work, books we may be reading, ideas, and often a few dreams and hopes mixed in. We’ve invited each other to be honest about the hard stuff, the vulnerable stuff, and the conversation where that plays out most is with regard to our experience as fathers and husbands. Though we’ve never planned it this way, the conversation almost always turns to our children and wives.
There are many destructive forces in the world. Our kids struggle. Our marriages struggle. We worry. Friendship offers a way of dulling the edge of difficulty. Our troubles seem less imposing when we know that we are not struggling alone. Our souls long for another who knows.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one…”
– C.S. Lewis
We also encourage each other. Kevin is a great dad and husband, but he needs to be reminded of that. We men walk in a world of high expectations, responsibility, and a constant desire to be seen as competent. Inside we know we fall short at times, and we “need someone to lean on” for encouragement. So lean! Be a friend to be leaned on. It’s worth it.
I would encourage you not only to look for friends, but to look to be a friend. A friend who can be present with others in their struggles. Not always offering advice, but offering to be there to say, “it seems like you’re really feeling the weight” and leave it at that. Sometimes that’s enough.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 makes it clear that life is harder alone. We men don’t like to see our weaknesses, much less share them with other men. And we can’t just share it with whoever happens to come along. It’s reserved for those we trust, and trust takes time. It takes patient listening. It takes sitting in the silence at times.
Need more convincing about the importance of friendship? How about Jesus? He had a group of twelve close friends, three of them closer, and one closest. Remember the garden of Gethsemane, where He kept asking them to pray for him? It’s striking that even He, when faced with difficulty, leaned on His friends.
Are you unsure of where to start? Maybe it starts for you the way it started for Kevin and me. Maybe it begins with you thinking “Hmmm. I wonder…”
Maybe it’s a matter of reconnecting with someone who has grown distant only because of the busyness of life. My experience has been that friendship can provide a buffer for the busyness, and a help in fleshing out what matters most.
Gratitude for friends
Finally, a word of gratitude for friends:
Thank you for inviting me to share your experience
For giving me hope by your example of faith
For your prayers
For listening when I’m unclear with my words, and unsure of myself
For inspiring me to live a bigger life
For sharing your successes as well as your failures
For teaching me how to be a better friend
For a generosity I cannot repay
For which I can only offer my friendship