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Finding Authentic Male Friendship in a Loneliness Epidemic

Finding Authentic Male Friendship in a Loneliness Epidemic

In an increasing online world, people are lonelier than ever, especially men. In a 2021 study, 15 percent of men reported having no close friends, up from only three percent in the early 1990s. Perhaps more alarmingly, 28 percent of young men (under 30 years old) reported not having any close social connections.

As a man, I can speak to this deficit of male friendship. Many of us can say hello in passing, talk about the weather, and maybe discuss the latest sports news, but how many of our connections truly care about us and would be there when we need them?

Perhaps we have friends from work, friends from church, friends from the gym, and friends from down the street, yet how many of them do we actually know? And how did we lose our sense of what true friendship between men is?

Perhaps the main reason is modern society’s rewriting of genuinely affectionate men (fictional and non-fictional) into homosexually charged characters. Consider Walker Larson’s article highlighting these attempts over the literary figure of Alfred Tennyson. And similar efforts exist to turn Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings into a tale of homosexual love between Frodo and Sam.

No longer are the friendships Tolkien shares pure examples of what masculine friendship is. Because of those trying to re-interpret male relationships, we typically shy away from proper and authentic masculine friendship for fear of being labeled as something we are not.

Knowing that the modern take on male friendship is heavily influenced by a feminized society, how can men form meaningful masculine relationships, and who can we look to for those friendships?

To answer this, we can go back to the basics: For men, friendships are frequently forged through time spent and experiences shared. As men, we need to do things with other men. Play a sport, go to a gun range, take up a martial art, try a survival school—there are many options for finding men who share similar active interests. By sharing in a competitive atmosphere (especially one involving safe but shared hardship), we will form bonds that can lead to true friendships.

Lastly, what kind of friends does a man need? I recently listened to three different podcasts and recordings that talked about this. While each of the podcasters said the same basic things, they drew out a few interesting nuances.

To paraphrase the first video, we need a “truth teller” friend—someone who will not let us off the hook simply because we are friends. Are we being lazy? Are we slacking off as husbands, fathers, or sons? Are we making bad decisions, or are we addicted to something? The truth teller will firmly and forcefully let us know the issue and help hold us accountable as we fix it.

The second friend we need is a counselor and confidant, someone whom we can share with and who won’t gossip. This person should be able to advise us in life, business, and faith.

The third friend we need is a “ride and die” friend. This is the guy we know (and he knows us!) to a level where we absolutely trust that if we need something—day or night, no matter what that something is—he will be there for us. A man who will literally shed his blood for us if needed. That level of friendship is rare and priceless!

The second recording added to the “counselor” category someone who would pray for and with us, and the third video talked about the difference between “6 p.m. friends” and “3 a.m. friends,” further exploring the “ride and die” category. Some friends, after all, are happy to help when they can with general things—up until 6 p.m. Other friends are there at 3 a.m. ready to help with anything.

If we can find a man with one or more of these traits—consistent in telling the truth, deeply wise and trustworthy, and tenaciously loyal—he is friend material.

While we look for men who can better our own lives, we need to not lose sight of the fact that we need to be the same positive influence for others. How can we better serve the men in our lives? What do we have to offer? Are we made up of the same friend material we are missing?

In all aspects of life, we owe it to ourselves and those around us to work on being better and obtaining the traits and disciplines we desire in others. Only by ourselves becoming the friend we desire can we help become the solution to the lack of authentic male friendship.

Image credit: Unsplash 

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Nate Rudquist
Nate Rudquist
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  • Avatar
    Russell
    May 2, 2024, 3:41 pm

    Great article! [cyber man-hug]

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  • Avatar
    Thomas G Chulski
    May 2, 2024, 5:40 pm

    Friendships were easily formed in the military, particularly in combat arms or the navy. Unfortunately, introducing women or gender non-conforming individuals changed that dynamic. (I believe that is the current umbrella euphemism.) These individuals have talent, knowledge, and in many cases experience to contribute, but at the cost of what my sons and I used to call "male bonding."

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    • Avatar
      Nate@Thomas G Chulski
      May 4, 2024, 4:12 pm

      Thank you for reading! I've heard the same from many people. The shared experience, hardships, danger, loss, and success seem to be different ways its been described to me. I completely agree with your point as well! Hopefully those of us who weren't able to or didn't serve can start to find some of the same bonds again!

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