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Man Enough to Be Yourself With Other Men

You don’t have to look far in the church to find your fair share of male loners who struggle to have authentic friendships with other men. They know how to be in the same room with other men, and they know how to do things with them — but emotional transparency is off-limits.

I get it though. It’s safer to keep our distance from other guys — emotionally and physically. I mean, let’s be honest: The only men who are allowed to get emotional together without it being considered effeminate are sports players. And they only get a pass for hugging and crying with other men because they’re doing something sufficiently masculine to counterbalance the public display of affection.

On the other hand, if you do something crazy like say “I love you” to a buddy without adding the word “man” at the end, get ready to deal with suspicious glances from all the “men’s men” at church — not to mention the assumptions from progressive hipsters at the coffee shop who will insist that you need to go ahead and embrace your identity as a gay man.

So if you’re smart, straight and male, you’ll do the same thing most of us have done since we started middle school: Keep your male friendships shallow enough to assure everyone that you really care about your buddies — but not like that.

Well, it’s time to grow up. It’s time to recognize that if we’re going to be the men God called us to be, we’ve got to own who we really are inside, reveal that person to other men and be loved (yes, loved) by our male friends. I know, I know — at first blush, it sounds like I’m encouraging men to do Beth Moore Bible studies together and paint each other’s toenails. That’s not where this is going.

What I’m suggesting is that one of the most masculine things we can do is stop cowering behind a façade of strength that hides our insecurities, fears and brokenness. That is, if we want to be real men, we’ll take the risk of being the real us in front of other guys.

Who’s Afraid of His Big Bad Self?

Maybe you’re reading this article and wondering if it even applies to you. Check out the bullet points below, and ask yourself if any of it rings a bell.

You might not be comfortable being yourself with other men if one or more of these sound familiar:

  • You never share fears, insecurities or failures with other men.
  • Your idea of confessing sin to another brother is to simply say, “I’ve really been struggling lately.”
  • You’re suspicious of another man’s sexual preferences if he’s too emotional.
  • You don’t usually have deep conversations with other men unless you’ve had something to drink.
  • You have one or more female confidantes to whom you express thoughts and emotions that you could never share with another man.
  • You can’t say “I love you” to another guy (even a relative) without adding the words “bro,” “dude” or “man” at the end.

I’m not saying this is a definitive list, but if a lot of these bullet points ring a bell, maybe you’ve got your walls up and don’t know how to engage with other men. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy — you’re probably just comfortable doing what you’ve always done.

I was the same way at one point, but then God blessed me with some friends who challenged all of my assumptions of what healthy male friendship looks like.

The Liberation of Being in Authentic Friendship

At the beginning of my freshman year of college, I was a wreck. Although I wanted to love Jesus, my life was littered with insecurity, sexual permissiveness, and unforgiveness. But then I started attending a nondenominational, charismatic church where there were a lot of young men like me, and they were fearlessly sharing their emotions with God and each other.

They wept while praying for the brokenness in their families; they confessed their sins to one another and asked for prayer; and when there was conflict, they had the guts to talk it out rather than shut down.

I was caught off guard at first — based on my experience, men usually talked about football stats during church meetings, not convictions, inner struggles, and spiritual warfare. But the whole thing was so refreshing, so real; and before long, I jumped right in, put myself out there, and began to experience a newfound liberation.

I had all this emotional junk stewing inside that needed to be processed — my fears, temptations, and petty grievances — and up until that point, I had either bottled it all up or vaguely talked with female confidantes about it. But with these guys, I had a place where I could experience the freedom of transparency without having to deal with the weird sexual tension of an opposite-sex friendship.

The prayerful accountability I experienced with my new friends became a template for the way I interacted with other guys as I moved into different phases of my life. Not to say that it was easy being myself after that — it wasn’t, because there was always the risk that the real me would be rejected. But I learned to be patient and realize that just because a guy resists being real doesn’t mean he’s rejecting a friendship.

I mean, I’d say most of the men I became friends with over the years were initially resistant to transparency, but like me, they eventually found it pleasantly unsettling and began baring their own souls when they realized they could trust me. And to this day I’m not only close to a number of my friends from college, I’ve got a number of other close friends from the other stages of my life.

To Be a Real Man With Other Men

Listen, guys, I know this isn’t the norm, but it ought to be in the church, where we’re told to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) as well as “confess [our] sins to one another and pray for one another” (James 5:16). Surely obedience in this area involves something more than awkward, general requests for our friends to pray for us because we’re “struggling.”

So if you’re in a church where men are being real with each other, get off the bench and get in the game. Join a men’s small group; ask for a mentor; go on the men’s retreat; sign up for group counseling — whatever they’re doing to foster these relationships, do your part to make it work in your life.

On the other hand, if you haven’t found a safe place to be yourself with other men, then be the men’s ministry you wish you had. Here’s a suggestion for how I’ve done that when the church I was in didn’t adequately meet the need: Find two honest, Christian guys and ask them if they want to meet once a week to be real about what’s going on in their lives. When you meet, give each person 15 minutes to talk (you can suggest a topic or just open the floor) and if you interrupt, only do so with questions. Don’t give advice unless it’s asked for, and at the end, save 15 minutes to pray for one another.

Sometimes the conversations will be deep; sometimes they won’t — but the likelihood of the whole group being more honest will greatly increase if you regularly take the risk of sharing embarrassing, personal stuff that’s much easier left unsaid (for example, you could talk about your strained relationships, fear of failure or sexual temptations). And as you learn to accept each other, warts and all, it will help you recognize that God loves and accepts you, too.

It will probably be unsettling for you and your new friends at first, but it will be real, and that’s terribly refreshing, because being real is a lot more interesting than staring at each other’s masks. And furthermore, as you let yourselves genuinely care for each other, you’ll discover that one of the most masculine things you can do is use your spiritual muscle to bear the heavy weight of other men’s burdens.

Come on, brothers, take the risk: Own your true self and let others meet that person. Sure, it’s scary, but it’s a whole lot better than spending the rest of your life disconnected from the men who need authentic friendship just as much as you do.

This article originally appeared at Boundless.org.

5 Comments
  1. lovey #

    Hey Joshua,

    I love you , MAN! Heehee,….I do love that you brought this to the forum here . I am not on facebook or any other social media but for some reason ….[!] I am here and I enjoyed this that you shared.

    You may have read my lengthy posts back in other of your threads. I agree that men today have an awful lot to deal with in this area. I feel feminism was designed to attack the masculine man who also cares about learning from GOD what to do to grow his relationship with God in how he relates with and to his wife.

    The attack upon the man as head has been very effective among those who have not known what this is to look like UNDER the submitting to GOD as the man’s head. Without a head there are a lot of headless people running around and we have seen the outcome in spades in our culture and world.

    Strike the ‘head’ or man’s concept of ‘head’ and the devil has little work to do to take down a man, a marriage, a family and a society.

    Being the ‘head’ is a big deal with a lot of influence and responsibility but to those to whom much is given much will be required …and with going after understanding how our living in what GOD will teach us we also influence others …especially those closest to us .

    I believe that those closest to the man of a family are his wife …and after God the exhortation to keep her ‘in the loop’ is one the best ‘testing grounds’ for learning transparency and where and how it is appropriately applied to relationships.

    I appreciate your openness about issues that we all face and among the guys there is a great need for encouragement to keep keeping GOD as their own head and learn from Jesus Christ HOW to be that head …

    You are ‘dah man’ and we women are thankful for guys like you who love the Lord and love your wives by His grace and guidance !

    Go forth and glorify the Lord in all you do! I am sure He is pleased with you in all that you are doing here to do so!

    Like

    June 17, 2014
    • Thanks for the encouragement and for reading my stuff. It’s nice to know it is positively influencing other believers.

      >

      Like

      June 17, 2014
  2. lovey #

    Indeed! Keep up the great walk! 😀

    Like

    June 18, 2014
  3. Graeme Phillips #

    The article is generally good, though I would take issue with the opening part. There are several reasons why someone might appear to be a loner. One possible reason might be that they are on the autistic spectrum: – under such circumstances, it would not be nice to assume they are a loner because they are evading accountability, they are busy trying to be someone they aren’t etc. I hope people don’t look at people who appear to be loners and immediately reach that conclusion.

    Like

    June 19, 2014
  4. lovey #

    Good point …especially within the body of Christ.

    Jhn 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

    Where do we find how to do that ….righteous judgment is found here….

    2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, FOR INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS

    I think it is true that many men today are lacking in having been given a lifelong introduction by godly informed fathers who themselves may not have learned what manhood and interaction looks like. Through the instruction of the Word and some other men who are humbling themselves to seek that info I think I have seen some good results of the way God intended for us to learn from the Word and despite whatever background of families of origins practices and various ways of interacting we can all learn from the scriptures and be willing to extend His loving help to one another.

    Many generations have been raised at a ‘deficit’ in this area due to some generations having only learned their manhood ways from media …super jock, macho man, icons the media portrays while the dad’s who may not have learned much more than that distance themselves or involve themselves with some other ‘activity’ rather than take their position as dad’s as something they might learn about from GOD’S word,

    Keep on “swingin’ at it”, guys…we women are so blessed by men that love GOD and are not afraid to live it!!!

    A woman might be able to overlook a lot of things in a man but wimping out when it comes to the Lord is just not all that admirable nor attractive.

    It is easy to respect a man who has taken the time to allow God to teach him…oh YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I love to read whatever a man is willing to put out there in his learning from his walk! Keep up the great work!

    Like

    June 20, 2014

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