Adult men often have a difficult time making friends. It’s easy to have passive relationships with coworkers, guys at the gym, or even at church, but intentional friendship takes work. This is true for both men and women, but my focus here will be particular to men.
Deep Connections Aren’t Accidental
It’s easy to feel like we’re interacting with people while never going beyond talking about sports, family activities, current events, or the weather. Even in a time when we are connected more through technology, we are connecting less in more personal ways. Loneliness is a real issue, and it happens at all stages of becoming and being an adult.
It doesn’t take much effort to maintain acquaintances and familiarity with people we see on a regular basis, but limiting all relationships to that level won’t bring fulfillment. It takes work, even sacrifices, to go deeper with the people in our life. Sadly, our jaded experiences can discourage us to invest so much into a relationship. It’s a risk when we’re unsure of the investment others are willing to give or if it’s going to work.
Friendship can still sound somewhat intangible, but there are some good ideas proposed about how to define friendship. Aristotle has a good explanation of how he separated friendship into 3 categories. In his philosophy, friendship requires these elements:
“To be friends therefore, men must (1) feel goodwill for each other, that is, wish each other’s good, and (2) be aware of each other’s goodwill, and (3) the cause of their goodwill must be one of the lovable qualities mentioned above” (Nicomachean Ethics)
He also expands on the 3 common levels of friendship.
- Friendship of Utility – “Thus friends whose affection is based on utility do not love each other in themselves, but in so far as some benefit accrues to them from each other… Men love their friend for their own good… and not as being the person loved, but as useful or agreeable.”
- Friendship of Pleasure – “And similarly with those whose friendship is based on pleasure: for instance, we enjoy the society of witty people not because of what they are in themselves, but because they are agreeable to us.”
- Friendship of the Good – “The perfect form of friendship is that between the good, and those who resemble each other in virtue. For these friends wish each alike the other’s good in respect of their goodness, and they are good in themselves; but it is those who wish the good of their friends for their friends’ sake who are friends in the fullest sense, since they love each other for themselves and not accidentally. Hence the friendship of these lasts as long as they continue to be good; and virtue is a permanent quality. And each is good relatively to his friend as well as absolutely, since the good are both good absolutely and profitable to each other. And each is pleasant in both ways also, since good men are pleasant both absolutely and to each other; for everyone is pleased by his own actions, and therefore by actions that resemble his own, and the actions of all good men are the same or similar.”
Strong Friendships are Rare
We all long for a deeper connection, but our American culture has long discouraged men from being too open or vulnerable. Keeping everything bottled in for the sake of looking strong and unphased by struggles. As much as many of us would love the ability to encounter life without issues, it’s not possible for humans to get through this alone.
It’s essential for men to live in brotherhood to become the best version of ourselves. When a man can trust other men, spiritual brothers can support each other through the trials, celebrate achievements, and to constantly encourage fidelity to our word and mission.
“Such friendships are of course rare, because such men are few. Moreover they require time and intimacy… people who enter into friendly relations quickly have the wish to be friends, but cannot really be friends without being worthy of friendship, and also knowing each other to be so; the wish to be friends is a quick growth, but friendship is not.”
Women Can’t Replace the Men In Our Lives
When it becomes too difficult to create or sustain spiritual brotherhood in our lives, men sometimes try to fill the void with the women in their life. Regardless of what’s said in movies and books, a significant other can never complete us because they are only human too. We all fall short of that standard.
It’s too much pressure on these incredible women to be our partners and our friends. Women complement men in a unique and important way, but even when a man has an incredible partner, friends play an irreplaceable role in our community.
It’s understandable when a man’s partner is unsure of what to think of his relationship with spiritual brothers. When a man has a good friend and community, everyone in his life benefits. Even if it seems counterintuitive, giving space and time for him to build this community will allow him to grow to be a better man and partner.
A Lack of Brotherhood Hurts the Church
The Church has a notable lack of masculine participation. Many of the issues happening today are because many men are not living to the best of their potential to build strong communities and stable families. Many of the ways that we have approached evangelization in the past also tended to be through feminine approaches to ministry that isn’t attractive to many men.
My personal opinion is that additional parish programming will not solve the issue, even if it’s well targeted towards men. These men oriented events are usually targeted at men that already have at least some relationship with Jesus and/or the Church, but this won’t appeal to the average male. In order to reach an empower more men, it has to be done on a personal level.
We have to form small communities that foster opportunities for brotherhood. This will usually need to start with similar interests or goals to facilitate connections between men that don’t know each other well. From there, men that know how it is to be in such a community can form their own band of brothers as the circumstances in life change.
While the physical and practical sides of life are important, our spiritual lives are essential to our personal growth. Masculine spirituality thrives in brotherhood, and struggles in isolation because we were made for community. Together, we can have a lasting impact in our families and communities.