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Friendships ... A Female Perspective

Friendships ... a male perspective

Photo courtesy of Malene Leppanen at

Hello, dear SUMites, Ian from sunny Sydney. I trust you’re all doing well and for those of you in the northern hemisphere are managing the heatwaves that many countries have been experiencing.

Ann and I thought we’d share a little on friendships based on my last post on spending time with Jesus. Ann will follow up this post about female friendships. In that previous post, I made the following comment:

“For many men friendships aren’t something we prioritise. And even if we do, we might find people we are seeking to be friends with don’t prioritise it so it’s all a bit lopsided.”

For years, I didn’t really enjoy my male friendships because they tended to be very transactional in nature. I also felt ‘different’ and struggled a lot with own self-image as a man. It’s only in recent years as I’ve come to feel more comfortable in my own skin this has coincided with a desire to really seek to develop closer bonds with men realising that I have much to learn and also believe I have much to give. Finally, I began to enjoy male company and friendship.

For many years there has been an undercurrent in the media about male friendships. You only have to google male friendships and you’ll find all sorts of articles about it. Friendships are very important to our health as we age. Loneliness is a telling factor in early mortality and unfortunately, one of the big impacts of the pandemic was loneliness increasing across the board. One of the men at church mentioned it only this last Sunday, that he too was one who was only now beginning to prioritise developing friendships with men.

I don’t have many good male friends. Yes, I know plenty and can happily chat with them about all manner of things. I have two great friends who I see regularly, one (who has been my closest friend since our high school days) every Saturday for breakfast and another for a coffee catchup at least every second week.

But why?

It simply comes down to priority. Men generally prioritise their careers and building one takes significant effort and sacrifice. I did. Yes, I had plenty of work connections, other men I could have a meal with, watch the football, play golf, etc, etc, but in terms of developing something sustaining where we share what’s going on in our hearts, nobody did it.

Why did we choose such a life? I think it goes back to what we saw our father’s do. I grew up where Dad’s left early for work, got home late and we mostly saw our dad’s on the weekend. Our Dad’s simply didn’t have time to make good quality friends. And for many of us, we simply replicated what we’d seen our Dad’s do.

I did a bit of research about this a few years back and an Aussie man who has written several books on men and boys dating back 30 years, expressed the view that men are under fathered. The impact of this being that boys “were not given enough affection, teaching and example from their dad or other male figures to help them grow into mature men. Affection, teaching and example are the three essential vitamins of human growth:

Affection – to let boys know they matter and belong

Teaching – to help boys understand their lives, and

Example – so boys can learn by observation how a good man feels, thinks and acts.

These ingredients mostly disappeared from the lives of boys. We still matured into men but we weren’t given the necessary knowledge and skills to match.”1

We tend to have ‘side-by-side’ friendships while women are more likely to have ‘face-to-face’ ones. Men stand alongside each other in work, watching the football, go fishing together, helping another move house, or fix a problem. We enjoy being in a group where playful banter and relaxed catch ups occur. It’s less confrontational and doesn’t require sharing our emotions.

“It was okay!”

This naturally has a flow on to the heart. We can struggle to move beyond the surface level of life. We can be asked to express how we feel, and it can be difficult to get a good response. This can be out of defensiveness and pride or ‘not wanting to go somewhere that is challenging after a hard day at work’ so we shut off from it. Surprisingly, it can be out of simply not knowing how. For many of us we haven’t learnt the language of expressing our feelings. And it can take some time, lots of patience, and a kind guiding hand to help us develop such a language. Again, wanting to learn must be important to you, for example, our spouse is fed up with the standard end of day response of ‘it was okay!’ when asked the question ‘how was work today, dear?’

That was me.

Flow on to a Friendship with God

Life with God is all about relationship. For many of my early years as a Christian, I didn’t appreciate this. I prayed and worshipped, went to church and so on but switched off once I went to work. I compartmentalised my faith. God was kinda this nebulous being and it wasn’t until I began to want more from my relationship with God when my eyes were opened to how much truly was available to us. It’s adopting more of the contemplative practices of silence, solitude and using imaginative prayer that Jesus has come alive as a friend.

Once again, I believe we need to desire such a friendship as it takes an intentional practice or leaning into God to begin to discover how close He really is. As He says in Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20 ESV). We only have to open the door but that is an intentional act.

Let me leave it there. I hope this might have been useful and please do offer your own perspectives and/or ask any questions in the comments below. Once again, this is simply my perspective and I’m sure many of you may have experienced something different with the men in your lives.

Note: 1. Steve Biddulph, The New Manhood: The 20th Anniversary Edition (Simon & Schuster, Sydney, 2018) Kindle ed.

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