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Friendships that Sharpen

Online Exclusive: Why men need other men

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A very awkward moment ensued when my friend Jerome was about to drop me off at my house after a racquetball game. He stopped me before I got out of his car.

Friendships that Sharpen
Men’s ministries at local churches create opportunities for deeper relationships.

“Keith,” he said, “you need me to be your friend.”

“We’re already friends,” I replied.

He agreed but added, “You need a friend who can help you get more real and honest—someone who will help you go deeper. I’m willing to be that friend.”

I felt like I had been asked out on a date, and I didn’t like that feeling. I told him I would think about it; then I escaped his car and took refuge in my house.

In the days that followed, I realized I probably did need someone with whom I could be more vulnerable. Previously, I had not considered that talking with another man about the things pressing against my life could actually be helpful.

We started meeting regularly, and I learned how to open my life to another man and how to care more deeply for him. I grew in areas I had not realized desperately needed to be addressed, whether struggles with my job, temptations I faced, or how I handled my money. Plus he often asked me for my thoughts regarding the things he faced.

Healthy Intimacy

To be a close friend with another man requires talking on emotional and spiritual levels. Yet this form of communication feels uncomfortable to most of us. We are taught to be tough, to avoid or control emotion, and to push through life no matter the obstacle. We men tend to be competitive and think we are supposed to handle challenges on our own. We have somehow learned to never admit weakness.

Friendships that Sharpen
A retreat activity designed to foster deeper communication

The truth is we’re sometimes desperate for help, and deep inside we want someone else to know us. But finding other men who are willing to take the risk of openness which can lead to greater connection and to healthy intimacy is difficult. When we think about approaching another man to suggest we develop a deeper relationship, most of us cringe with fear.

Yet there seems to be some positive movement in this direction. Throughout The Christian and Missionary Alliance, a resurgence of men’s retreats and gatherings of various kinds are fostering environments where men can express their desire for deeper male relationships.

In the church I attend, North Springs Alliance Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I recently experienced a men’s retreat that helped us become more vulnerable with each other.

We were assigned to participate in a specific small group throughout the weekend. (That idea alone was a problem for some of us, because many men prefer to hang out with guys they know, who make them feel comfortable.) We were to eat our meals with this group and just be with them.

Friendships that SharpenThen, to add to our discomfort, we didn’t sit and listen to teaching about how to be better Christian men. Rather, we were directed in a number of activities designed to foster deep communication within the group. Some of these activities seemed silly, such as putting a puzzle together blindfolded. Others fed into the competitive gene we all seem to carry. However, the amazing result was conversing with other men like we had never done before.

We began to share our struggles, our victories, our challenges, and our dreams. It was amazing to see guys share similar stories and suddenly realize they are not alone in the kinds of things they face. We felt we had other brothers to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us to help us carry our burdens. We made deep connections that weekend, and those relationships have continued to develop.

Strength in Weakness

Men’s ministries at local churches create opportunities for deeper relationships with our brothers, our fellow Christ-followers. We were never meant to journey through life alone. God calls us to be like iron sharpening iron (Prov. 27:17). But that sharpening is not only about becoming stronger or tougher.

Friendships that Sharpen
Men from North Springs Alliance Church pray together at a retreat in Colorado.

To have a sharp edge in the way we live, we need other brothers who listen well and who are willing to ask us the deeper—and sometimes more difficult—questions. We need brothers who admit their struggles and share how they work through them.

When men are open and honest with each other, they become better, more humble, and more gracious men. We grow as husbands, leaders, and individuals who understand that through our weakness, Christ’s grace and power is more evident in us.

As we stand together, not in our strength but in our brokenness and need for Christ, we begin to transform into the men we have always wanted to be.

Perhaps you will be the one who takes a chance and says to another man, “I think we need to be friends who go beyond the surface.” The risk seems big, but the rewards are greater.

I’m grateful Jerome took the risk to press into my life and help me value deep and authentic friendship. I continue to grow because of him.

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