This is the second part of this “Forming a Band of Brothers” series. Be sure to read part 1 of the series if you haven’t already.
“Friendship is a thing most necessary to life, since without friends no one would choose to live, though possessed of all other advantages” – Aristotle
Do you have true friends? Who is the guy that you call if you are out of town and your family is stranded in a bad part of town? Who do you reach out to if your marriage was falling apart?
Many of us don’t have an immediate response to these questions and it is in this silence where the plague of loneliness eats away at our masculine genius in this day and age. I don’t mean loneliness as if we just sit around twiddling our thumbs all day wishing there was someone to talk to. No, we are filled with things to do…accomplishments to rack up and likely a Facebook “Friends” list a mile long.
The loneliness I am referring to is the lack of meaningful friendships with other men. Most of us know what I am talking about when I say meaningful relationships because the thought will bring you back in time to a group of guys you hung with in your teens or young adult life. They were fun to be with but had no issue with challenging you if needed. You rolled together and had a bond in which you always had each others back.
As careers began, married life took the spot light and kids were born…friendships, real friendships, faded away. We no longer have a man who is close enough to know how we are living, give us an “at a boy” when we are killing it or a warning when we need it. Most of our friendships now can be categorized in three ways.
Old School is your buddy from the past who you follow on Facebook but only actually talk to a couple times a year at best. Your bond is real and has strong roots, but it has lacked nourishment for so long that when you get together all that can emerge are repeated conversations from the past.
Co Bro is the co worker that you actually spend a decent amount of time with, but the depth of this relationship is like taking a dive into a kiddie pool. The relationship is centered on sports scores and political banter and you can relate to him, but wouldn’t count on him for the real stuff of life.
Casual Joe is the relationship that is formed from meeting the husband of your wife’s friend or bumping into the same guy at Mass every Sunday. You have common interests since your lives seem to cross paths frequently, but the relationship is kept at a distance and the surface level conversations about your kids’ activities seem to suffice.
Jack Reacher Syndrome
Another common fault that we experience which fuels the flame of loneliness in men is what I like to call the Jack Reacher Syndrome. In case you don’t know who the syndrome is named after, Jack Reacher is a tantalizing pop fiction hero. The books and subsequent movies about him pull you into a story of a genuine bad&*% who has no bank account or personal belongings except the clothes on his back. He roams the countryside bringing justice to the downtrodden but then simply moves on to the next adventure after waylaying anyone in his way.
The issue with being indoctrinated by stories of guys like Jack Reacher or 007 is that it tends to shine a beaming spotlight onto our own lives and exposes us as anything but masculine. While there are some good things to gleam from movie characters like Jack Reacher, the pitfall of equating them with what masculinity ought to look like is very troubling. These characters never set roots. They usually not only move from town to town handing out vigilante justice, but they also go from woman to woman and never show us what the real manly act of faithfulness looks like. There is no grind, no deliberate practice seen in their lives. While the grind may seem boring and mundane, it is essential for greatness. Add the strength of a brotherhood and men can change the tide of our culture.
Biologically we are created to work together. Chemicals like serotonin and oxytocin course through our bodies when we feel appreciated or sacrifice for another. When we have a band of brothers to do life with and challenge each other towards manly lives of virtue then we don’t have to settle for comparing ourselves with a counterfeit image of masculinity like Jack Reacher.
There are lots of problems in our society, all of which are serious, but I believe that the loneliness of men in our culture is rapidly adding momentum to these struggles. Despite what you may read or hear, meaningful relationships are just as important for men as they are for women. They certainly take on a different character but they are no less critical.
Men simply need other men to bring out the masculine characteristics of God which are built into each of us, so that we may have lives well lived. In part 3 I will show you practical ways to develop meaningful friendships with men so that you can begin your journey of forming a band of brothers.
“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)