by Melvin Twigg Mason
“Guys, by nature, are not as good at making friends as girls are. Our friendships typically center on activities, while our female counterparts can survive doing nothing in particular.”
Thus begins R. Kent Hughes’ chapter on The Discipline of Friendship, from his parallel work, “Disciplines Of A Godly Young Man,” written with help from his youngest son, William, for the 30 and under male audience. But take note, gentleman reader, truth is truth no matter who it’s aimed at, and what Hughes asserts is that deep, solid friendships are a necessary part of an authentic man’s world.
We’ve all heard the biblical statement, “It is not good for man to be alone,” which we know led to the creation of Eve. But Hughes says it also speaks to the broader issue that we all are relational beings — women AND men. Friends are not intended to be “an optional extra,” according to the author; rather, they are contributors to the health and fulfillment of who we each are meant to be.
Using the relationship between King David (who I referred to in the last article) and his predecessor’s son, Jonathan, Hughes describes the features and benefits that a close friendship between men provides:
- connection – you are not alone in your world, nor in your struggles. A close friend will not only offer prayer, advice, & counsel, but also keep you accountable for your commitments and responsibilities.
- love – this can be a word that we’re afraid to use when talking about another man for fear of being suspected of something deviant. But Hughes states that such a bonding of souls occurs when one man finds another like-minded individual (a.k.a., “a bro-mance”). “Phileo,” brotherly love, is one of the four forms of love used in the Greek language, from which we get Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. There are no romantic or sexual undertones involved. Besides, says Hughes, who can better understand the “serpentine passages” of a man’s heart & mind like another man?
- commitment – true friendship kindles the desire to see the other person be “better.” Each friend rejoices in the “elevation and achievements” of the other, and does what he can to honor his friend. Hughes calls a man with this kind of attitude towards his friend a “kingmaker.”
- loyalty – faithfulness or allegiance to your friend, and speaking positively on their behalf, should be a natural component of friendship. Indeed the author says it is vital and indispensable.
- encouragement – To promote, foster, or inspire someone with courage or confidence. According to Hughes, this is more than just saying “everything is going to be okay.” It means bringing joy and comfort, calmness and understanding to your friend, as needed. Someone to share pains as well as high-fives with.
affirming – honestly acknowledging the skills & abilities of another goes a long way in securing a friendship;
a listener – if you are a good listener you will be seen as a “brilliant conversationalist,” and your friend will know he is valued by you; and
accepting – to receive someone without an antagonistic or hostile reaction. “An open, accepting soul is like a warm, inviting home; a place where friendship grows.”
Wouldn’t you want a friend or friendship like this? So, let me ask you: Are you a friend like this to others?