Last week’s blog post, What Every Man Needs But Few Get, sparked a greater number of responses than usual. Nearly all were private direct emails to me, a few were in the public comments section. I have excerpted and summarized some of their questions, insights and ideas.
Missionary Men & Friendship
From Dan via the public comments: For those of us in missions, and for those that will live a similar sort of lifestyle, what is your advice? What would you do differently? My answer: Knowing what I know now, I would definitely put “Develop a deep level friendship with at least one other man,” on my Ten Things I Really Want list. I thought it would just happen, like it did for my wife and her friends, it seemed so easy for her. I never made making a deep level friendship a priority, I should have.
From a missionary who worked in an isolated location, now retired and living in Canada: Sure enough. I have been more of a loner all through life. It seems to me that I was the only one who …..(I can list a dozen areas I had to break through alone). Just now I have one definite male colleague in the faith and a few nearby.
A Bible translator from Papua New Guinea finally, at age 59, developed a way to make a deep level friend. I’ve been there, done that. But technology can help! Now, thanks to weekly Skype video chats, I have a ‘iron-sharpening-soul-brother-mate’. We challenge, mentor, befriend, encourage, and pray for each other. We spur each other on in our walk with the Lord.
From an adult missionary kid whose parents worked in isolation: I wish my dad could have had the kind of deep level relationships with men that I enjoy.
Church Going Men & Friendship
RF’s insight and book recommendation: This emotional isolation does not only happen to cross-cultural missionaries. It is pervasive in church life, I would go as far as saying that it is the standard way of living for modern men. A good book on the subject is “The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship that Actually Changes Lives” by Peter Scazzero.
From a retired man: You have me brooding over this one, Jack. David in Psalm 141:5 invited confrontation. But we tend to be to self-oriented, too self-sufficient, Lone Rangers.
From a fellow columnist: Another good one, Jack. About men bonding, have you had much contact with Promise Keepers or Covenant Keepers? The answer is, No. But I do know that Promise Keepers focuses specifically on men and their needs, and has an excellent reputation. Covenant Keepers focuses on restoring marriages.
From a fellow Albertan: I’ve had many friendly acquaintances but few friends that I can name. Close friends? My best man friend on the planet is a man I used to minister the Gospel with thousands of miles from here. I sometimes have a deep longing to talk to someone I can really actually open-up and talk to, but have no-one here, so I reach for the telephone and call long-distance. Why is it that we men, though some of us are social and do make ‘friends’, so few of us have a really close friend?
From a retired teacher. When I look back over the years I have seen how certain men have regularly spoken into my life because we had this type of relationship. Thanks for touching on a very relevant topic. An article that I received this week has some”how to” ideas.
Elderly & Friendship
From an old friend. An especially good one, Jack. But you don’t have to be a missionary in a Canela village to feel isolated and lacking friends at a deep level. Try being 81, in a village of fewer than 700 which is highly inter-related — with one’s long-time friends dropping away from age, infirmity and death. The hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus” takes on new meaning.
Women & Friendship
Quite a number of the respondents were women, some of them concerned for their husbands, others for themselves. One lady encouraged me and gave her perspective. “This is a great piece, Jack. You are vulnerable and speak an important truth. (Supposedly) REAL Christian men get so busy in “ministry” that this aspect (deep level friendship with other men) is often overlooked.
From a single woman, veteran missionary. It is not just men who are lacking close friendships, some women are, too, including me. It has been the same all my life. I start to develop a friendship and then something intervenes. The very first and growing friendship that I had was with an older colleague after serving on the field for 25 years. I felt we were becoming quite close in spite of our age difference. She died some years later while I was on furlough.
A wife wrote from a Muslim nation where she and her husband work to encourage the Christian minority population. I have had several western women ask what my support system is in terms of having English-speaking women to talk to. I don’t feel the need as I’m well integrated and have good relationships with local ladies; and I have many ladies at the end of an email that understand me. No one, however, ever asks my husband that question. I hadn’t thought of it before. He has, however, formed a close relationship with a local elder of the church we are part of. It is one of the very few close relationships with a man that he’s had in his life.
My Final Question
Since men submerged in their careers often don’trealize they need a deep level friendship, how does the local church help them to make connections and develop friendships?