I am not a great friend. I cannot say for certain how my friends perceive me, but from observing my wife’s behavior with her friends and noting how my guy friends approach me, I know that there are some areas in which I am seriously lacking. Don’t get me wrong here. I care a great deal for my friends. I enjoy spending time with them. I look forward to every guys night out, poker night, Monday night softball game, and any other time when I get to hang out with my testosterone-filled compadres. I love hearing about their lives. I just forget to ask.
That said, I have never really been good at initiating in my friendships. I usually explain this away by my being an “in the moment” person. I tend to do a great job of going with the flow, getting along with others, and having a good time regardless of what others want to do. The danger I’ve run into is that this uber-laid-back attitude leads me to not think of my friends when I am “in the moment” doing just about anything else. This flaw in my friendship skills has led me to greatly appreciate social invitations from my friends.
Two friends in particular have served as healthy models in this area and, quite frankly, have made me feel special and important. One of these friends regularly calls me on his way to work. He is a busy husband and father of three boys and is quite possibly the most joy-filled man I’ve ever known. He is strong, vulnerable, considerate, thoughtful, and hard-working. Sometimes I wonder why he continues to be my friend! If this man can make time to keep in touch with his friends–and, judging by the number of children and parents at his sons’ birthday parties he keeps up with many more people than just me–then I certainly should be able to make a few calls here and there.
The other friend happened to come into my life as a result of his dating and eventually marrying one of my wife’s best friends. He also has quite a few friends that he keeps up with, somehow managing to work full time, go out with his wife frequently, spend time playing games with friends online, double date with friends, host dinner parties, and organize semi-regular poker nights for the guys. While at Disneyland on a double date with our wives and children last week this friend invited me to hang out this coming weekend. I–knowing my wife will NEVER see “American Sniper” in theaters–suggested that we go see a “guy-flick.” After giving a polite nod to my request, he suggested that we could instead just get dinner or hang out at a bar and watch some basketball. He wanted to talk. I agreed and we now have plans to spend time talking at a bar or restaurant this Saturday.
The thing that struck me about this encounter was my friend’s desire to just talk. I don’t know if it’s male socialization, watching bumbling, impotent, unthinking husbands on TV, or just my desire to see a “guy-flick” in theaters, but “going somewhere to talk” had not occurred to me as a possibility. I always appreciate the times that I get to sit down with one of my friends and just chat about life, work, faith, family, or whatever is on our minds at the time. I hug my friends. I tell my friends I love them because I do. I just need to work on being the initiator of these kinds of conversations.
It’s a crying shame that so many men feel inhibited verbally and emotionally these days. I’m glad that there seems to be a bit of a trend away from “traditional masculinity” and that more young men in particular seem to feel safe talking about what is important to them and sharing their feelings. This notion of traditional masculinity is in many ways a misnomer anyway. 150 years ago men in America were much more openly expressive with their male friends. In many cultures around the world men are much less inhibited than 20th century American men in expressing their affection for their male peers. My hope is that the men in my life will continue to live on the front edge of male-male communication, staying open to serious conversations as well as doing “manly” things together. Being talkers AND doers. I obviously need to work on initiating in my male relationships, and I’m glad to have these two friends to look toward as models of this essential quality.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessieleong/