Part 2 of the Loneliness Series
Dads, you’re busy. Dads who are leaders, you’re even busier, with little to no free time. So even though we’ve been talking about loneliness, we have to ask, is it possible to make time for male friendships right now? And if so, why bother?
We don’t feel a gap from not investing more time into relationships — at least when life is going ok. Life is full, and it’s one more thing to add to your already full plate. I get it. If I’m going to talk you into investing, I’m going to have to show you why it’s even necessary in the first place.
I want you to consider it not just from your perspective but from the perspective of others too. You might need to rely on a strong, established friendship someday. Others need it today.
Guys’ friendships differ from ladies’ friendships. Jesus modeled the side-by-side nature of male friendships: guys focused together on a common cause or purpose. The challenge is, do you have a cause or purpose worthy of someone coming alongside you?
Parenting, marriage, and discipleship all count as worthy missions to be on together. Each brings its unique challenges and difficulties. The side-by-side model means we’ve got brothers in the trenches with us whose eyes are on the same victory – and we know it. They are in the same battle in their lives, and we can have each other’s backs in the day-to-day. We can also celebrate together when things are good and help each other keep our eyes on the prize.
Our friendships – or lack of them – directly affect what kind of dads we are to our kids.
Don’t good Christians automatically make good dads?
Roland Warren, author of Bad Dads of the Bible: 8 Mistakes Every Good Dad Can Avoid, and President of CareNet, a pro-abundant life ministry, says it’s not that simple.
I believe there’s a shared perspective and maybe a misconception that if we can just help men be better Christians, they’ll automatically become better dads. The assumption is that good Christian men equal good Christian fathers.
Dads may feel like they should know what to do but really don’t and are often afraid to ask for help. Without those bonds of friendship with like-minded men, they often feel isolated.
It matters who you surround yourself with.
The National Fatherhood Initiative encourages spending time with friends as a healthy habit, and one our kids should see and emulate.
“The people with whom you surround yourself have an enormous impact on your life. In many ways, they shape it,” according to author and performance coach Brad Stulberg.
If you have a friend who becomes obese, you are 57 percent more likely to become obese; if you have a friend who quits smoking, you become 36 percent less likely to start lighting up. The flip side of this is also true: when your friends adopt healthy behaviors, like regular exercise, you become much more likely to do the same. In other words, the people with whom you surround yourself have an enormous impact on your life. In many ways, they shape it.
This doesn’t surprise us since we know and teach our kids such wisdom from Proverbs as, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20
We would do well to remember this applies to us dads too.
The Right Kind of Friendship
The U.S. Surgeon General has recognized that our nation is suffering an epidemic of loneliness and isolation. A friend of mine recently witnessed a real-life example of this kind of loneliness in a guy he’d just met.
I had a guy standing in my lobby this morning. He was coming for a job interview. His countenance was down. His demeanor had a hang-dog feel. We sat down to talk, and I asked him, “Can I just ask you if you are alright? Is everything ok?”
This big, strong, forty-something dude started crying. He was finally able to talk, and he said, “It looks like I am getting a divorce.”
So, changing my hat from interviewer to pastor, I began to talk with him…probing as he would allow. At the end of our conversation about that, before we even talked job stuff, he asked me this question. “Why?”
I said, “Why? Why what?”
He replied, “No one has ever taken time with me before. No one has ever cared what I am going through. Why do you care?”
“No one has ever cared what I am going through.”
Wow! This man shared his innermost thoughts with a guy who was practically a stranger because he had no one else who had asked. It causes me to wonder – could his situation have been different if he had? What if he had guys around him in the days/months/years leading up to the impending divorce, a band of brothers who could come alongside him and encourage and admonish him in the Lord? We’ll never know.
What about you? How are you doing right now? Are you like this man who needs a friend now but lacks bonds that need time to grow? Or are you in good times now – maybe you can be the friend to a guy like this? Wherever you begin, begin now developing those connections. I want to have wise guys in my life who will gird up my strength when I need help and knock me over the head when I’m about to mess up. And I pray I’ll be responsive when they do.
“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17