a Few Good Friends
True companions add meaning to life.
The art of true friendship is something of a mystery. Anne Morrow Lindbergh famously observed how “men kick friendship around like a football, but
it doesn’t seem to crack. Women treat it like glass and it
goes to pieces.”
A lot of us men will connect with that image. We’ve
seen our wives, girlfriends and daughters have conniptions
over seemingly innocuous comments and small glances.
Meanwhile, some of us will head out for brotherly beers
on a Friday night with the grinder who an hour earlier
was rubbing our face along the boards.
But male friendship harbours its own mysteries, not
least the strange ability of many men to keep relationships
at surface levels. Many of us never actually acknowledge
the hurts and slights our “friends” inflict on us. We shuck
off the wounds of unkind words or thoughtless actions as
if they don’t matter at all. We fail to respond gently to an
upset friend. We have learned to suck it up and sail on.
By guarding ourselves this way, we settle for lesser
forms of friendship. And the truth is we can’t be best
friends with everybody. Our capacity for relationship has
The level of friendly relationship with your regular bar-ista or bus driver, for example, is different from your potential for deep camaraderie with a boyhood buddy who
attends your church. A Facebook “friend” can be anybody.
A real friend is a man who gets where you’re coming from,
and hangs with you through thick and thin.
Another natural limiting factor is time. While it’s generally true that so-called “quality time” requires at least some
measure of “quantity time,” it is possible to cut through
the clutter and connect without devoting a great deal of
time to the relationship.
But that takes trust, which doesn’t come easy for many
men. In his classic 1965 hit “I Am a Rock,” Paul Simon explores the theme of the loner who spurns friendship of any
sort to protect his emotions – “And a rock feels no pain /
And an island never cries.” His point is, of course, ironic.
Friendship is necessary, even though it creates op-
portunities for grief to take hold. Poet John Donne put it
eloquently when he wrote, “No man is an island entire
of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of
Isolation can prevent certain types of hurts, but it cre-
ates larger problems. Our very DNA calls out for connec-
tion. We cannot go it alone. The possibility of pain that
any relationship produces is part of what it means to be
doug Koop is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer and
spiritual care provider. Find more of these columns
at www.theEFC.ca/BlessedIs TheMan.