Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this article for the ORU Oracle.
Last summer, I was going through some mental and spiritual difficulties so I decided to visit a counselor. But before that, I thought about any of my guy friends I could talk to and I realized I couldn’t call anyone. I didn’t trust anyone and I was alone.
Since then, I’ve spoken to other guys about this feeling, and I realized that having authentic friendships among guys is a common problem in the church. Authentic friendship, among other things, involves being able to talk honestly about your present struggles. If you can’t talk to your “bro” when you’re struggling with sin, without any filters, your friendship isn’t deep. Playing games, sports or simply “hanging out” with other men doesn’t entail authentic brotherhood.
People wonder why so many men in the church struggle with pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol and work-obsession. It’s because men are lonely and isolated and sin thrives in that environment. Often times in church, men will come forward during an altar call and repent of their sins, but then leave and go back into the isolation where their besetting sin is waiting for them.
Nate Larkin, author of “Samson and the Pirate Monks,” highlights the Bible stories of Samson and David to explain this issue. Samson and David were two great men who had moral failures. He says, “When Samson fell, he fell alone, surrounded only by enemies. When David fell, he fell among friends. It was those friends, especially one courageous, godly man named Nathan, who made his recovery possible.”
The problem is that many of us men want a fruitful David life with a lonely Samson lifestyle.
To create authentic brotherhood, you need to find a candid guy who is honest about his past and present struggles. If you find a guy that you connect with, call him and meet up. For the first few weeks, just talk and listen without trying to fix the other person. This is difficult because many of us like to give solutions instead of simply helping someone bear their burden as Christ removes it (Galatians 6:2). You both should cultivate a safe space where you can always be brutally honest about your present struggles and sins––not just after you “got the victory” over the struggle. After a while, you can start challenging each other to be better men.
Authentic godly friendships don’t happen by accident and they are worth it. You need men who will strengthen you when you’re weak, cheer you up when you’re depressed, confront you when you’re wrong, advise you when you’re confused, and grieve with you when you’re suffering.
Remember that Jesus promises us a personal relationship not a private one. Abandon “lone-ranger” Christianity.