When it comes to building healthy adult male relationships, I recently made a step in the right direction. Well, in all honesty, someone else made the first step. He gave me a hug without asking.
It was a rough Sunday morning, I had a lot on my mind and I guess he noticed. He dropped what he was doing, turned toward me and said, “It looks like you need a hug this morning.” Before I could respond, he had his arms around me. I was stunned. I believe I said “thanks” and I walked away.
For years, I have longed for vigorous friendship, male companionship, and affirming touch. He touched me and I wasn’t sure how to react.
Why is it so hard for us to develop healthful male relationships? In my case, there’s some deprogramming that has to take place. Years of touch deprivation and a fear of being stereotyped or labeled have led to continued relationship regrets.
So, what can we do to make strides towards healing and restoration? Here’s just a few suggestions (ones of which I’m slowly beginning to test myself):
1) Hang Out
Plan time to be around, get to know, learn from, laugh with, and be comfortable around other men. For some of us, this is easier than for others. I’m one of those who has to force myself to be a part of community. It’s hard to leave my current comfort zones BUT once I take the relational risks and experience the comradery, I’m always pleased that I dared to deliberately hang out with other men.
2) Stop Hiding
It’s often hard to be vulnerable with anyone especially with other men. But, let’s be honest – we need each other. We need someone who might understand. We all need a shoulder to lean on – a “partner in crime” who can empathize with what we’re going through. I have my wife and she is a tremendous blessing but there are times I need to be her rock and she doesn’t need me to be blubbering. To be honest, (even though she would try) there are some things that I experience that she just wouldn’t understand.
I have my Lord, for whom I am most grateful, but even He understands that we need those earthly friendships to strengthen us. He left this earth asking us to be His hands to reach out and help, His arms to hug, His feet to walk along beside, His compassion to listen and love. Stop hiding. Maybe your courage will encourage another man.
3) Give Love
Take time to listen to other men and show them that you genuinely care. At a men’s retreat this past Fall, I remember one of the men at my table mentioning that he used to sing in high school choir. He brought it up during one of those odd “ice-breaker” conversation starters when we had to share one thing about ourselves that others might be surprised by. He went on and shared that he actually sang with Jim Nabors on one occasion. A few weeks ago, while hunting for some new vinyl for my collection, I found an unopened Jim Nabors record (surprise, surprise, surprise). The next time I saw him at church, I gave him his gift and it was MORE than an album – it was a way for me to say “Hey. Someone was listening – to you. You are important to me.”
God intended for us to find His FULL expression of love from each other and that includes other men; however, for years we have been afraid to be transparent, real and/or affectionate with other men because of the social, cultural or even “Christian” restrictions we have encountered along the way. We were created to love and be loved.
4) Accept Love
So, back to where I started OR he started. It has always been easy for me to express thoughtfulness and heart BUT receiving it – that’s always been hard for me. I thought I’d “embrace” the moment when it came but I walked away. It was awkward AND awkward is where I’ve spent (broken) for many years. And so, where do I go from here? Well first of all, I’m gonna let him know that he inspired this post. I’m going to thank God that he can take all the messy hang ups I’ve learned along the way and bring healing where I need it most. I will not only continue to give love but I will also learn to accept it as well: one get-together, one heartfelt conversation, and one hug at a time.