Men are made to relate to other men, in other words, to be part of the "tribe." From adolescence (as boys) we are seeking to be part of the group.
“One can acquire everything in solitude except character.”― Stendhal
EVERYONE needs a community!
“When we live our lives in isolation, what we have is unavailable and what we lack
is unprocurable,” wrote Basil.
We can't go through life alone. From a physical, emotional, mental/psychological, and spiritual perspective, we need and crave relationships.
How often do we settle for "comfort" in our search for true community and friendship? While we seek genuine, authentic, and intimate relationships as men, we settle for "comfortable" relationships that are under our watch and control and that don't take any work to grow deep. This happens because human nature avoids getting out of that comfort zone and developing deep relationships because that type of deep community requires VULNERABILITY, and that's just not comfortable, now is it? We may think we are in community because we're physically present with people, but avoiding vulnerability is like being at a party, surrounded by many people and not saying hello to anyone.
So what we typically do is float through life complaining about how we are lonely, even when we're in a room full of people, yet are we really willing to go deep, particularly with other men, to achieve the community we need? Do we try once and then just say that we tried to go deep and people didn't respond? The truth is, it probably got awkward, and we weren't comfortable sharing the dark or hard things we're currently experiencing when it came time. Sadly, we often seek comfort over community.
I know in my life, I can do FAKE AUTHENTICITY really well, I can talk about the areas of my life where the addiction or struggle has been overcome or doesn't exist anymore, because I can tell about all those things I have conquered! Because in those areas I'm now on top, so you don't have to see the real me, it was the me I used to be. People love a story with a happy ending. The amazing part is: I sound vulnerable... It sounds like I'm sharing intimate details about my life, but the truth is, those aren't the areas in which I struggle anymore. That limited sharing is just a small snapshot of a much larger picture that I don't really want people to see. “Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don't talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.” ― Jean Vanier
Why do we only share the things that are in our past and that we have successfully overcome?
Why? Because if I sound authentic, even if I'm only sharing what I'm good at and have overcome, maybe people will be authentic with me and we can build a relationship. Not sharing about current struggles and situation is fake in that I'm only creating a picture out of limited puzzle pieces. You never see the whole picture and thus never see the whole me.
If I'm really honest (and I desire to be as much as I can in writing this) there are aspects of my life where I can appear authentic, but there are areas in which I still struggle and environments that still trigger me emotionally. In all honesty, there are times I still don't feel comfortable in a church meeting. I don't want to admit that I still have things that haunt me in dealing with past church leaders. I also still don't feel comfortable talking about that fact that I still struggle with addictive behaviors and feelings of being an inadequate provider for my family. I would much rather talk about something I used to struggle with and all those things that are now in the past.
Perpetuating a false or incomplete front is what has become the world's modus operandi through social media.
It's a sad commentary on how we have become the age of "fake news" and where so many things are published to put a spin on things.
Friendships and community are oddly similar these days. We don't want to go deeper with people to uncover the full truth because what we might uncover is uncomfortable or falls within the area of fake authenticity (which is often what we want to hear), even when there is actually more to the story. Instead we stay in that comfort zone and have surface level friendships that aren't even really friendships. Our relationships become mutually beneficial acquaintances for the goal of keeping up appearances. Recently, a friend of mine stated that I was one of his best friends. I thought to myself, "If I'm one of your best friends you have really superficial friendships." This friend and I don't see each other often and we don't really know details about one another's lives. If you really spend time getting to know a whole person, most areas of their life aren't left unturned.
I believe the reason we don't have close friendships and real community is because we stay in the "comfort zone" of having enough people in our lives that make us appear like we're not hurting for friends or actually lonely. How many of us have 1,000 Facebook followers and yet if we asked those same people to drive us to the airport or help us move some furniture, they would do it? Or would we even feel comfortable asking? We delude ourselves into thinking that quantity of friends somehow is better than quality of relationship. That's because we don't want the discomfort of going deep! Going deep is work and work can be tough, and to be honest, it can be exhausting. Within ourselves, we know something is not quite right and so we keep seeking community and new friendships, new relationships, going from one person to the next in search of the unicorn that will finally fulfill us. We hear about it from other people who may have experienced it, but we're convinced it no longer exists. We then turn to blame to discharge our pain and think "I'm lonely because of my friends" or "It's the church's fault I don't feel connected there."
Maybe what we need is to just pull out our shovel and dig deeper?! My goal is to dig deeper in the relationships I want to develop. I may find some things that cause me discomfort or some big surprises, but if I go deep enough I know I will always find treasure.