In my previous blog, I shared the tips on building friendships from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s titled, “How to Find and Keep Friends: A Guide for Middle Age.” The author is Julie Jargon. She offered a list of suggestions to help people establish strong friendships. They were particularly targeted at women. (See my previous blog for the list.)
I’ve got some convictions along this line as well. Mine are born out of organizing and facilitating “friendship” groups with men in several cities where I’ve lived. Depending on the translation used, Proverbs 18:24 tells us “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (NIV)
We see clear examples of this in the Bible. Perhaps the most well known is that of David and Jonathan, the son of King Saul. In 1 Samuel 18:3 we’re told, “Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”
Later, in what some have used for misinterpreting the relationship of the two men, these were David’s words upon learning of the death of Jonathan: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.” 2 Samuel 1:26 (ESV)
To make things clear, we should first know that Jonathan was married to a woman. And King David had NO lack of “love for women." He had MANY wives and many “concubines.” Additionally, he was so attracted to a particular woman (Bathsheba) that he acted sinfully and had her husband killed on the battlefield. This was after King David committed adultery with her and she became pregnant.
We should also note that the Hebrew word for “love” used in the 2 Samuel passage is not the typical word used for sexual activity. Commentators explain that its usage has clear political and diplomatic connotations. The friendship of the two men was a covenantal bond. As one of those commentators has written, “True friendship, according to the Bible, involves loyalty, sacrifice, compromise, and yes, emotional attachment.” Amen.
How can men build such friendships today? Here is my own “how to” list, for starters, for developing one friend or a small group.
- Learn to get comfortable with the word “intimacy.” In its raw form this simply means to know and be known.
- Initiate an invitation. This could start over coffee or lunch with someone where you sense there could be a good connection.
- When you meet that first time, discuss the challenge of building friendships in our day with other men. Cautiously admit your own desires to have one or a few close friends. (Don’t let the word “close” become a roadblock.)
- Suggest meeting once a week for four weeks to see if this works for both of you. (Or those in your group.) It avoids long term commitment.
- On your next get together, learn about your mutual interests and ways you enjoy having fun. Discuss family. Work. Travel. More surface conversation. Maybe have an idea of what to discuss next time.
- The next visit should go deeper into work and family life, learning how you both found spouses (if married) and how you got into your line of work. Maybe the challenges going on in your life right now.
- High points (victories) and low points (pain) of life might come next. This is now key: Transparency is what facilitates the relationship. And here’s a big test: Does your transparency raise eyebrows with your friend? If so, be wary that the other person may not be an ideal candidate for a “close friend.”
- Continue to meet through the fourth week and then determine if the parties wish to continue. If you are trying to set up a small group (as I did), one or more may opt out. That’s fine. Later in the journey, others may come into the group. Obviously, if it’s just two of you meeting this defines whether you have the right person.
I have greatly enjoyed the friendships I’ve made in my small groups. Many are lasting and trustworthy. Some of us are closer than others. But we found a “bond” to build upon. It is, if you will, a spiritual bond.
May you be blessed with the same.
That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.
You can find a number of YouTube episodes and podcasts of Mark’s program, Moving People Forward at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCosyuBzdSh1mXIas_kGY2Aw?
For more information on the Elfstrand Group, please visit www.elfstrandgroup.com