Writer’s Note: Okay, unabashed, I’ve selected another segment out of this great book, “Mansfield Book of Manly Men,” by Stephen Mansfield and he writes about the value of deep meaningful friendships among men.
In my mind’s journey since I got the wake up call from Michael Savage, I realized that living in isolation despite the connection to the airwaves or through social media is not going to be an adequate substitute to developing real friendships like those written so well about in the passage that I will include later in this article.
In my recent search for the meaning of life and leadership, I was prompted by our family vacation to San Diego when I began to reminisce about my military and submarine service. Then the tragedy of the loss of the 30 men (and one loyal service dog) in the August 6, 2011 incident in Afghanistan which caused me to consider military service (as a health professional) one last time, but later caused me to read several stories written by SEAL Team members.
Maybe not all of you, but let’s face it, most men are fascinated with the aspect of life and death and the ability to exert control over it in as much highly trained men with integrity are able to take control over it, am I right? But this is not what strikes me deep about reading about people and organizations like the SEALS, who are among the most highly skilled in the world, it is about the bond of camaraderie that binds together men with a mission and then it doesn’t matter who you are reading about.
It could be about Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, it could be about Horatio Nelson and his Captains, it could be about Liu Bei, Zhang Fei and Guan Gung from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and fictitious characters like Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin from Patrick Obrian’s famed novel series. All of these stories, I really enjoyed reading in my adult life. I also read Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire” which goes intensely into the courage and relationships of men and women of ancient Sparta.
Whether you are reading books or involved in an organization, the mission gets you interested, but the relationships keep you locked in.
If it’s not all for one and one for all, most likely you are planning your exit all the way out.
In any organization, the system can encourage the development of relationships, whether it is a spiritual study group, a network marketing team, an innovative technology company or a special warfare unit, unless an organic bond of true friendship begins to form and develop, the organization doesn’t matter.
Must there always be a mission? I could go further and suggest that the strong relationships that survive despite the organizations means of keeping the participants bound together are what we all truly have an innate desire for.
Without further delay, here is an excerpt from Mansfield’s “Manly Men”…
There is a plague that sometimes worries me, and it is not one of the great biological plagues we face today. I care about those, but the plague I think about almost every day is the plague of loneliness among men. In truth, the phrase that goes through my mind is this: the friendless man.
I talk to, consult with, counsel, and train a lot of men in the work I do. Most of these men are leaders, and some are known the world over. Almost every time I get a chance, I ask men about their friends. I learned a long time ago in my consulting work that friends are the best reflection of a man’s happiness, priorities, and health.
What I usually hear from men is that they have simply lost touch with the men who mean the most to them. They find themselves awash in a sea of casual relationships. They do work with other men, and they can usually scare up a group of guys to go yell and scream at the sports bar. Yet when I ask them who they would turn to if they were about to have an affair or if their marriage was coming apart or if they were out of town and needed someone to get their son out of jail, most of them are at a loss to come up with a name. Some even tear up. Several guys I talked to were so lonely they asked me if I could recommend someone to be their friend.
The reasons for this plague would fill volumes. It would become a critical analysis of almost everything in the modern world. That’s for another book. This book is about doing, about actions that make up manhood. I’m completely convinced that one of the skills we must master to be genuine men-is the skill of friendship.
If you snickered a bit when you read “skill of friendship;’ be assured I understand. For most men, friendships come easily. They certainly did for me. I never had to work at them. They didn’t require a special set of skills to find buddies on the playground. In high school and college, finding friends was even easier.
Things changed after college, though. I got married. I bought a house. The grass around that house insisted on growing. I discovered that my wife came with all sorts of family members who, as it turned out, thought of me as a relative. This took time. Lots of it. I was also ambitious. I worked hard in my career and even decided to earn a couple of master’s degrees. Then I lost my heart to two squirmy babies, and all of a sudden it was a decade and half later and I had started using the word friend to refer to guys in other cities whom I called once or twice a year. Maybe.
What I did not have was a band of brothers, a tribe, a posse, a group of guys who knew my life and were fun to be with but who had no problem challenging me if I needed it. You know: covenant, “one for all and all for one,” and “always there for you, bro” kind of friends.
Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I began to realize what had happened to me. This realization came because I heard someone say that by his early thirties the average man cannot name a friend close enough to even know what is going on in his life, much less to call up at the last minute for a bit of fun.
I was this average man. No other man knew what was happening in my inner life. No other man was close enough to see how I was living and even say an encouraging word, much less offer a warning if needed it. And no wonderfully ill-mannered buddy was near enough to me to bust into my life and knock me out of my ruts and my routine. As a result, I was dull and getting duller. I was bored and boring. And I was stagnant, going absolutely nowhere but maintaining the illusion of progress. What I needed were other men to push me to my best and force me to come alive as a man. More simply, I needed friends.
Fortunately, I found some, and they kept me from the manhood-killing cancers of this life. I’m not exaggerating when I say these friends have made a massive difference in my life.
Hear me well, gentlemen: we will never become the men we are called to be unless we learn the art of friendship and intentionally cultivate deep, meaningful, rowdy relationships with other men.
This is one of the most important things for a man to know.
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6:37: first draft
6:58: second proof and photo
7:05 How do I tag this puppy? Publish…?
7:08 Gotta get out of here.
I’ll see you.. on the next page