American men face a friendship recession

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Okay, guys, it’s accountability time. How many friends do you truly have?

I’m not talking about people you know and know of you, but real, genuine, intimate friends. People who know your darkest secrets, most worrisome fears, greatest desires and loftiest goals. Someone who knows your strengths and tolerates your weaknesses. Someone who is willing to tell you straight out that you’re screwing up or on the right track.

When I was living in Wisconsin, I could easily count six guys as genuine Christian brothers along with one long-time male friend and one long-time female friend, both of whom were not believers.

However, 12 years later in Arizona, the number of true male friends I have is one — at best — and we connect face-to-face four times a year. Yes, that’s deplorable.

Fortunately, I have connected with several guys at my new church, but close relationships take time to develop.

I was living in an RV traveling the country for three of those 12 years. After selling the RV, I bounced around from place to place for another three years staying with relatives or close friends in Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona. As soon as I decided to really establish roots again in Arizona, joined a church and reached out to form friendships, COVID cancelled all meetings for more than a year.

I’ve heard it said that a Christian man needs six close friends. Why six? Because there are six handles on a coffin and you will need six pallbearers, otherwise your family with have to rent people to carry your sorry butt out of church after your funeral.

According to National Review, the percentage of men with at least six close friends fell by half since 1990, from 55 percent to 27 percent. The study also found the percentage of men without any close friends jumped from 3 percent to 15 percent, a five-fold increase.

Single guys, like me, fare the worst. One in five American men who are unmarried and not in a romantic relationship report not having any close friends, the article noted.

Americans with one close friend are not any less lonely or isolated than those without any close friends, the story explained. For those with three or fewer close friends, loneliness and isolation are fairly common experiences with more than half of men reporting they felt very lonely at least once in the past seven days.

By the time we reach middle age, Americans are devoting only about 30 minutes a day to maintaining their friendships, according to National Review. Based on experience, I suspect 30 minutes a week is closer to the truth.

In reporting on the same survey, The Christian Post noted the health benefits of having friends include: lower blood pressure, lower body mass index, being less likely to experience depression and living up to 22% longer.

Toss in the isolation when older men are ushered out of jobs as they approach 60 and no longer have an overriding sense of purpose in their careers, and it can be a really bleak existence.

Having friends is not an option. Jesus modeled having 12 substantial friendships and three extremely close friends.

God himself declared that it was not good for man to be alone in Genesis 2:18. That’s why God created Eve, but the sentiment could apply to having male friends, too.

This is one of the reasons I find it so irritating when churches shut down all activities and small groups during summer months. People who are already especially lonely can not afford to be thrust into social isolation any further than they already are.

Proverbs 17:17 states, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Invest in relationships. The dividends can be phenomenal.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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