This is the third post in a four-part series on The Four Foundations of Masculinity.
The third foundation is Fraternity.
Of the four foundations we are looking at regarding masculinity, fraternity is the one that is most overlooked. Having close male friends is not considered nearly as important as faith, family, and fitness. The effect this has had on modern masculinity has been disastrous.
Men simply don’t have close, intimate friends anymore. Sure, they have their work buddies, or their golfing buddies, or football buddies. But they’re just that; buddies. They aren’t quality, deep friendships.
Like so many other masculine traits, male friendship is diminished and often ridiculed. Two guys spending a significant amount of time together are referred to as being in a “bromance”. Men are often afraid to show any signs of affection for each other for fear of being called “gay”.
But these things are what men need most! Men need companionship. They need friendship. They need brothers. They need fraternity.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
Men need other men around them to confide in, support them, and keep them accountable. Men who are alone can end up in a dangerous place.
Many of the benefits of close friendship are obvious: companionship, fun, humor, shared interests. But there are three things that close friendship provides that are absolutely necessary to thrive as a man.
Men need an intimate friend. They need someone who they can confide in with absolute confidentiality and trust. Having someone that knows you in and out, that knows you better than yourself, is worth that friend’s weight in gold. We must have brothers in our lives that we can go to when we need help. There is a need to have someone other than our spouse to vent to and seek advice from. We all require a loyal, devoted friend who has our best interests at heart to listen and be there for us in tough times as well as good times.
The Biblical standard bearer for strong male friendship is David and Jonathan. Modern interpretations often portray their relationship as being homosexual. That’s only because modern society is so far removed from close male friendships that they can’t imagine two men being that close without having sexual intimacy as well. The world is no longer able separate intimacy from sex. The Bible says Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. He protected him from his father, King Saul, who was trying to kill David. He was there for David when he needed him most.
We all desire a friend that will be there for us through thick and thin. Someone who can cry with us, laugh with us, mourn with us, and celebrate with us. We crave that unspoken language between two people, the inside jokes, the comradery. We crave intimacy, and having a good, close friend provides that to us.
Secondly, close friendships provide us encouragement. They push us to be better. They pick us up when we’re feeling down. A true friend will push you to be the best you can be. When you get knocked down, he’ll come over and help you up, tell you to rub the dirt off your pants and get back in the game. That’s what men do. That’s what a good friend will do. A true friend will never leave another man behind. He’ll carry him on his shoulders if he must, but he’s not leaving him behind.
David was at one of his lowest points after capturing the town of Keilah from the Philistines. Saul was out to kill him, and the townspeople were plotting to turn him over to Saul. He was surrounded, in danger, and even though he had 600 men with him, he felt completely alone. Jonathan came to him and “encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.”
A close intimate friend encourages you, fights alongside you in battle, has your back, and remains loyal until the end.
Lastly, deep friendship provides accountability. A good brother can see through the b.s. you tell yourself and try to tell others. He won’t let you falter or head down the wrong path. We all need someone who can tell us what we need to hear instead of what we want to hear. Especially when dealing with issues of porn addiction and sexual purity, we need a brother who will check up on us and make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.
Again, referencing the life of David, we all need a Nathan. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan called David out for his sin of adultery with Bathsheeba and murdering her husband. Rebuking the king in that way was of great risk, but David needed a friend to show him his errors. His ego wouldn’t allow him to see it himself.
I would never have recovered from my sinful past if I hadn’t had friends who came to me and slapped some sense into me. They took me to task for my mistakes and made sure I realized where I had gone wrong. As men, if we don’t have someone looking out for us, our own selfish desires and arrogance can take us down some very dark paths. We need brothers to keep us accountable and hold our feet to the floor.
Fraternity Over Friendship
You may be wondering why I’ve titled this article “fraternity” and not “friendship”. The reason is that we don’t just need a close friend, we need a group of friends. We need multiple men in our lives who provide that close brotherhood.
We need fraternity. Fraternity is a group of people held together by a common bond or purpose. Fraternity gives us somewhere to belong. It gives us a “tribe” to call our own.
There are never any men who are closer knit than a group of men who have fought or battled together. That’s one great thing about youth sports, it teaches young men the bond that comes with teamwork. The place we find the closest-knit brotherhoods are in war. The men of Easy Company, made famous by the Band of Brothers miniseries, are a perfect example of the bond, comradery, and fraternity that a group of men who have been through hell together experience.
This is why the American Legions and the V.F.W.s were so popular after the war years. Men were looking to again discover that fraternal bond that they shared with their men during battle. But we can also find this bond and unity outside of the military. Groups like the Freemasons, Odd Fellows, and college fraternities all have that common bond of friendship that we so desire. They provide us somewhere to belong.
The tragedy is that so many of those groups are dying out. People don’t join fraternal organizations anymore. The result is they miss out on that fraternal brotherhood that men so desperately need. This has caused men to go through life alone, with no one they can rely on, confide in, or keep them accountable. I believe this is one of the reasons we have so many issues with masculinity in our society.
One remark that never fails to come up when discussing male friendship is the comment, “My wife is my best friend”.
Rev. R. Kent Hughes in his classic book, Disciplines of a Godly Man, addresses this issue:
“Men, if you are married, your wife must be your most intimate friend, but to say, “my wife is my best friend” can be a cop-out. You also need Christian male friends who have a same-sex understanding of the serpentine passages of your heart, who will not only offer counsel and pray for you, but will also hold you accountable to your commitments and responsibilities when necessary.”
Men need other men. We need brothers. We need fellow warriors to battle through life alongside us. We need friends who we can confide in, who can support us, and who can keep us on the right path. We need a group of men to belong to; a fraternity to call our own.
Native American writer, Charles Eastman, wrote about friendship among Indian tribes:
“It is easy, we think, to be loyal to family and clan, whose blood is in our own veins. Love between man and woman is founded on the mating instinct and is not free from desire and self-seeking. But to have a friend, and to be true under any and all trials, is the mark of a man! The highest type of friendship is the relation of ‘brother-friend’ or ‘life-and-death friend.’ This bond is between man and man, is usually formed in early youth, and can only be broken by death. It is the essence of comradeship and fraternal love, without thought of pleasure or gain, but rather for moral support and inspiration. Each is vowed to die for the other, if need be, and nothing denied the brother-friend, but neither is anything required that is not in accord with the highest conceptions of the mind.”
Without fraternity our foundation as men is weak.
Fraternity is the third of the Four Foundations of Masculinity.
Lastly, we will look at the fourth, Fitness.