A new year is a perfect time to start something fresh. Better yet, it’s a good time to re-evaluate your life’s practices and habits in general. This could include your food and alcohol consumption, frequency of exercise or spiritual disciplines, and even how you engage in relationships. This is especially true when evaluating your types of friends.
Spoiler Alert: This post includes a free download to a Relationship Self-Assessment to help you.
As I wrote in my last post, Reflections on My Journey through The MANual, I found many lessons as I read the entire Bible last year.
In addition to staying COVID-free, I also published a book titled Get Out of Your Man Cave: The Crisis of Male Friendship which expands the narrative about why men (and women for that matter!) need better friendships.
After retiring from my “paying job” in 2020, the book certainly is a “bucket list” accomplishment in my life.
One of the questions I’m frequently asked about the book is “What is the difference between being a good friend and being a GodBuddy?”
Many who ask have good friends – even some very good friends they can count on for help so it’s a logical question. But there is more to the question.
The Loneliness Epidemic
A 2021 study called the American Perspectives Survey shows there is a friendship recession as the country works to end the pandemic. It leads to a loneliness epidemic in teenagers, but also in older adult males as nearly 1 in 5 American men admit to not having a single close friend. In fact, the number of men without a single close friend has increased to 15%. Those claiming to have at least 6 close friends plunged by half, from 55% to 27% and just 59% of Americans can identify one person as their “best friend,” down from 77% in 1990, the poll found.
While loneliness itself may not seem detrimental, a study by the American Psychological Association claimed that the rate of young adults with suicidal thoughts or other suicide-related outcomes increased by 47% between 2008 and 2017. The current COVID-19 pandemic has increased that trend in all age categories, according to the CDC (The Center for Disease Control and Prevention).
The Answer to the Question
The answer to their question is in my book that makes the case for why men really should evaluate their types of friendships and have a GodBuddy.
However, in this next series of posts, I’m going to explain the difference between good friends and GodBuddies. I will also provide more examples of friendships throughout history, in sports, literature, and entertainment. These will eventually solidify my case that deeper, more authentic friendships help make us better men.
What Makes a Friendship?
Friendships are a complex process and experience. Northern Illinois University psychologist and friendship expert Dr. Suzanne Degges-White explains in an email interview in this post titled What is Friendship? that “Friendships are relationships that involve two very critical dimensions – interdependence and voluntary participation.”
She continues, “True friendships are hallmarked by each member’s desire to engage with the other – it’s about mutual interest in one another’s experiences and thoughts, as well as a sense of ‘belongingness’ and connection. Friendships require reciprocity – of admiration, respect, trust, and emotional and instrumental support.”
Over time, an increase in mutual respect and the degree of reciprocity builds up and strengthen friendship. Friendship is generally categorized into four types:
- Close friend
- Best friend
Of course, the number of Facebook friends does not reflect the number of real relationships so it’s important to understand the different types of friends for different times in your life.
The Various Life-Stages of Friendship
In my book, I describe the friendships during five life-stages :
- Childhood & School-age Buddies
- Fraternity Brothers and Military Comrades
- Young Adult Friends
- Mid-life Friends as Couples
- Mature Life-stage Friends
Each life stage has different requirements for our types of friendships that fill a different need. But these are most-often friendships that lack depth and eternal purpose.
Friendship of the Good
Zat Rana, a contributor on Quartz, writes that Aristotle said there are three types of friendship but only one we should strive for since the first two are more accidental than intentional.
The first type of friendship is one of utility, where the two parties are not in it for the affection of one another, but since each party receives a benefit in exchange. This friendship is not permanent in nature, so whenever the benefit ends, so does the relationship. Aristotle observed this to be more common in older folks. An example of this type of friendship is a business or a working relationship. You enjoy the time you spend together, but once the situation changes so does the nature of your connection. Aristotle observed this to be more common in older folks. I personally realized this with work relationships after I retired.
The second type of friendship is one based on pleasure. This one is more common in people that are younger. It’s the type of relationship frequently seen among college friends or people on the same sports team. Its source is more emotional and often the most short-lived of the relationships. These friendships are fine as long as the two parties gain enjoyment through a mutual interest. But the relationship often ends as soon as either tastes or preferences change.
The final form of friendship that Aristotle described is the most preferable out of the three: the friendship of the good.
Not to be confused with good friendships, the friendship of the good is based on a mutual appreciation of virtues that the other party holds dear. This type of friendship is not short-lived, since it is based on the level of goodness required in each person for it to exist in the first place. This friendship depends on mutual growth.
God Buddy Focus
The year is a great time to re-evaluate the type of friendships you maintain and their value. Is there any benefit to maintaining that friendship? Do you add value to each other? Is that relationship even worth keeping?
I believe the strength of a friendship requires a mutual goal. In the case of GodBuddies, it’s the common pursuit of holiness. It’s learning to become more like Christ.
So let’s ask those questions a different way: Is there any benefit to your personal growth by maintaining that friendship? Do you add spiritual value to each other? Does your friendship help you (or are you helping them) grow in holiness?
- Download the Relational Self-Assessment below.
- Rate yourself on each category to determine your receptivity to having deeper friendships.
- Stay tuned for my next post in this series with more about the history of friendships.
As always, I welcome your comments below.
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