Barriers to Friendships

Ralph Waldo Emerson may have offered the best advice for making and keeping close pals: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”

Then, why do so many men have a hard time making and keeping friendships? The honest answer may be that many of us don’t know how to make friends.


In my last post, Finding Your First God Buddy, I suggested you need to overcome the fear of rejection. You can start the path toward friendship by finding commonality with another guy. You can also try pursuing friendship with someone you admire. Both mean taking a little risk.

So what keeps us from reaching out to someone with whom we want to develop a friendship?

David Smith, author of the book Men Without Friends may have given the best reasons in his list of six characteristics that prove to be barriers to friendship for men:

1. Men show an aversion to showing emotions.

Expressing feelings is generally taboo for males. At a young age, boys receive the cultural message that they are to be strong and stoic. As men, they shun emotions. Such an aversion makes deep relationships difficult, thus men find it difficult to make and keep friendships.

2. Men seemingly have an inherent inability to fellowship.

In fact, men find it hard to accept the fact that they need fellowship. If someone suggests lunch, it is often followed by the response, “Sure, what’s up?” Usually, men get together for business, sports, or recreation (hunting and fishing), but they rarely do so just to enjoy each other’s company. Centering a meeting around an activity is not bad, it is just that the conversation often never moves beyond work or sports to deeper levels.

3. Men have inadequate role models.

The male macho image prevents strong friendships since a mask of aggressiveness and strength keeps men from knowing themselves and also knowing others.

4. Male competition.

Men are inordinately competitive. Men feel they must excel in what they do. Yet this competitive spirit is frequently a barrier to friendship.

5. An inability to ask for help.

Men rarely ask for help because they perceive it as a sign of weakness. Others simply don’t want to burden their family or colleagues with their problems. In the end, male attempts at self-sufficiency rob them of fulfilling relationships.

6. Incorrect priorities.

Men often have a distorted order of priorities in which physical things are more important than relationships. Often, success and status is determined by material wealth rather than by the number of close friends. Men tend to limit their friendships and thus their own identity.

All told, each of these characteristics can cause very unreliable friendships that rarely get to “brother” status.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” 

–Proverbs 18:24

Another cause is that we rarely make time to invest in our friendships.

In Where Did All My Friends Go?, I suggested that as we move through life, we begin to deal with the pressures of life by isolating from everyone, including family and friends. We resort to workaholism or addictive behaviors like over-eating, heavy drinking, doing drugs, gambling, or pornography. We become short-tempered and angry. Our isolation and busyness become reasons for not making enough time for ourselves; much less time for any friendships.

How do we overcome these barriers?

In my opinion, the number 1 barrier is that we have our priorities wrong. Try reviewing where you spend your time and re-assess your priorities. You will be surprised where you will find time that you can use to invest in some your buddies.

How have you found time to invest in your friendships?

Please share your tips in the Comments.

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