Friendship

Kinship In The Age of Social Media

I’ve had this idea of “friendship” rolling around in my head for a few months now. Questions continually pop into my head (and I try hard to remember to scribble them down so I can write about them later). As we interact with people, when do they become friends? Can friends replace family? What makes a good friend? Why do some people have great, close friendships and others do not?

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At the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College this year, my ideas on friendship were pushed and stretched and molded some more.

Interestingly, I was invited/encouraged/pushed to attend the festival by a great friend I had met online almost three years ago. She would be in town for the festival. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with her. It would be a time to reconnect about our personal lives, and to continue our connection through our writing.

What I didn’t know was the impact one of the speakers would have regarding my ruminations on the topic of friendship.

Author and Biblical Studies Professor, Wesley Hill, is writing and speaking extensively on the role of friendship in the church today. He specifically dives into the importance of friendship for the gay community in the church.

Listening to him speak, as a gay, celibate, Christian, actively involved in his church, made me begin thinking more about the idea of friendship and how deep the relationship of friends can be. He also helped me think more seriously about the role of my friends of both sexes.

Who are my closest, deepest, most important friends? Are they men or women?

Is it okay for me, a married, heterosexual, man, to have close friendships with women? Or, do I need to only have those close, kinship type, friendships with men?

Important questions.

Wesley Hill asks fellow Christians to care about friendship again. He has to. His decision to remain celibate forces him to examine and determine what is best for a relationship.

I, as a married man, need to do the same.

Yes, I have a spouse. But does that in itself limit the close relationship I’m allowed to have with my female friends?

The more I’ve read on the subject, the more I’ve discussed the subject with a variety of people, the more questions I create. And I haven’t found enough answers, at least ones to satisfy my own questions.

I’m intent on spending more time researching the role of friendship in my life. Specifically in my life as a married Christian man.

I’ll be looking more closely at the bonds of friendship between men like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams (The Inklings). Is their particular level of kinship even possible in our culture today?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the topic of friendship. Please join the conversation in the comments and on social media.

I look forward to writing and sharing more on this topic. It is important to me. It should be important to all of us.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply. Seriously. Let's have a conversation.

27 thoughts on “Friendship

  1. I have many friends but not many “close” friends.

    Most of my friends are female friends.

    I always hear Michael Hyatt’s voice in the back of my head when being around another female. He spoke on a podcast about it.

    • I constantly keep Hyatt’s advice in the back of my head as well, especially as a married Christian man.

      I also have very few people who I call close friends. I know a lot of people and many I’ll call friend, but at the same time, very very few will I call a close friend who really know me and I them.

  2. i really don’t know if you can ultimately define this subject. It depends on your heart and the person who has come into your life. I’m so thankful for social media. Some of my greatest friends have come from there. But there comes a defining point in the relationship that I stop following, stop commenting, and start intentionally investing. As far as friendships with men, I usually follow my husbands lead on this one. I don’t have many men friends. The ones that I do have, I find that Michael and I are mutually invested in. There have been a few times that my husband was very insightful to intentions that I was completely unaware of. That’s where the team comes in. But in the end, a great marriage can produce great people who invest in others. Great thoughts Rick! Keep up the good work. Thankful to witness you grow!

    • It isn’t an easy topic. So many nuances and differences of opinion, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. I’ll continue to revisit this over the next few months.

  3. Having worked mostly among males for over 10 years, I developed friendships with men, and OBTW, I have been married for 21 years. These men and I had something in common, we loved and respected our spouses. We never went to lunch by ourselves, but there were many times when I was the only female with a group of these men, and whenever they could, their wives would join us. Those were the friendships I kept. So I do believe it’s possible to be married and have friends of the opposite sex, but there has to be a mutual understanding. We never vented about our spouses because that would not be respectful to our spouses. There were boundaries in place that we all understood. Still to this day, I am honored to call these men my friends.

    • Great point about not venting about spouses. I’m still up in the air on the lunch/coffee “alone” thing. Sometimes I need those one-on-one conversations.

  4. As am married woman celebrating 27 of marriage next month I do believe this is an important topic. I feel it is okay to have friends of the opposite sex but it also depends on what the real intentions are within the friendship. The significant other should be aware of the relationship. If it is being hidden from them that should be a red flag that something is not right with the intentions of the friendship.

  5. I have thought about this also for years. Serving in a country where interaction between men and women is different than it is in the US is a great challenge. It was difficult not being friends with my wife at all before marriage. So it has altered my thinking in a way about friendships in general. I have also found who true friends are by being so far away. I have discovered that either the friends I had who I thought were great, werent, or it has molded my definitions and expectations in a different way. I am in constant conflict with the opposites of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” with the idea of “out of sight, out of mind.” Rick, I am eager to read what you uncover

  6. So many thoughts yet so sleep deprived. I will do my best with what my brain will allow for.
    Friendships are vital. We were created for relationship, first with the Savior, secondly with others. We cannot live without others. We need the connection, the accountability, the support, etc. Without friends, we fail, in many ways.

    Can opposing sexes be friends? I believe I am proof that is possible. Maybe it is because I was raised by a football coach and spent a lot of time on the field or in the weight room, but hanging with the guys is comfortable to me. (It could also be because I am more logical in the way I process than emotional) Now that I am married, I still have friends of the opposite sex. I tend to ask myself, “Would I do this if my husband were here?” If the answer is no, I need to alter my behavior. I respect my marriage, the vows I spoke, too much to blur any lines. I tell Andy about conversations, moments, all of it. Sometimes he tells me I don’t need to, but I do it because I want everything to be kept in the light.

    I do think we need to be careful. For instance, I could sit and talk to you for hours on end. But, I would not do so in a secluded area where it is just the two of us. Is it because I do not trust the situation? No. It is because I want there to be no appearance of evil, I do not want others to have to wonder my intentions.

    There are some topics I am not going to discuss with males, those deeply intimate, more emotional things. Male friends and female friends are not interchangeable, they add value in different ways. I have no need for a deeply emotional connection with any male other than my husband. Yet, my male friends add a great deal of value to my life, and are quicker to call me out on my crap much quicker than female friends, and I appreciate and need that.

    Finally, three of Jesus’ closest friends were Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Women were a part of his ministry. Enough said.

    Ultimately, you, Shaver, and Dollar are stuck with me…for forever.

    • I’m going to have you write my next post. 🙂
      I agree with every point you make. And the line about Jesus and his friends just hit me smack in the face. In all the research and reading I’m doing on this subject I have completely ignored looking at the relationships and friendships in the Bible. While everything I write is centered on the Word, often I forget to use it as the primary source for research. Thanks for helping me figure that out.

  7. My VERY best friend is a man who lives half way across the country. We don’t talk daily, or even weekly, but he’s the kind of friend who I could ask to help hide the body. My husband understood my friendship long before we married. Most of my close friends are men, I just seem to have more in common with men than women. It’s only been in the last 18 months or so that I have had any female friends.

  8. Such an interesting topic. I agree with Carla’s notion that no spouse bashing. Of all the men I work with and am friends with, none ever negatively comment about their wives nor would I ever speak poorly of my spouse. It’s unacceptable and that’s a good ground rule. I’m not sure I could be soulmate friends with a man besides my husband, I can have deep and respectfully friendships with nothing more.

  9. I have observed the same that dilemmamike mentions in myself. When growing up, we moved – often across country – on average about every 3 years. I think by the time I was an adult, I wasn’t used to developing and investing in deeper long term friendships. I also don’t always keep up with professional/college sports teams much, so can be difficult sometimes to carry on casual conversations when they gravitate toward that topic, which is a common topic for guys to talk about. I would agree with the post that mentioned some of the posts that the friendships with the opposite sex tend to be ones that are mutual friendships that my wife and I have. I tend to be a bit cautious in this area if not a mutual friend of my spouse and I. Once I turned down a lunch invitation in the past as a.) I wanted to protect myself / guard my own heart and b.) I felt if my wife were in a similar situation and I saw her or if one of my friends saw them out together, this could make me feel uncomfortable. I have also personally felt that if it ever came up, not to travel to a meeting/convention with a friend or coworker of the opposite sex unless there is someone else/others along. I think this is a topic that different individuals (and different spouses) have different levels of comfort with and is an area that clear and open communication in can avoid misunderstanding and also allow for accountability to one another.

  10. My husband and I believe that no one person can meet every emotional (or intellectual) need of another. Therefore, we believe having intimate friendships is crucial to our own development and to the development of our marital relationship. So often, after 3 decades, we tend to echo each other, read the same information, and share the same opinions. We believe that we can learn from other people, share with each other what we have learned, and then discuss how that knowledge can be implemented (or taken as a warning) in our life together.

    To us, who our intimate friends are has less to do with gender and more to do with trust. Is an opposite sex friend a friend of our marriage? Is there authenticity in that friendship so that both my husband and I can feel comfortable with platonic intimacy outside of our marriage?

    Can there be trouble in opposite sex friendships? Absolutely. And same sex friendships can also harm marriage. Lies hurt marriage. Trash talking spouses hurts marriage. Girls night out focused on looking great and heading out to a bar hurts marriage.

    I have had an opposite gender friend for more than 30 years. Our friendship has become more intimate in the last 15 years or so as we have matured. We talk about religion, dreams, parenting, retirement plans, day to day humdrum, and yes…even some struggles in marriage. All of those conversations are had with the intent of learning, because we view life very differently. And, all of those conversations produce ideas and information shared with my husband.

    I will say that I have learned a painful lesson. My friend and I never discussed his second marriage, which I attributed to boundaries because my husband and I have not met the new wife. I wish that we had, because now that friendship has ended due to her unhappiness surrounding our friendship.

    I still believe intimate friendship regardless of gender is not only possible, but important. However, the possibility depends on the attitudes of all people involved.