Men need each other in the worst way because there is more to life, good company, and conversation than sports, finances, and work! We tend to keep things bottled up because we don’t think anyone wants to hear or wants to help. How then can we get the conversation started and be an encouragement to our friends?
Start a Conversation
Author H. K. Downie tells the story of a large newspaper that offered a substantial amount of cash for the best answer to the question, “What is the shortest way to London?” The entry which won the prize put forward the suggestion, “The shortest way to London is good company!”
Indeed, good company makes any journey shorter and any experience more enjoyable. Good company can be found anywhere, if we are open to meeting and starting conversation with strangers.
In the late 90s, my wife and I were travelling from Australia to start up life in my home country of Canada. We took some time on this journey to visit Vietnam, India, and the UK. While travelling through India —cross-country from Chennai to Mumbai, up to Jaisalmer, then through Jaipur to New Delhi— we mostly rode the train, third-class because we’re cheapskates. We quickly discovered the mistake of third-class because there is no air-conditioning, other than open windows and doors, and the seats are overbooked many times over. It is entirely typical that you won’t get your alloted seat or will have to share it with a family or two.
Despite the frustration of experiences more up close with humanity than we would have liked, we actually found some good company on our India journey.
On one leg of our journey by train, we found ourselves sharing our booked seats with one particular family. They did not speak English, so we just smiled at each other, both across and beside us, even as we rubbed shoulders and shared body odour. We all got off at the same stop and found ourselves on the same tour bus, which took us from temples to forts to natural wonders.
At one site, this family discovered we had not thought to bring lunch with us, as we had hoped to purchase something along the way. Our way did not take us to any McDonald’s or Burger King, nor any other places from which to buy food. With smiling faces, they generously shared their lunch with us. Despite not being able to communicate verbally, their offer was clear, as was our thankfulness. Good company indeed, even in the unlikeliest of places! Honestly, though, our conversation was not very deep.
Friends Make the Best Good Company
While good company can be found anywhere, our friends make the more consistent good company.
By definition, our friends are ready to join us in any journey and to come alongside for any experience. Yet, I wonder whether many men experience anything deeper with their friends than merely good company? I wonder this because I know men especially need deeper relationships than merely good company. This is because men have a nasty tendency to ‘go it alone’.
Commenting on recent interviews where NBA basketball players admitted to suffering panic attacks and depression, blogger Mike Pritchard wrote,
I’ll close this blog post by simply encouraging men to not try to do life on your own, particularly when times get tough. Connect with friends. See a therapist as needed. We cannot do life on our own. We need community. We need each other. Keep going! Don’t give up! (blogger Mike Pritchard)
And I couldn’t agree more.
Men Can Sharpen Each Other
As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV84)
This wisdom saying from the Bible describes the point that we each need friends in our life to sharpen us. This metaphor of sharpening highlights how a friend —because the object doing the sharpening is of the same substance as the object doing the sharpening— can help you perceive your circumstances and situation better. He can also help to lighten your mood and refill your energy to tackle problems appropriately.
Some other English translations of the Bible translate the Hebrew word behind “man” as “person”. At Men At The Corner, we discussed this issue at length and could not agree. While I would agree everyone needs a friend who can sharpen us in this way, I believe the violence of this metaphor —because sharpening requires a violence of sorts, as one object is placing a force on another— means this axiom is being directed at men particularly. Not to be sexist, women tend to talk to each other differently than men.
Who Talks More and Deeper?
As a general rule, woman are a lot more talkative, open, and expressive than men. According to communication consultant Audrey Nelson (Ph.D.), women generally feel more freedom to share with one another “everything and anything […] their insecurities, their latest diet, the trials of their uterus, their dreams […] any topic is fair game […] talk freely about their troubles personnel or personal”. Men, in comparison, tend to keep things to themselves, preferring to keep their conversation with others on the ‘safe topics of sports, finance, or work. As a demonstration, Nelson provided an anecdote, from psychologist Dr. Judith Tingley, describing a sailing lesson she experienced with four men and a male instructor:
The majority of the conversation centred on business and money. There was no discussion of people, feelings, or relationships. No one mentioned a wife, a child, a brother or sister, a mother or father. The conversation was almost totally about each individual man and what he had done or seen or been, relative to sports, business, or money. Men are private about anything having to do with relationships, feelings, and emotions. They usually only disclose to significant others the private aspects of their lives.
Men, Help Each Other
Proverbs 27:17 reminds us of the power of coming alongside a friend in his journey and experiences. You have an opportunity to uplift your friend, keep him accountable, and make him feel better. Doing so will not only make the friendship grow stronger for both of you (i.e. “bonding”), it will also become more meaningful to each of you.
On top of the Spanish Pyrenees may be found a magnificently beautiful but elusive mountain goat. It seems always to get away from shooting range. Why? It has a companion, a young goat, who follows and sounds the warning of enemies around it.
The rhinoceros has very poor eyesight. But its tough hide is infested with ticks—a delicacy to a certain little bird which rides on its back, feeding on the insects and alerting the rhino to danger.
Both the ratel, a badger-like animal, and the little honey-guide bird love honey. And so they go out together. The keen eye of the little bird quickly pin-points a beehive with honey, and the ratel’s powerful claws tear up the hive, making the honey available to both.
Men need each other in the worst way. We tend to keep things bottled up because we don’t think anyone wants to hear or wants to help. That only leads to problems. Come alongside your friends because, while they may not want to admit it, we all need someone to share with and you can be an encouragement to others. Get the conversation started! If you know someone you could reach out to, do so today.
Sometimes a man needs a pork shoulder to cry on.
When in your life has the ‘sharpening’ from a friend made a difference in your life? Share your experience below.
*photo by fizkes | @ depositphotos
 For a list of Downie’s books, see https://www.abebooks.co.uk/book-search/author/h-k-downie/ (not an affiliate link)
 Henry G. Bosch, “The Shortest Way”, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, edited by Paul L. Tan (Garland, TX, USA: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), pg 463.
 “Buddy-Buddy Among Creatures”, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, edited by Paul L. Tan (Garland, TX, USA: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), pg 464–465.