Permission Granted- Teen Boys and Friendships with Guys

Posted: October 23, 2011 in Faith/Christianity, Parents & Families, Youth Culture & Trends

I have to admit I was brought up with a sense that it’s okay for guys to have close friendships with each other…just as long as it doesn’t get all sappy and ‘girly’!  Most guys have an inner struggle with wanting (and craving) deeper relationships with their guy friends, but are also keenly aware of the stereotypes that can be attached when emotions are outwardly displayed.  There’s an inherit need for guys to develop friendships that go beyond the surface, yet many keep it on the surface for fear of being compared to the ways girls develop deeper bonding in their relationships.

Despite stereotypes of teenage boys as grunting, emotionally tone-deaf creatures who bond over sports talk and risk-taking, she said, their need for intimate friendship is as potent as it is for girls.  ~Jan Hoffman, New York Times~

A while back I read through the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.  The book details the intricate differences between the emotional, physical and intellectual wiring of guys and girls, and how men and women might better understand each other.  Some differences between men and women are more obvious and visible than others, but there’s always been this notion that girls have this default setting within them that allows them to go deeper in relationships.  Is that really true?  Are men incapable of loving like women?  Can a teenage boy cultivate an authentic, loving friendship with another male…and not be labeled? 

You can read the article I came across that influenced this post: Allowing Teenage Boys to Love Their Friends.  I know of many guys that were encouraged not to build into these kinds of friendships…whether by insecure dads, friends, sports coaches, etc…and instead gravitated towards the ‘socially acceptable’ image of manhood.  This often led to the illusion that being a real man meant rock climbing, impact sports, drinking and womanizing, and suppressing emotions.  I love rock climbing, extreme sports, full contact anything, building things with my hands…but I also know that’s not the only picture of real manhood.  I know of many guys out there who appear to be strong on the outside, but are weak, lonely and shallow inside.  I see the way my own son interacts with other 5/6 year-old boys, and has a depth and sensitivity about him that is pure and innocent.  I don’t want to see him lose that innocence and depth, and I need to model that manhood to him, as well as surrounding him with other older boys and men that know what it means to be a godly, real man.

I really think that much of the isolation and loneliness many guys are feeling is attributed to their suppression of meaningful male friendships that lead to transparency, accountability, sensitivity, vulnerability…in other words…depth!  The bible paints a pretty clear picture that 2 guys can have a strong and deep emotional, relational bond between one another, and yet never deviates from what it means to be a man…in fact it seems as if that is one of the indicators of true biblical  manhood.  Real men have fun together…rough-house…eat wings and ribs…but they also aren’t afraid to call each other out and walk the line with one another.  We (society) need to give men/boys permission to pursue those kinds of male friendships, otherwise we’ll continue to produce men who can lead a sports team, but fail to lead their family.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. 

  • Is this article over-sensitivity based on one woman’s journey as an adolescent? 
  • Is there truth to her research? 
  • Can guys develop the same kind of ‘depth’ relationships women seem to be able to, or are women created with a different capacity?
  • Are boys/men able to truly and completely love in all areas of life?
  • What would the social ramifications be if men/boys focused on deeper relationships among their male peers?
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