A couple of years ago when I was in college, a friend of mine and I were catching up over drinks after I got off work. After a few topics of conversation went by, we eventually found ourselves on the topic of friendship. “Who else in Cru are you close to?” he asked. And as I went through the names of people I normally hang around with, I noticed that not very many of them belonged to the men of Cru. A few weeks ago, I went on a day trip to Santa Barbara with a small handful of some close (male) friends, and realized a stark contrast in the makeup of my friend group compared to what it was just a few years earlier. Recently, I’ve been feeling pretty introspective about the past couple of years of my life, more specifically about how the dynamics of my friend groups have changed over the years. Reflecting on my current and past friendships, I’ve begun to make sense of how I’ve approached certain relationships and why I thrived a little more easily in ones more than others.
For a long time, I Love You, Man was my favorite movie. For those who don’t know, I Love You, Man is about a newly engaged man who suddenly realizes his severe lack of close male friendships when he tries forming his party of groomsmen for his upcoming wedding. When I was in high school, this movie felt way too relatable, seeing as how I could count the number of male friends I had at the time on one hand. Looking back now, I’m starting to realize it was then that I began measuring the closeness of my male friendships with the question, “Would this guy be one of my groomsmen?” as a litmus test.
Little known (but probably unsurprising) fact about me: From elementary all through high school, my friend groups consisted largely of females. Two of my best friends from high school are women. It wasn’t until college that I began having more male friends in my social circles – I’m pretty sure I have way more male friends that I regularly hang out with now than I ever had in my entire adolescence. Growing up, I was never groomed to ever be “one of the boys” – I wasn’t born with a baseball glove in my hand, I didn’t particularly enjoy playing outside and getting dirty, and I was never very adventurous as a child. I was (and still am) very introverted, sensitive, pensive, and creatively driven. Because of this, it was very difficult for me to relate to my boy classmates, and way easier to my female classmates. Thus, I tended to gravitate more towards one than the other. Once I got to high school, because these silos were already established, it was that much more difficult to hop around from friend group to friend group, even though the student body was far greater than when I was in elementary school. Though I did eventually find my tribe that I regularly spent time with, which included a very small handful of guys, I often wondered if this was going to be the extent of male interaction I would ever have for the rest of my life. In college, I finally began to find other guys who had similar interests as me and who I meshed well with. As I floated from friendship circle to friendship circle, I also began to notice that the amount of male friends I was making was finally beginning to match the amount of female friends I had. By the time I graduated, I had my tribe of male friends that I could comfortably relate to and want to go out of my way to spend time with.
As I reflected back on the dynamics of my friend groups over the years, I began to realize that the depths of friendships grow with each person. As kids and adolescents, we tend to focus all of our energy on a very limited number of things. We gravitate towards those with similar interests. Because I wasn’t into sports as a child, I gravitated away from my male classmates whose entire existence revolved around sports. I very much preferred to be around people who were just as calm, creative, and reserved as I was – many of whom just so happened to be female. When I got to high school and college, I found other guys who had similar interests as I did. I found guys who enjoyed not just sports and video games, but also hanging out at coffee shops and who shared my affinity for movies, blogging, Target, and Trader Joe’s.
Eventually, I learned that though interests and hobbies are good jumping off points for forming friendships, there still needs to be depth outside of these interests. For me, joining a campus ministry helped provide that solid foundation. I was discipled by someone who, interest-wise, was almost the complete opposite person that I am. Still, our times together were so fruitful and rich, and he helped me realize that a guy showing vulnerability and sensitivity could be just as masculine as one who maintains a tougher exterior. I joined an all-male Bible study who, despite having already formed and established their relationships before I got there, still accepted and appreciated all of me, and a good number of my closest male friendships stemmed from that Bible study. As much as I enjoy the occasional trip to a new coffee shop and conversation about the latest A24 film that came out, it remains that the foundation of many of my closest friendships is our mutual love for Jesus Christ. After realizing this, suddenly the number of friends of a specific gender I had didn’t matter as much as who we put at the foundation of these friendships.
Don’t get me wrong. Even though I’m 26 years old with a solid group of friends – both men and women – there are still those moments of isolation and feelings that I don’t quite fit in. I do feel pangs of guilt that I’m unable to participate in conversations about sports and video games, and even given the history of the makeup of my childhood and adolescent friend groups, I feel extremely out of place in a space comprised mostly of women. Majority of my life, I’ve floated from group to group, simply looking for a place to belong. Because of the plethora of things that I dabble in, I’m able to relate with a lot of different people on different things, but still find trouble finding a home in any one given friend group. I find solace in the fact that instead of being a lone wolf, maverick, black sheep, or whatever you want to call it, I’m instead able to serve as a bridge between groups of people – and hopefully provide a softer and gentler edge to those that are a little rougher and tougher. Most of all, in moments of overwhelming isolation, I can find peace in knowing that my ultimate home is found in the Body of Christ, and as long as He is the foundation of my friendships and relationships, I can truly find peace.