The following piece is written by “Elliot N”, an anonymous member of Courage International. This is the fourth and final part of a series on the topic of authentic male friendship. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Part 4

Fifth: Healthy male friendships need to be ACTIVITY-ORIENTED. Guys are doers. Friendships don’t happen in a vacuum, and you can’t talk them into being. Sorry, but it’s a guy thing. OK, so we can go out to eat right? Yes, you are doing something, but you’re not really doing something. What about going to the museum? Stop!

I got to know one of my best friends – Tyler – at a winter retreat. We found that we had several things in common. We liked cars, sports, and visiting cemeteries, of all things. Our friendship evolved ‘organically’ over a period of years. But it wasn’t until we started working together to organize an event that we got know each other. Phone calls and text messages were necessary to animate the program. There were get-togethers with the leadership team and then the actual event. We were responsible for putting everything together and there were so many things to do. And in the course of ‘doing’ all these things, something happened- we got to know each other really well. Being responsible as partners for an intense weekend cemented our friendship. Now, when the weekend was over it could have killed the friendship, right? Something else happened. We started spontaneously texting and checking in with each other about things that were going on in our lives, and things we had in common. We discovered that we could apply the same encouragement to each other with the daily grind that we did in putting together the weekend. In time, there were social get-togethers and all that. We didn’t plan this friendship to happen. It just did, organically, and the catalysts were what we had in common, and what we were doing together.

Sixth: Although we would like to believe that we are caring empathetic men, many of us tend to be needy. Sorry, but it’s true! I know you know how hard it is to be friends with someone who’s needy, especially if we have issues of our own. Neediness can cause us to look unattractive even if we’re physically good-looking. But we can become very attractive to other men if we approach relationships from the paradigm of being OTHER ORIENTED. It’s not what you get out of a friendship that makes it work, but what you put into it. Now, you don’t have to be a blood martyr for your friend. You can practice self-giving in something as simple as a conversation. Try listening to your friend without intending to respond. But I want to tell him about my. . . Stop! But I once owned a. . . Shush! Try learning more about his whatchamacallit, or how his day went, and what HIS struggles are. You can dramatically increase your attractiveness to other men if you learn how to listen.

There was a new guy at my Church who just moved to town. He was a little stand-offish but we found we had one particular hobby in common. He also liked sports but was much more into his hobby than sports, and that common interest was the beginning of our friendship. He relocated from another town and wanted to buy a house. Since I had quite a bit of experience in residential real estate I offered to help. He was grateful. Eventually, I helped him physically move. Now, admittedly, helping someone move is almost martyr level; nonetheless, that was huge to him in our nascent relationship. Eventually, at one point, our professional paths intertwined and I found myself in a position to help him with something he couldn’t do without my help. That joint project ultimately cemented our friendship, and although I don’t share a more personal intimacy with him than I do with my other SSA friends, we are still friends and very loyal to each other to this day.

Lastly, and most important, is the seventh characteristic. Our friendships must be ROOTED IN CHRIST. If we live as professed Christians, how can we not let our faith percolate into our dealings with each other? If we consider Christ our brother and friend, should we not reflect on Scripture – specifically, who is my brother, sister, and mother? The whole experience of the Courage Apostolate is one of faith and I can’t tell you how close I am to so many of my Courage brothers – even closer than my OSA friends or with my blood siblings. We know each other inside and out. There is nothing to hide, no shame, and we’re all in the same boat, on the same journey.

If we live our friendships within the boundaries of Gospel charity, how could we possibly want to use each other, for any reason, or lustfully think about them? We should desire to die for each other. That simply means approaching our friendship from the paradigm of putting our friends ahead of ourselves in a million simple ways.

So, I challenge you to take these words to heart. They contain a money-back guarantee. If you can in your own way find and live a friendship using these seven characteristics, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you will find that those friendships are some of the best you’ve ever had. I truly treasure the many friends I’ve made in the Courage Apostolate over the years. And the coolest thing is that they are all rooted in the faith I treasure. That makes us soulmates, even if we are not blood relatives, because we help each other to carry the same cross. I’m reminded of one of my favorite readings in Scripture in the book of Sirach. “A faithful friend  is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds; For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.” For truly as the prophet says; “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter, he who finds one – finds a treasure.”