Men vs Women: Which are Easier to Befriend?

A dear friend recently asked me a question: Which gender do I befriend easier, men or women?”

Now my weird brain generally works in a way for me to generally answer questions quite quickly. This time, however, before I uttered the answer that first came to mind, for some peculiar reason I stopped myself in my tracks. This particular question brought about a state of cognitive dissonance in me. I was going to answer “men” due what I believe to be true in my own life, but I simultaneously realized a disharmony in my thoughts because the more I pondered the more the answer gradually became “women”.

I have been known to be a social butterfly. During and after college I attained a large number of both female and male friends. Nowadays, I likely have more male friends than a majority of what other males have obtained. The conundrum in my friend’s question is this: The pool of men to befriend AND [even worse] the quality of the pool of men to befriend pale in comparison to that of potential women friendships.

This feeling of disharmony caused to me realize the subtle, potentially rigged system around me when it comes to friendships. For years I have talked and written on the decline of men and how that affects women, children, and the church. What I have failed to realize is how that also affects me. The pool of men willing to discuss religion, politics, history, the sciences, the arts, and deep opinions on social issues in a purely conversational manner is dwindling. If I go into the city in search of conversationalists I predict to find at least 5 times more women with familiarity on those topics than men. So which gender would be easier to befriend?

There are a variety of reasons this has occurred: from the expression of masculinity being suppressed, to male behavior traits being classified as attention deficit disorder, the removal of competition in childhood sports, a feminized Christianity, weak male role models in entertainment, fatherlessness, and many more.

In short, without diving into the hierarchical validity of those reasons, let’s agree that something bad is happening to our men. We can walk into most churches and see the male to female attendance ratio is very skewed in favor of women. There is a decrease in male leadership inside and outside the church. This spreads to other domains where we see a [quantitative/qualitative] decrease of men in the dating scene, the workplace, and in the classrooms. The young adults still living with their parents are mostly men. Women are now more likely to go to college than men. We all know more stable, single women looking for a mate than stable, single men looking for one.

Tim Keller says “the most important relationships for the traditional person are their family, for the modern person it is their lover, and for the postmodern person it is their friends – because their families and lovers have let them down!” We can go a step further for men today by removing the friendship layer (due to their lack of ability to attain them) which leaves them all alone; without family, lover, or friend. Maybe this is one of the explanations for the increased state of despair, depression, opioid use and suicide among men in the world.

I was recently speaking with a Thai woman who expressed that many Thai women avoid dating Thai men because the men are no longer future minded and are prone to leave their women after pregnancy. I recently heard something similar of the Haitian culture. A study came out last month in the UK stating an 11.8% rise in suicide rate of young men since last year.

What is missing in the purpose of men today? One of the answers to that question lies Image result for men defeating dragonsin the awareness of what fills and drives our deepest desires. Men are wired for challenge and to cultivate the world. Since the beginning of time we’ve heard fantastical stories about men seeking the unknown and slaying the dragon. We men hear those stories and it triggers hidden desires within us. We want it. We yearn for it. The story of the archetypal hero fills our soul with meaning because those stories are symbols that remind us of the true purpose of our lives. This meaning is like a reward for our soul because the risk of going into the unknown is Death, but the reward is Life. Hence the adage, “the greater the risk the greater the reward.”

Men can feel the story of Frodo, Harry Potter, Iron Man, Simba, Maximus, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Hercules, and many others in their bones. These are male characters who faced hurdles and slayed their dragon. Their dragon represented chaos. The ultimate dragon is salvation (of which Jesus has given to us if we seek it). Other dragons for us can be marriage, family, success, stability, or vitality. All of which have merit. Not only is there a final reward at the end of the search through the unknown, there are also smaller rewards along the journey of seeking the dragon itself. These smaller rewards are not merely arbitrary. We may gain financial success along the way, be selected by women, be admirable and gain value before we even slay the dragon. Are men engaged in this purpose anymore? I believe the answer is no. Not only that, but symbolical stories like these are discouraged as too violent, anti-woman, or outdated.

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Why are men not as future-minded these days? The answer to the lack of future-mindedness lies in self-consciousness. Who are more self-conscious, men or women? Women, and increasingly so. As one popular psychologist says, “True self consciousness is not just seeing, it is meta-seeing. That is, seeing not just with the eyes but also with imagination.”

Imagination is needed for us to be able to see and project into the future that which we do not physically see today. This trait in men in dying out as we are focusing more on the present than on the future [for several reasons]. For all people, but especially for men, conceptualizing the future is important because there we remember that our life’s purpose is not only about today and not only about ourselves. You see, I must be aware that I need to worry about whether I will be hungry today, tomorrow, next week and twenty years from now; additionally, this worry is so not just for myself but also for my wife, children, and my community at large. (To be clear, I am not talking about hunger. I am talking about well-being). There is a mature weight and healthy burden with that awareness. To mature as a man is to take on responsibility. This sense of meaning drives and cultivates the world into flourishing if men step up to the plate.

Now here is the kicker: We see the societal structure today is slowly [consciously/subconsciously] rigging men toward a decline and a self-inflicted absence. Therefore, as men are decreasing toward the bottom of the hierarchy in the world, that same weight/burden – which our fathers and father’s fathers also carried – is now much heavier and overwhelming than our male predecessors carried. It feels heavier because while the man today is deeper toward the bottom there is already a subconscious feeling of being defeated or dead. Try having desire to carry the weight of life when you already feel dead.

Think about it practically – in many recent statistical measures men are on the low end of the totem pole of education, family, dating, and the workplace. On top of that they are told that their inner being is toxic and are indoctrinated by universities, entertainment and the media that the patriarchy is bad. That masculinity is bad. After all that do we still expect men to carry the load of responsibility as if everything is fine and dandy? Men will and have been tapping out of this system. Many of us have given up our journey to slay the dragon because we subconsciously feel dead in a system designed to strip us of whatever purpose we have left.

Now I see how this affects my life when it comes to befriending other men. Satan is quite darn crafty.

I ask you  – So who is it easier for you to befriend, women or men? What are we going to do about the decline of men happening before our very eyes?

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Why I Walk into Church with my Head Down: A Semi-Sexism Story

Tunnel vision. My motion, my focus, is analogous to that of a Nascar driver. Tunnel vision. I park my car, walk through the double doors, tread softly past the daycare commotion, dodge through the packs of chattering people, enter into the main sanctuary, and finally sit down with my eyes glaring toward the stage. My eyes are closed during the musical worship. During the sermon, my eyes are glued onto the preacher. I make sure I am on my best behavior.

This has become my socially systematic ritual in and around the church service. For almost two years I have been unintentionally trained to be careful around the wives – so much so, that my very personality and natural being is completely different on Sunday mornings. I no longer look at the wives or even try to initiate contact with the husbands so not to risk anything. I refrain from being my normally playful, outgoing self for the sake of others. A few times, I’ve actually avoided going to my church and attended somewhere else…just for a rest-break.

Now I love conservatism: theologically, politically, socially, and even in some professional sports. At the same time, I have found myself in a church culture that surpasses the “imaginary” line that should NOT be crossed. It couples ultra Christian-conservatism alongside the strange relational subculture of the seminarian culture and resulting into  fractured, unfulfilled relationships.

One way in which this fracture has overwhelmed me is the issue of women and men NOT being friends in the church.

I have been stressed with this social climate where many of the wives are timid around me and the husbands show possessive body language in front of me when their wives are present. This is not everyone. Neither do I believe that it is a conscious action by others either; to the contrary, it is a “subconscious” action. However, it still hurts us who go through this. It hurts to not be trusted. We are guilty before proven innocent. I can give NUMEROUS examples that I have been through: primarily face to face; also email and social media. Additionally, I have read books and am very cognizant of social norms, body language, and rapport. In church we may say the right words and use political correctness in our lingo… but our actions and communal fruit tell a completely different story.

For a female’s perspective, you can read this lovely article on The Gospel Coalition’s website.

There are at least 5 side effects of this fracture that risk a retardation of friendly relationships:

1)  It causes a nuance of loneliness: This loneliness grows into a feeling of being unwanted or removed from the body of believers. The scriptural illustration, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, depicts the church as a body. If a finger is removed it does not keep growing or playing its part, now does it? No, it shrivels up and dies. In this case the joy of the individual becomes damaged.

2)  This causes a CHAIN REACTION into OTHER basic types of relationships: This climate becomes the air that everyone breathes. Soon, this standoff-ish nature becomes normal between everyone: between other married couples, singles, visitors and members. There have been social psychology studies to show that we will, in certain ways, conform to our environment. In our general case, relationships will become robotic. This can be seen in the decline of some linear, mathematical, doctrinal types of churches. Now I line up with these types of churches, but there still needs to be a line drawn. Otherwise relationships grow stale, empty and mechanical.

3)  It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: I fully understand we are called to steward our marriages. That is extremely biblical and good. But where is the line that keeps it from becoming fear-mongering. As I said in an earlier blog, some people “suddenly” lock their car doors when I walk past their cars. True, I am black. Statistically speaking, I cannot blame them at all for being extra careful. However, if we are in the suburbs and I am wearing tailored dress clothes with Cole Haan shoes … maaaybe you don’t need to be afraid of me. That said, if we’re supposed to brothers and sisters in Christ … maybe you can trust that I do not want to kiss your wife in the sanctuary and ask her out for coffee. This fear can lead into believing “something” happened before it ever did.

4)  Personal walks with God are affected: If I have to be a “different person” around married couples then I can begin (or Satan can begin) to tell myself that they do not truly know me. How can I can truly allow them inside my walk with Christ if they do not understand or know the real me?

5)  Both the image of the trinity and Gospel community are tainted: Between God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son…there is no hierarchy. Only delight. They freely give to one another and receive from one another. [John 1:18, 16:12-15, 17:3-5]. Therefore we, being made in that image, should being naturally copying that. We should delight in and celebrate each others strengths. We should spent time together [not limited to small group time]. As one pastor cautioned, “without this happening, subconscious frustration and jealousy will lead to overcritical spirits that will erode the foundation of deep intimacy in relationships.”

We know there is no perfect church. Maybe I shouldn’t bring this up about my own. I love my church and I love The Church. But would it not be hypocritical for me to have called out Joel Osteen’s church, single men, young people, the liberation gospel, lukewarm Christians, atheists, and even Michael Jordan in past blog posts… but then stay silent about a flaw in my own community? No way Jose. Nothing gets fixed if we do not discuss it.

Still, social media isn’t going to solve this. Small groups are not going to fix this. Social media plus Small groups does not equal biblical community. It will have to be pursued and fought for. People do not simply “fall” into deep community – they pursue it. We will have to surrender and sacrifice. And once this is attained … oh my how splendidly holy and beautiful it will look!!! May we care for the needs for one another. I pray that we commune deeply with one another. You know, to get a head start on eternity together.