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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Male Relationships

This past Thursday I watched a movie with 65 other men about male relationships.  Now don't go building any opinions yet, let me explain.  The movie night was sponsored by the men's group at my church.  Yet, despite the fact that all the men who gathered were religious, the movie was not.  The sole purpose of the movie was to delve into male relationships and society's perceptions of them versus what male relationships really look like or could look like.   Now your probably thinking, what do men need to know about male relationships?  Personally, I feel men have a lot to learn about what a male friendship looks like.   But then again, that is my personal opinion that may or may not be shared by other men out there.  The movie itself is relatively new and is called "Five Friends" by Hank Mandel.  (Check out the trailer here)  So that no one is left in the dark, let me give you a very brief synopsis of the movie.   As a documentary, the movie goes into Hank's life and looks at five male friendships that he has.  It talks about the intimacy that Hank has with these other men and how each of their lives benefits from the friendship.   Now I used the word intimacy, scary for most men, yet I use it only in the sense of revealing one's life, one's issues, one's concerns with another.   In an effort to get you to check out the trailer, I will end my synopsis there.   (There is a reason I am not a film critic).  Yet, despite the short synopsis, I feel I have given enough information that the rest of what I talk about should make sense.  If it doesn't, check out the trailer. 

There are a lot of aspects about the movie that I could delve into and talk about and probably will over the course of a few weeks.   What I wanted to talk about today was a comment that was made by one of the men after the movie finished.   This young man, probably about my age in the military, asked if there were plans to make a movie about the friendships or bonds between men in the military.  He asked this because he couldn't formulate a friendship outside the military as strong as he could with men in the military.  I started thinking about this and drawing connections with the movie.  One of the themes that the movie talks about as being integral in any deep relationship between men is trust.  There must be a sense of trust between two people if their relationship is to gain any kind of substance.   If we don't trust someone else, how can we talk honestly with them about our lives, our concerns, our excitement?  In short, we can't.  If you think about the military, they are trained to trust each other, to place their lives in someone else's hands, to depend utterly on the men (and women) they are in service with.   The trust that men in the military have with each other goes above and beyond the trust that almost anyone else every experiences.  The majority of the population never has to place their life in someone else's hands or depend upon someone else to save them or watch over them to the extent that people in the military do.  It is most likely because of this deep seated trust that there is such a strong bond between people in the military, especially between those who serve in the same unit.  For the majority of us, trust is fleeting, hard to earn, and easy to break.   Out of everything the military does, perhaps the one thing that I have just recently come to appreciate is their ability to forge such a strong bond between people; based on trust.  No wonder it is hard for this man to build friendships as strong as the one's he has with his fellow soldiers.  If he can't trust someone else with his life, how can he trust them with simple information about himself?  He probably feels that he can't. 

We could all do with a little more trust, especially men.  To take this idea and apply it in a broader sense to men, lets look at society and what society expect in terms of trust.  If you watch the news or listen to the radio, you have probably all heard about the Homeland Security saying, "If you see something, say something".  (I also talked briefly about this Monday).   The whole campaign by Homeland Security is built on eliminating trust.  We are not supposed to trust anybody or anything anymore, but rather report them if they look suspicious.   It goes beyond that, however, to the media and persistent relaying of incidents that degrade any trust we might have for someone else.   How are we supposed to move past this issue of lack of trust in society and build trust between one another?  Its not easy, in fact, it is probably one of the most difficult things we will do in our lifetimes, build trust between us and someone else.  Some of us are able to trust others without question, yet I feel these people are few and far between as compared to the majority.  For most of us, it takes time and effort to expose our inner feelings and desires to someone else, especially man to man.  For many men, it never happens and they live their lives closed and without any meaningful male relationships.  I personally have a few friends that I can claim I am intimate with, that I can claim I can tell anything and have no worries about how they will take it or respond in kind.  How many friends do you have that you can say that about?  Maybe its time for men to shed their facade of toughness and imperviousness and seek to trust other men with their feelings and emotions.  I know, I know, men are not supposed to have feelings and emotions, but I have news for you; they do and they are not going away.  Let us all work on trust this week and see if we can't build a level of trust between us and someone else that will allow us to truly deepen a friendship with them.