Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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  Around Thanksgiving time, the lady who runs Thursday night group therapy texted us all an article about men and friendship, about cultural obstacles to male intimacy and the emotional relationships that flow from them. It cited psychologists and researchers and it lamented the despondent state of the American male, chained by failed social expectations and the twisted macho of an earlier day.


               It got me thinking, and I’ve come to my conclusion.


               Men don’t want friendship, we want brotherhood. It’s the way we are wired. Men form brotherhoods borne of common cause, not friendships engendered by intimacy.


               Certainly, we are a unique species, focused on both the individual and the pack. No two humans are exactly alike and any person can have whatever characteristics nature, experience and choice produce. But there are generalities, common traits that manifest themselves more often than not.


               And, generally, men don’t need friendship, we need brotherhood.


               Men were created and lived for unknown eons with the need to band together to protect and provide for the pack. Men had to hunt and fight, and they did both of those things better together. Individual and group survival depended on it. Those who could come together as a unit to prevail over all opposition to defend and feed their families survived, and those who couldn’t didn’t. That is a powerful evolutionary force that created an instinctual and genetic imperative in human males.


               That imperative has not been erased by the cultural vagaries of modern, progressive America.


               Men form brotherhoods borne of common cause. The man who stands beside you in battle or in the hunt becomes your brother. That is the relationship which is fulfilling to men; that is the relationship for which men are naturally wired. That is the relationship that helps men survive and find joy.


               And it’s not typically engendered by the shared conversational intimacies promoted by modern psychology. Getting in touch with one’s feelings is not natural for most men, and sharing those feelings as a path to friendship with other men is alien to them – not because of a failed culture, but because of a successful biology.


               Men are born that way.


               In a modern world, brotherhood borne of common cause can manifest itself in many ways. In the uniformed services, of course, be they military or police or fire, and in the workforce or on the playing field. Softball leagues and Rotary meetings, church groups and street gangs, anyplace men put their shoulder to the same metaphorical wheel and push.


               Largely, these are outward, productive groups. They give men identification and outlet, they let them contribute and belong. In healthier days in this and other societies, there have always been groups of men, be they Kiwanians or clan priests, Hibernians or paratroopers. They have marched and socialized and served together. As members of platoons or lodges or families.


               Men in such groups often see one another as brothers, and feel a genuine love for one another strong enough to, when circumstances demand, make them willing to die for one another.


               Men don’t bond by sitting down and talking, they bond by getting up and doing.


               Women, driven by their own genetic and instinctual heritage, may be different. And what’s right for them is right for them.


               But society’s current presumption that the general tendencies of women should also be the general tendencies of men is mistaken, and is driven by ignorance or bias. To presume the general superiority of one gender over another is always bigoted, even when the presumption is that things feminine are superior to things masculine. In modern America, cultural antagonism against the innate traits of masculinity is damaging to males from elementary school through adulthood. It is the tireless forcing of a square peg into a round hole, with escalating failure interpreted as cause for pushing the peg yet harder.


               And so it is with friendship.


               Psychological and social expectations that men should form friendships like women do leads men to a sense of failure and loneliness. They disappoint the demands of progressive culture and they feel like they are defective and alone.


               When really they are just being forced onto the wrong path.


               Men don’t bond over their feelings, they bond over their actions, finding brotherhood shoulder to shoulder with other men, engaged in a good cause. They embrace and share tears and love because they have borne together the heat of battle, of whatever sort. They bond in quests and efforts, whether it’s raising a barn for a neighbor or coaching a team for the kids.


               That’s the way we are wired.


                Men form brotherhoods borne of common cause, not friendships engendered by intimacy. Men were designed by nature to work together to hunt and fight in packs. That instinctual, genetic imperative lingers and impacts male relationships today.   


               And no amount of cultural hectoring is going to change that.

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