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Practical Burden Bearing Pt:1

dirty-hands

We encouraged taking an active role in bearing the burdens of our close friends. Sometimes putting that into practice can be a bit daunting. What can you actually do to benefit your friend? Through the conversations you’ve been having with your friends, you should be picking up on what they struggle with on a regular basis, as well as learning which issues they may need a hand in combating. If you aren’t getting this information, maybe you need to work on getting past the surface level small talk and into the weighty issues of life in your conversations. Is it uncomfortable at first? Yes. Has talking about the weather and sports teams ever truly deepened a relationship? No. Once you’ve established a pattern with your friend of honestly discussing your struggles, it quickly becomes an environment of safety and acceptance. This safe and trusting environment is paramount to your becoming an active player in the life of your friend. None of us wants to even listen to, let alone heed, advice from a stranger. That makes sense, and it’s why we’re all a bit leery of a man in a windowless white van giving away puppies. It would be unwise to allow someone with no knowledge of your station in life, and no commitment to your well-being, to speak into your life with any substantive authority. However, once that hard-gained level of trust is established, steps of action are warranted.

Asking, “What can I do to help you?” may seem like the polite way to interject yourself into another man’s life. However, this man isn’t a stranger, and the reason for your interjection is to relieve him of some burden. Instead, make an offer: “After thinking through our past conversations and what we each struggle with, I’ve given this considerable thought and here’s what I’d like to do for you.” In doing this, you are bearing the weight of the burden, instead of asking your friend to do the leg work and ask you for help. All you’ve left on the table for them to deal with is whether or not they want to accept your offer. It’s a yes or no question. Do your “homework” on your friend’s needs, then jump in and get your hands dirty.

One of the most common things men struggle with is sex (with an emphasis on pornography). Today, let’s go over a concrete example of a way we can reach out to friends who struggle with the issue of pornography. Continue reading…

Hearing Versus Bearing Burdens

bearing-burdens

Imagine a man walking down a dirt road. On his shoulders he carries two, obviously heavy, burlap sacks. His gait is slow, and you can see him wince with each step. Every few yards he has to jostle one or both of the sacks back into place on his shoulders to keep from dropping them. Yet, he trudges on. Another man approaches the first and walks alongside him. You can hear their conversation as the unladen man asks what is in the sacks.

The weary man replies, “Oh, just some stuff I have to carry. Nothing you should be overly concerned about.”

“They look quite heavy, I hope you don’t have to travel too awfully far with them,” says the second man. “I can only imagine what you’ve got in them.”

The first man pauses a moment, takes a few more steps, then speaks, “I’m ashamed of what I carry, sir. These sacks contain the last of a poor harvest. Much of my crop went to waste this year, because I spent much of the season too drunk to work my land. I’ve let my wife do much of the work, and my children have been ridiculed because of their father’s mistakes. I’ve promised my wife I’ll change my ways more times than I can count, but I always end up breaking my promises. Today marks a week I’ve been sober, and if I can get these sacks to the market before it closes today, I may be able to earn enough to buy my kids the supplies they need to start back to school without the sideways looks from other kids. I’m quite sure my wife has given up on me, but my kids somehow still look up to me.”

The second man shakes his head, and quickly sets about responding to the plight of the first man. “I’m sure you’re wife hasn’t given up on you for good. You just need to earn her trust back. We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t make us bad people, overall. Just keep heading down the path you’ve been on this past week, taking it one step…one day at a time. You’ll get there, and I wish you the best of luck on getting to the market in time.”

And, with that, the second man picks up his pace and soon leaves the burdened man far behind. The burden has been shared audibly by the first man, and it’s even been heard by the second. However, I think we can all agree that the burden has certainly not been borne in partnership by the two men. The mentality we want to instill is one of action, not one of passivity. Passivity in men pervades our culture. While it feels good to listen to another man’s problems, it doesn’t do much for the man with the problems.

We don’t want to insinuate that you should take on all of your friend’s problems (e.g. they over-borrowed for a car, and you pay off their car note). We do want to encourage men taking an active role in supporting their friend. In the story told above, the initially unburdened man could have taken an active role by offering to carry one of the sacks while talking to the burdened man about what he was carrying. That’s all well and good, but Mannerd isn’t about achieving minimal goals. We’re here to go beyond what “gets us off the hook.” Imagine the unburdened man took on one of the sacks, learned about what was going on in the burdened man’s life, and then jumped in the trenches of life with him. He could offer to have the man and his wife over to join he and his family for dinner, allowing them to enjoy an effortless evening of fellowship and conversation. He could labor in the fields with the burdened man to help him prepare his fields for the next season.

Without inconvenience and sacrifice, it’s difficult to claim we are truly invested in our friends. What are some ways that you can go beyond the minimum, and SACK UP to help your burdened friends?

 

A Personal Invitation

Stationery

Intentionality is foundational when cultivating strong male friendships. We probably all know what it feels like to run into a friend while out and about, only to end a short conversation with, “Well, it was good to see you. We should get together, soon.” Both parties know that really means nothing. It’s a nicety we tack on so we don’t have to admit the truth. Sadly, that truth usually sounds something like, “I really don’t value you enough to re-prioritize things in my life to accommodate a deeper relationship with you.” Many of us are busy, but how often are we “busy” due to our own lack of planning or failure to prioritize what we would say we truly value in life? You may find yourself thinking that the idea of investing in close friendships is intriguing, but you just don’t see how you can fit it into your schedule. If that’s the case, I’d challenge how much you truly value the idea.

You may already have a friend in whom you’d like to invest more deeply. If so, here’s a challenge for you. Instead of sharing a link to this site, or contacting them by email/tweet/text/snap/yo/insert-tech-du-jour-here…write them a letter. Issue them a personal invitation from you to join this meandering journey toward deep, healthy, growth-inducing friendship.

There are a few things you’ll need to make this happen, and in this day and age, you may have forgotten what some of them are. So, let’s review what you’ll need:

  • A friend. I don’t say this sarcastically. I’m sure you’re a nice guy, and you have tons of friends. But, we’re not looking for buddies to share secret handshakes with. We’re looking for one, maybe two close friends who you trust and are eager to invest heavily in their lives. That may mean some people get “left out.” That’s acceptable. Committing to more relationships than you can realistically maintain does a disservice to all of them. Choose carefully, and know the reasons for your choice.
  • An address. You may already know your friend’s mailing address, but it’s more likely that you don’t. If you don’t know their address, you don’t have to ask them for it directly. I’ll go so far as to recommend driving to their place and writing it down. Use the drive as a time to begin mentally composing your words to your friend. You can also use other resources to ferret out the numbers and letters you need. If you absolutely must ask them for it, DO NOT do it via any digital method. We are trying to foster real relationships. Open up your big boy mouth, and talk to your friend face to face.
  • A medium. No, not a Miss Cleo-esque bayou psychic, but a tangible means to convey your words in written form. Remember, we are being intentional, so don’t just grab a sheet of printer paper and a Bic rollerball. It doesn’t have to be monogrammed, but more power to you if you want to invest in (or design) some personalized stationery. I’ve come to enjoy writing with a cheap fountain pen, as using it correctly forces me to slow down and focus on my writing.
  • A message. This is not a generic, “Hey, how are ya?”, kind of message. This is an intimate (just go ahead and get used to me using the word intimate) invitation to a friend in whom you want to deeply invest. This is why I suggested mentally composing it before you ever sit down to write. Convey your reasons for choosing them, and ask them to be willing to join you on a journey that will change how both of you view your friendship. This is personal. If you write something like a Hallmark card that could be sent to anyone, you’ve missed the point.

Make sure you remember how to address an envelope before you mail your letter. Put your return address in the upper left corner, so they know where to send a response if they choose to respond in kind. Buy some postage stamps that fit your personality, you know, like your grandpa did. DO NOT spritz your letter with cologne before sealing it. That is a subtle trick to woo women, and should not be used on your friend.

Once you’ve posted your letter, wait for a response. You may receive a response in any number of ways. Whatever method your friend chooses, try to acknowledge their reply either face to face or with a phone call. Verbal exchanges are very important to the foundation we are building.

An Introduction

Two friends meet in a small pub. It’s the kind of place that could easily have a wooden sign hanging over the door, creaking in the wind. Far too much time passes between their meetings, and they realize their relationship is weakened because of the busyness that has crept into their lives. As the pints are nursed, they discuss the happenings in each of their lives: the successes, the failures, the unspeakable deeds. Close friends, such as these, can share their highest moments, their deepest depressions, and their darkest desires without fear of punishment or abandonment. This is because it is not a confession of wrongs to an arbiter of Justice and Judgement, but rather a revealing of weaknesses and wounds to a physician of Healing and Sympathy.

This is an illustration of the male friendship that seems to have gone missing in our present culture. Men hide behind how many heavy things they can pick up, how well “their” team is doing this season, or how well they can keep up with the latest trends in technology/finance/realty. Men hide because we are afraid we are alone. Read that again. We HIDE because we are afraid we are ALONE. This is insanity. This is illogical. But, this is real and it is devastating to all of our relationships.

Mannerd aims to inspire the close male friendships that all men desperately need. The benefit of realizing we aren’t alone is huge. When we feel alone, it is far too easy to sink deeper and deeper into our own darkness, because we have no light shining in from an outside source. A close friend is like sunlight flooding into the dank, dark, musty cellar that you have called home for so long. Initially, your eyes hurt and you recoil from the brightness. But, as you become accustomed to the brightness, you begin to embrace the warmth and the sunlight begins to dry up the dampness.

We want to address ways that men can revive this intimacy through both conversational and activity based interactions. We also plan to address how the relationships we cultivate with one another can affect others we encounter on a daily basis.