If you’re a guy, then you know it’s not often men get real and vulnerable with one another. In fact, it’s about as rare for men to be open with each other as it for a mosquito fossil to be found and farmed for dinosaur DNA to start an amusement park with dinosaur clones.
That might be an exaggeration.
But I’m not far off.
Men are so reluctant to share their doubts, fears, and worries. At some point early in most of our lives we are taught that to expose those kind of things to the light of day makes us weak or inferior. Why talk about the loneliness we’ve been feeling when we can talk about football, right?
On occasion you can encourage men to share those type of feelings with their spouse or partner, but even then it can be like pulling teeth.
It is rare to find men who are comfortable baring their souls to other men.
It’s heart breaking.
In college, I learned the value of being vulnerable with other guys. It arguably saved my life (at least my life as I know it now).
Men understand things about one another that woman can never understand. Just as the relationship between two women contains elements that men can NEVER understand. That's why it is important for men to be able to confide in each other.
Early on in college, I recognized that I was no saint and I needed a confidant. Every day, I carried burdens that were not meant to be shouldered by one man alone.
In my efforts to be macho and self-sufficient I tried for years to carry those burdens by myself.
Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore.
One night, I felt so overwhelmed that I went in to my roommates room and told him the deepest, darkest things about myself. I held nothing back. I felt like if anyone would understand the worst things about me and still love me, it would be him. I told him the things that made me feel unworthy. The things that made me feel ashamed. The things that made me feel afraid.
There were tears. Embarrassment. Frustration. And ultimately, freedom.
Even before my friend reacted or responded to all the crud I’d just thrown out on the table, I felt this deep sense of relief. Like the burdens I’d carried for so long were disintegrating like Voldemort at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Unsure of what was going to happen when I laid it all out there, I hope for the best and was met with a bear hug that I will remember for the rest of my life.
I was met with a simple, “I still love you.” Another guy, had the courage to tell me that those shameful, dark things did not define me. They existed only to distort my reality and pull me away from being my best self.
It’s more than six years since that day and it is still a defining moment in my life.
A moment of courage, uncertainty, and hope.
Since that day, it’s been an unspoken agenda of mine to create those kind of safe environments for as many men as possible.
I don’t always do a spectacular job at creating welcoming environments, but I am passionate about it despite my shortcomings.
If I can help even one friend experience the freedom, joy, and grace I felt on that day in the fall of 2010, my life will be that much more of a success.
Late last week I got an unexpected text from one of my best friends.
The text made me cry (in a good way). For perspective, I cry during almost every Pixar movie and I am not ashamed of that fact
With that said, it’s been a long time since I have felt so encouraged, so loved, and so empowered.
Since leaving the safety net of college and living with my roommates (a group of guys who bared their souls to one another), I have struggled every day of the last 4+ years trying to build similar relationships. The kind that practice grace, love, and commitment regularly. It’s just plain hard.
This text from my friend has given me enough energy and encouragement to keep me moving forward despite the difficulty of what lies ahead in cultivating these type of relationships.
Here’s the text (shared with permission and slight editing to protect identity):
“One year ago today, I thought I was headed back down a dark path in my life. I had a made a lot of strides to get where I was mentally and thought I was headed towards another slide. A slide that never happened. Sure, I had my struggles the following months, but that was almost all physically. How did an emotional back slide never happen? Because of people like you, Daniel. You and Nicole are angels in my life. You gave me happiness and hope on a daily basis. You let me be myself. You helped teach me being emotional is okay. You showed me it’s okay to be vulnerable. The nights me and you talked late in to the night were truly some of the best nights I’ve ever had because you taught me it’s okay to be me.
Despite being faced with the second biggest obstacle in my life and being down, I enjoyed walking up every day and taking on the day and that’s because of people like you, Daniel. When I said that I consider you my brother, that’s not a lie. To me, you are my family and I love you, dude.”
These words are worth every setback. Every stupid fight. Every meaningless football conversation. Every stupid tv show conversation. Every ridiculous work conversation. And more. If it can all eventually lead to vulnerability and authenticity.
I’ll leave you with two of the most important quotes that have guided my life and friendships in the last few years from author, John Lynch:
“What if there was a place so safe that the worst of me could be known, and I would discover that I would not be loved less, but more in the telling of it?”
“What if it was less important that anything ever gets fixed than that nothing has to be hidden?”
Let's all work to create more environments with these questions as the guiding principles.