Making Friends

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"Lord, give him a friend." Even now as I remember the support group facilitator's prayer I laugh. It was over a year into my newly committed life to Christ and my confidence in having deep, meaningful friendships with other guys had all but evaporated. Growing up every birthday wish and each evening prayer I made was always twofold: "Please God, give me a best friend and give me a girlfriend." The order of that wish showed the value I put on friendship. When the group leader prayed for me, I gotta admit my faith was about the size of a mustard seed. I had reserved my precious, annual birthday wishes to God with that same prayer in mind, all to no avail.

But things began to change. During the previous barren year of addressing my personal issues, I met someone at my university. She was in my history class. After class she asked me about one of our assignments and I remember getting a little perturbed. I thought to myself, "probably just another girl wanting to be my friend." So I quickly answered her. Then she began to share with me how difficult her quarter at the university had been. She had just gotten married, and her mom had brain cancer, all while she was trying to finish her degree. The extent of my advice was, "You need God." She told me she knew that and she was a Christian. It turned out her home church had helped fund a private school I attended in junior high. I knew a bit about her church. They had just built a new building (by selling my old school) and each church member had written their favorite Bible verse on the wall before they put up the drywall. She told me that she wrote a verse on the wall from Romans that was real serious and one only people that have been through tough times could relate. As we kept walking and talking, she told me she and her husband were recovering drug addicts. I was surprised by the spiritual depth she had so I began to open up a little more. She asked me a lot of questions about myself (which I found totally annoying since she was a complete stranger). Then we sat down on a bench and I told her I had problems too.

While we were talking, every so often, female students walking past would stop to ask me if I had won the recent student body election. I had just been elected vice president of the student body - not bad for a freshman! As my new lady friend persistently peppered me with questions to find out exactly what my problem was, I decided to stop hedging around the issue. I turned to her and said, "Do you notice anything about the people who are stopping to talk with me?" She said that they were all girls (I'm convinced I won the election because of the female vote!). I replied bluntly, "That's right. All my friends are girls so I have sex with guys." I wasn't very eloquent at explaining my thoughts. Although that wasn't the reply she was anticipating, she collected herself quite well and told me that her husband would be my friend and I wouldn't have to have sex with him either. And so it turned out that her husband did become my first attempt at befriending straight guys as I tried to reenter the world of men.

My track record at sustaining friendships had not been that good up to that point. Basically, I could sustain a friendship for about a year. In some way, I would sabotage it, or I would feel like I was not interesting to the other guy for him to remain my friend. I used to think friendships were performance-oriented, almost like I had to be entertaining all the time for someone to want to remain friends with me.

As a senior in high school I grew very close to some incoming freshmen that joined the speech and debate club. I cared a lot about them. They were like little brothers to me. But I learned something about myself. When I became close to another guy, I felt threatened when he spent time with his other friends. I felt he was rejecting me like I wasn't good enough to be his friend. It was disheartening because I cared about these guys, but I didn't know how to keep them as my friend. I now understand this way of thinking is called "emotional dependency". My emotional wellbeing was dependent upon my perception of their acceptance of me. I was so accustomed to being rejected that whenever someone would come close to me, I would freak out and not know how to act to maintain their interest. When we were apart I would fear losing their friendship. Basically, I didn't know what friendship was all about. I now understand that friendship is simply companionship.

After these deep friendships disintegrated, I emotionally disconnected from other guys. It was a defensive mechanism I inadvertently reverted to whenever I was around guys in my university. Basically in order to prevent rejection and abuse from men, I distanced myself from them. I acted as if I didn't need buddies like most guys did-and, for a while, I got along quite well by myself. However, because I did need male companionship, I compensated for this need either by escaping into the gentle world of women or into the techno-colored and surreal gay world. Both homosexuality and emotional detachment from men left me drained and wanting for something more meaningful.

Growing up abused, neglected and rejected by men would naturally create a need to escape the often times hurtful and intimidating world of men. But as I look back on my behavioral patterns, I could see the way I was coping with these real needs wasn't healthy or working out for me. I finally began to understand my poor relational patterns. However, I still didn't know how to make male friends. Clearly I wanted to, but I didn't know how. What I am about to share with you is what I learned and I'll warn you, it may sound cliché (as it did to me when I first heard it), but I assure you it is a great way to make friends.

When I was about 19, I opened up to my uncle about my struggles and he called our old preacher (the same one that had baptized me when I was 13) and asked if he would meet with me. We all gathered at my uncle's home for prayer and we talked about homosexuality, my family and making friends. The preacher shared with me, "To get a friend, be a friend." Frankly, I took it as trite, stupid advice that I would soon forget. Then he made it even worse by suggesting that I buy a book on making friends. However, since then I have become fully convinced of that proverb's wisdom; initiating friendship has less to do with "making" friends than it does with becoming a good friend.

Although true friendship is hard to find today, I believe that if you truly become a friend to many people, you will meet people who are willing to reciprocate. In other words, give out of your own need. Many people will respond to your overture of friendship by returning friendship to you. Do you want people to like you? Then start by showing that you like them.

But there is a certain kind of friendship I suggest you pursue. You need meaningful relationships with other guys, your age, to begin to fill the masculine deficit you have accumulated while growing up. When you come right down to it, you need peer acceptance.

John Eldredge has written, "Femininity can never bestow masculinity."[i] When I began to firmly take hold of that reality, I took drastic steps. I ended all but one friendship that was with girls. I also disconnected from every previous partner I had in the gay community. I remember praying for them each once by name, and then handing them over to God. I resolved to surround myself with a support network of guys who cared about me or I would have no friends at all. Now I am not saying do exactly as I did. There are no pat answers that fit all situations, but you should consider whom you want to include in your base of friends, then pray and seek spiritual counsel. Your choice in this matter will greatly impact your success or failure as you journey into masculinity.

One thing is for sure, every male has a healthy need for intimacy with other males, and when this drive is frustrated, then homosexual attraction emerges as reparative striving. It helps to remain regularly in the company of men. Every man desires that and needs it. It is difficult for homosexual desires to develop and flourish when emotional connections are being made and normal needs are being filled.

Now, having made the case for male companionship, I want to list several dos and don'ts as you begin developing friendships.

21 Practical Tips

  • Join a band of brothers like a youth ministry or cell group that really supports you, and observe how they befriend one another. Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Christ." We need to see what certain relationships look like by example.

  • Walk slowly through crowds and go up and introduce yourself to people and ask them their name. If you already know the person, greet them by using their name (but don't overuse it).

  • Lift up heavy hearts and sincerely compliment people you meet. Be kind and use your words to build others up. Affirm your friends by telling them how much they mean to you. Try to be absolutely authentic, compassionate and serve others. In these ways be like Jesus and, trust me, you will find people who will want to be your friend.

  • Be approachable. Don't visibly seem agitated when someone is talking to you. No matter how calloused a person is, they will eventually respond positively to friendliness. Being aloof or a loner makes you look conceited-like you think you are too good to be friends with whomever you are not opening up to.
  • Become comfortable receiving and giving non-sexual attention, affection and affirmation from/to men.

  • Be social because you were created to be relational. If invited by friends to an event at church, go. It is good for you. Relax, pray and believe in your heart that God will help you through any sort of social interaction that may emerge. Even if you stay an hour or less, at least show up. You will undoubtedly be a blessing to someone else. Talk with people and build on earlier conversations. Be "others focused."

  • Men are physical and not only is joining in activities a sure way to connect with other guys, exercise itself is one of the best antidotes to depression. So, begin to participate in more activities. Growth into manhood requires you do things that seem difficult and scary that you won't want to do, do them anyway. You won't fall apart and you won't do it perfectly. But you'll get better and you'll notice a change inside of you.

  • Guys, especially older men, will not be as gentle with you as female friends. Expect this and try not to take everything personal. Guys love to laugh, make jokes and keep things generally light. So, have a good sense of humor too. People relax and lower heir walls when they laugh.

  • Respond to what others share with you. Feelings are incredibly, uh, personal. It's a big deal for guys to open up, so if a guy shares his private thoughts, it is special and not to be taken lightly. Consider yourself privileged when this happens. Friendships are enriched and deepened during times of hardship and vulnerability. Nothing is worse than to bear your soul and receive no sympathy or response. Think about, and show a curiosity about what was just shared. Of course, keep what is shared between the two of you, or the group, confidential.

  • Listen attentively. Don't let your mind wonder or get ahead of what someone is saying to you, and turn off any device that may interrupt your conversation. It's rude to take unimportant calls while you are talking with someone. Be fully engaged in the conversation. Try to be sensitive to what others are going through. Be on the lookout for wants or needs. Express empathy, and show that you're trustworthy. Additionally, when someone gets started sharing his or her point of view or feelings, don't interrupt. They may not really get to the deeper issue that they are leading up to if you interject. But always balance it by not being timid. Don't allow yourself to be dominated in conversation either. Speak about yourself and your own views too.

  • Be cautious of appearing too proper, overly critical, pessimistic, pretentious, and cocky or making others feel stupid, insecure or anxious. Don't make people feel uncomfortable by what you say, nor should you be offensively blunt or abrupt. Putting other people down does not lift you up in their eyes. If you start acting in an immature or awkward way, then quietly pray that God would help you change.

  • Talk about others' interests, desires, passions, work, home and family. Most people love to talk about themselves, but few people are genuinely asked. Try to understand how the other person feels without being used only as a listening ear. You want to build a mutual friendship, not take part in a pity-party or be used for someone's self-glorification.

  • Be open and sincere and your friendships will be intimate and fulfilling. Be intentional at sharing your experiences, challenges and wants. Speak what your heart is saying. Friendships flourish in an environment of acceptance and transparency. Again, don't tell the whole world all at once about your sexual struggles or in all of your initial conversations. Start with a trusting, mature Christian.

  • Confess mistakes and faults as they arise in the friendship. "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy."[ii] When you are wrong, admit it without the fact having to be mentioned to you. Apologize promptly because friendships can grow in disrepair very quickly. Every ongoing relationship requires forgiveness.

  • Be careful about exaggerating. You won't be considered honest; which is important to friends. If you don't know something, admit it. No one expects you to know everything.

  • Make a friend with whoever is friendly to you. Don't be too picky. It is good to diversify your friendships. Your friends shouldn't all be the same. Don't just make friends with loners or guys that may also struggle with homosexuality. But make friends with guys that have lots of other friends and who date girls. These guys will inevitably exemplify interpersonal skills that will be helpful to you. Like I told you, as a young man my first male friend was a recovering crack addict in his early 30s. He and his wife relapsed into drugs at the same time I had a fall back into homosexuality. It wasn't the best of beginnings, but at least I got started making friends that cared about me and desired nothing sexual.

  • When you are trying to become friends with someone who gets overwhelmingly busy all of a sudden don't interpret it as rejection and automatically assume that the friendship is over. Relationships between two people take time to grow. Give the person room for a life outside of your particular friendship and don't seek exclusivity. Keep the relationship open to allow others in. Don't smother them.

  • Befriend non-Christians. I do. But know that "bad company corrupts good character."[iii] We ought to be influencing them as salt and light.

  • Watch out for codependency, that is, taking too much responsibility for solving other people's problems. To counteract this, hang out with a group of friends. God does not intend that one friend will meet all your relational needs. Instead, a number of friends will each have a role.

  • Do fewer things alone. Refrain from solitary activities and stay connected to friends; your support network. Make regular calls to a wide range of people. This will enhance your friendliness factor. Invite someone to go with you to wherever you are going. It is okay to spend some time alone and it is needed too. But, taking the step to phone someone to invite them to join you in doing something may get that person out of the house and it communicates to them that you think they are special. Likewise, if a friend invites you to the gym, a game or the movies, go and do it. You may feel incompetent early on in certain environments like a sporting event or the gym. But your lack of skill probably means very little to your friend. He is just glad that you are accompanying him. Join him and be purposed to have a good time and learn while you are there. Don't let your fears overpower you.

  • Maintain a close walk with God. When you're growing closer to God, you will be a better friend. You will bear the fruit of the Spirit (like being more loving, joyful, patient, etc.) that will carry over into your relationships with others.


The art of making friends is essentially becoming friendly. This may take a series of little steps to develop, but being friendlier will become more natural after awhile, and before you know it, you will be a friendly person without even thinking about it. Keep your attitude and demeanor positive and winsome, and avoid ever being unfriendly. Remember this is a period of transition for you. So, results will be gradual. You will get better at making healthy friendships and you will see improvement in existing relationships. Loneliness will dissipate and you will have incredible hope for the future.
Eustace Budgell wrote, "Friendship is a strong and habitual inclination in two persons to promote the good and happiness of one another." The Bible puts it this way, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."[iv] You of all people have the great potential to be a better friend than another guy may even have because the relationship will be so significant to you. If someone had told me as a teen the quantity and depth of friendships with guys that I would enjoy in my twenties, I would have said they were crazy. But the bottom line is this: if you are friendly and really care, you will make friends.
friendly and really care, you will make friends.

[i] John Eldredge, Wild at Heart (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 64.
[ii] Proverbs 28.13.
[iii] I Corinthians 15.33.
[iv] Proverbs 27.17.



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