Why Males Struggle with Friendships

Source: Mark Greene, The Good Men Project

Who can describe the kinds of friends males have? Do you see this in high school, college … where do you see the patterns begin?

In the absence of emotional authenticity, American men become homogeneous in their expression of self. This encourages their location, willingly or otherwise, in what many writers have come to call the Man Box. The Man Box is a set of rigid expectations that define what a “real man” is, particularly in American culture. A real man is strong and stoic. He doesn’t show emotions other than anger and excitement. He is a breadwinner. He is heterosexual. He is able-bodied. He plays or watches sports. He is the dominant participant in every exchange. He is a firefighter, a lawyer, a CEO. He is a man’s man. This “real man”, as defined by the Man Box, represents what is supposedly normative and acceptable within the tightly controlled performance of American male masculinity.

Men will ask women to have sex and take a “no” without skipping a beat. Men will ask a customer to buy a product, and take “no” as just part of the territory. But asking another man to “please be my friend”, represents social risk taking that’s just too potentially frightening to attempt. Because, in the moment a man asks this question, he has failed to be what all men are expected to be. He has failed to be, and pay close attention to the word I’m using here, competent.

Men move in circles of competence. This competency component is central to how men are ranked in the institutions they relay on for social connection; in sports, at work and in every garage and backyard BBQ in the country. We approach each other not just in terms of common interests, but in terms of our competency in those areas. Knowing how matters.

On top of that, we approach with our personal business wired tight and fully formed. We are successful, smart, happy and full of advice on how to correctly do what needs to be done.  By extension, we already have plenty of friendships which spring fully formed into our lives, born magically out of our raw manly charisma and charm.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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