Last summer my wife and I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Yellowstone National Park for the first time. It was truly amazing. As we explored the wonders of the park, we were on the look out for buffalo, especially since we had never seen one in the wild. Well, we saw our first one sitting alone is a grassy meadow. Not knowing much about buffaloes, except that they are herd animals, we thought this unfortunate beast must be sick. Why else would it be alone? And then, in the distance, we saw another one alone, and then another one, and then another one. That’s when it dawned on us that these isolated buffalos were not sick.
They were males.
Turns out that male buffaloes spend most of their lives alone separated from the herd and from each other. In fact, they only reconnect to the herd of females and their young offspring during the mating season. Sure, they can see the other males dotted across the vast plains. And they can see the herd at a distance. But, theirs, by God’s design, is a solitary plight. They sit alone. They eat alone. They die alone.
Indeed, the drive for sex is a strong motivator. And the metric of success is pretty straightforward in the world of male buffalos. It’s measured in terms of the number of their progeny, not by their connection to their progeny or to the mother of their progeny.
Now, I was reminded of these lone males buffalos some weeks ago when I was having lunch with a friend. He is part of a growing Christian men’s movement called the New Canaan Society. A guy named Jim Lane, who was a high-powered investment banker in NYC, started the group in 1995. You see, one day, as Lane considered his life, he had an epiphany that changed his life. It dawned on him that despite his considerable financial success, he had failed to develop any deep and genuine friendships with other men. Sure, he knew of other men, but he didn’t know other men in meaningful and connected ways. Also, he knew of many other men from a variety of walks of life that were just like him.
These men were living like buffalos.
You see, too many men are disconnected, even when they are married and have children. They may be physically present in their homes, but they are often emotionally and spiritually isolated. And their “prairie” is the ubiquitous “man cave.” Moreover, like buffalos, many have a metric of success, especially when it comes to sex, that values relationships based on quantity, not quality.
But here’s the thing. Unlike buffalos, God has not designed men to just mate and move on or to live in perpetual isolation. In fact, you see this clearly when God considered the plight of Adam, the first man, and declared that it was not good for him to be alone. You see, men are designed and missioned to live in and impact their families and communities for good.
So, if you are a “Buffalo Bill” or Tom, or Jarmal, etc., it is time to take action now. Here are three actions you can do:
Evaluate your 911 – The national 911 phone number is used to alert first responders that you are in need of emergency assistance. So, it provides a great way to evaluate how connected you are to others. For example, if you were facing a significant physical, emotional, social, workplace, or spiritual challenge, who would you call? And are they connected enough to you to respond and make assisting you a priority? Then consider who would call you if they were facing a similar challenge? If you can’t think of a few key folks for either of these situations, you may be a buffalo.
Find out the 411 – The national 411 phone number is used to get information, and you definitely need plenty of it if you are going to change your buffalo ways. A good place to start is with those who are closest to you. If you are married, this should be your wife. She likely knows you better than anyone and, frankly, probably has been frustrated with how disconnected you are from her and the rest of your family, especially your children. After all, women are generally aren’t attracted to buffalos anyway. Therefore, you likely devolved into an isolated buffalo over time. So seek to understand before being understood and just ask her some questions about what she thinks could help you change. If you are not married, you can do this same thing with someone — a parent, coworker, gym buddy — that you trust to be transparent and truthful with you.
Plan your 611 – The national 611 phone number is used to fix a problem with phone service. Therefore, it’s a great metaphor to use to inspire and motivate you to fix your buffalo mentality and behavior, too. Start by laying out an intentional plan. For example, when I had an epiphany that I was not connecting to others as much as I should, I focused on a few simple, intentional things. First, I made a list of friends that I needed to be connected to and set up specific “appointments” at least once per month to chat. After all, this is what I have done in the workplace for years. Second, I got a box of cards and set aside time on Sundays just to write quick notes to key relatives and friends in my life. Finally, I made a list of people that my wife and I should have over to our home for a meal. And, I, not she, invited them. It’s amazing how these easy to do actions can get you more connected and engaged in meaningful ways.
So, don’t be buffaloed by a life of isolation. God made you for more. Instead, make a plan to re-join your “herd” and create deep and lasting connections with the people who matter most. You will not regret it.