Band of Brothers

Band of BrothersIt seems that, so often, when we see a man’s friendship portrayed on the big screen these days, it’s usually a pretty sorry excuse for a friendship. We are, of course, generalizing here and this certainly does not apply to every film or TV show, but in the general mainstream of movies and sitcoms, men usually have shallow friendships, while women tend to have deeper abiding ones. But why?

In these mediums, male friendships break down into a few simple groups: If you are single, conversations greatly revolve around meeting and pursuing women or else a very one-dimensional topic such as work or sports. And in the case of married men? Well they spend most of their time complaining about their wives or otherwise following the above mentioned shallow topics. This isn’t to say that real friends don’t talk about these things – of course we do –but there is more to life and friendship than what we see here. These men (due to poor script writing) have no real sense of who they are, and don’t connect with other men in a real and profound way, they keep everything at the surface level.

Unless of course it’s a war movie. If things are exploding and we know that one of them is going to die, then it’s perfectly acceptable for men to bond like brothers and share more than just the mundane with each other. All that action and adventure in the background counterbalance these “effeminate” ideas of love and true friendship. Wait, what? Why are these concepts considered to be in any way feminine? Of course they can be, but they can just as easily be masculine as well. These ideas are not gender specific in any way, shape or form. Yet we don’t see that played out very often, do we?

The real concern here is that, just as many worry about how the media has distorted people’s view of what romantic love is supposed to be, it may be doing the same thing for friendships as well. There has never been a more media-flooded generation than now, and if these are the ideas we are instilling in young men, they may grow up never knowing that they can, and in fact should, have meaningful – and now for that terrifying word – loving friendships.

There is one particular media platform that is perhaps most guilty of often portraying men in the most one-dimensional way possible: the beer commercial. In most beer commercials, men amount to little more than their desires, which seldom include anything more than women, food, sports, or just beer itself. Yet there is one commercial from the company Guinness that stands apart from the rest, and flies in the face of these shallow representations we are so used to seeing.

In this ad, we see a group of men in wheelchairs playing basketball. They’re slamming into each other, stealing passes and fighting to make each shot. As you watch, you think that the message of the ad is something along the lines of, “Nothing can hold you back,” or, “Life is what you make of it.” You think you know where this is going. That is, until the game is over and they all start standing up and walking away from their wheelchairs, all, except for one. At this point you realize that only one of the men actually needs the chair, the others were only there out of love for their friend. There is no better word to describe the actions of these men than love. For them, it isn’t enough to simply tell their friend that he is an equal, that they don’t see him as being different due to his disability; no, they show it in their actions. They make sacrifices, and put themselves into a difficult and physically uncomfortable situation, because they know what it will mean to their friend just to be able to play ball with them. After all this, what is the slogan they end with? “Dedication. Loyalty. Friendship. The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.” It’s moving, it’s powerful, and it gives us a better view of what true friendship is supposed to look like than the majority of what we see in the media. Now, we are not advocating this company or its products, that would be an entirely different article altogether, but regardless of how you may feel about alcohol, there is no denying that this advert manages to get right what so much of our culture gets wrong.

One of the deepest and most important things we can take away is that love, whether between a man and a woman, or a man and his surrogate brothers, is more than a feeling, it is an action. It is what spurs us on to put someone else’s needs above our own, to care more about that person’s desires, even at the cost of our own. It means forgiving that person when they’re wrong, and humbly asking for forgiveness when they are right. It doesn’t happen overnight any more than “true love” does. Any worthwhile relationship takes time, effort and sacrifice to build, and can be undone by selfishness, apathy, arrogance or manipulation. If you want to have these kinds of friends, you have to be this kind of friend to the people around you. If you want to have the kind of “brothers” that would show up in the middle of the night to help change a tire, you can’t blow them off when they are in need. Shallow men breed shallow relationships, but men of true character attract one another. Be willing to put in the time and be there for others, build and earn their trust, and watch as you just so happen to find others who do the same.

Guys, do you find your relationships with your male friends to be more shallow or more deep? Give us your thoughts at [email protected]

Rick is a freelance writer and worship leader, he blogs at culturemakerblog.com, and tweets at @letsmakeadeal26.

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