Help! I’m A Man And I Need Comfort!
I love that Brothers has ‘forced me’ to be more open about things. If I’m gonna lead a movement of men desiring deeper friendships, I need to be bold and sometimes choose the way less travelled, ask questions that aren’t really comfortable, open up about things others wouldn’t open up about — you get it.
Softness, vulnerability and emotionality is at the core of our humanity, says professor Niobe Way. Both young girls and boys desire and need safety, closeness and comfort. It is not something we learn, it is something we are born with. And babies and children are pretty good at expressing their need for it! But we all know that if you don’t practice a skill, you’re in danger to lose it. So it is with our ability to give and receive comfort.Parents love to see their little boys connect with others — and it’s beautiful to see them both generously give and receive comfort. But somewhere along the way, boys are taught not to do this. As Mark Greene puts it: They are actually trained away from it.
I find it so much easier to open up to girls or women about my struggles. I often find that they’re better at listening and comforting. Even though I do have male friends, yes, even a male best friend, I find it difficult to go to him when I need comfort. And honestly, it kind of hurts to admit that. I do want to receive comfort from him. I do want to be able to sit next to a brother, and even lean on his shoulder and know that i’ts OK to do so. But I often don’t ask. I’ve burnt myself before, so I’d rather play it safe and be quiet about it. I know that it’s easier to just seek comfort somewhere else, than opening up my heart to a ‘supposedly best friend’ and get rejected. I would rather believe that the friendship is ‘perfect’ — and stay away from asking for comfort, because I know that asking for it might reveal that the friendship isn’t as solid as I imagined it to be.
I chatted to a girl the other day, and I said: ‘You know, sometimes I hate being a boy.’ (I normally don’t use the word hate like that, because I know its a strong word… But I guess after so much frustration, I just needed to use that word to describe how I’ve felt over a long period of time.) I told her: As a man, it is so difficult to get comfort from my friends. We laughed, but she admitted that she had thought that thought herself, and she was glad she was girl when it came to this! I continued to open up to her. The feeling of being rejected when asking for comfort from someone you call your best friend, is heartbreaking. We had a long and serious conversation about this, but we also laughed about the whole thing as well. It’s kind of tragic and comic at the same time.
I’ve talked a little bit about rejection when seeking comfort, but then there’s also rejection when extending it. And please know that there are times when we just don’t want comfort. When we need space and we just need to take a minute. And let us be gracious and respect one another for that. But I am talking about all those times I have tried to extend comfort to a brother, but he has been unable to receive it. And why is this? Well. Many men simply don’t believe that they’re supposed to give or receive comfort — and especially not from other men. So when they first receive comfort from another man, an alarm bell goes off, shouting: ‘THIS IS NOT NORMAL. THIS IS WEIRD. THIS IS NO GOOD or I DON’T NEED THIS.”
Knowing this has helped me to be patient when experiencing rejection by close male friends. Even though I sometimes have left feeling stupid and humiliated, I need to remind myself of this one belief that I wanna live by: ‘Just continue to love them.’ Because that is what I want them to do to me.
Last thought. I wonder where many men turn to for comfort, since many of them don’t get it from their mates. I wonder how many men that go to the club to get ‘closeness’. They find a girl, they use her, dump her, and their desire for comfort mixed with their sexual desires becomes a fake form of comfort.I truly believe that if a man doesn’t have a place to be warmly welcomed and embraced, he will somehow get something ‘like it’ somewhere else. Whether sex, porn, drugs, alcohol — or even career accomplishments, for that matter.
…And to all the married men out there: I do hope you receive closeness and comfort from not onlyyour wife, but from your mates as well. If you’re relying on her only for closeness, you’re placing a burden on her that she should not have to carry and cannot carry all by herself. So do her andyourself a favour, and make sure you have a friendship that allows you to find comfort and closeness.
You might recognise yourself in some of what I’ve written. I hope you did.My message is this: Men, don’t shy away from receiving or giving comfort. Whether physical (affection) or with words (affirmation). You were created for it, and the sooner you realise that, the better. Those moments when you shy away from it, think about your brother, think about your friend. A hug from you, a shoulder from you, might mean the world to him. He might not dare to admit that it does, but that’s OK. A real man dares to give and receive comfort, even if he knows that he might have to face rejection.
Founder of Brothers.