“Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Friendships are crucial to our experience as human beings. Both in my life as a teacher watching adolescents interact, and in my life as a human being, I observe that we hold a great deal of energy about whether or not we belong. Within that sense of belonging to a group or a community, nothing may be more securing than genuine, deep, intimate human friendships.
I found with keen interest a recent article in Salon. Men, no less than women, indicate the desire and need for intimate friendships, and they identify all of the same characteristics that they want in those friendships as women . From late adolescence, though, men are convinced by our culture that real men don’t need friendships because friendships are feminine and hence, inferior to the real masculinity.
“So men are pressed — from the time they’re very young — to disassociate from everything feminine. This imperative is incredibly limiting for them. Paradoxically, it makes men feel good because of a social agreement that masculine things are better than feminine things, but it’s not the same thing as freedom. It’s restrictive and dehumanizing. It’s oppression all dressed up as awesomeness. And it is part of why men have a hard time being friends.”
Restrictive. Dehumanizing. Oppression all dressed up as awesomeness. These constitute the antithesis of joy, and they are what men buy into when we accept the cultural message about ourselves and about deep, meaningful friendships.
For any of us, men or women: want joy? Let’s take a look at our friendships. If we make an interior shift that says–yes, I am open to new and deeper friendships–they may actually begin to appear in our lives.
Cicero is right. Friendships double our joy and divide our grief.
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