By Randy Kosloski
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22
Men are typically independent creatures. Whether it’s a home improvement project, or simply navigating from point A to point B, men usually like to do things on their own. At times we equate strength with our self-reliance, and we tend to feel weak if we display the need for assistance. Combine this with the way many fathers tend to translate a flawed view of strength to their sons, coupled with the idealistic way our heroes are constantly portrayed in books and films, and you’ve laid a fractured foundation for most men. Although men may want to be the Lone Ranger type, according to the above scripture, it isn’t entirely Biblical.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Manny. I found it very difficult to get to know him, since there seemed to be many barriers between us, including different cultures, divergent religious beliefs and a generation gap. From him I learned that I had some preconceived notions about people from other religions, cultures and age demographics; notions which could prevent me from making positive connections with others.
In time, we discovered that Manny had some critical anger issues, which often pressed him into undesirable situations and sometimes moved him to behave in harmful ways. Once I got past some of my own misconceptions, I ascertained that he genuinely cared about others, but struggled with the best way to communicate this concern. Even though he tended to keep his peers at an arm’s length, he believed these relationships would prove to be beneficial to him. Although he did not have many close friends, the friends he did have frequently acted as positive agents of change for him.
With these things in mind, I encouraged him to actively build on his relationships, when possible, in order to create closer, more intimate bonds with others. It was hoped that through this process he might realize that an individual can be both caring and authentic, while retaining a masculine identity, and that his peers also struggled with similar issues. This advice which proved useful to Manny, may serve as a good reminder to us when we feel compelled to “go it alone”.
In his book, Samson and the Pirate Monks, Nate Larking makes a helpful comparison between the lives of David and Samson. He observes that although both were anointed by God, and both were victorious warriors, David was more successful than was Samson.
Larkin identifies one of David’s primary assets: the respected colleagues with which he continually surrounded himself. David spent considerable time with men who may have been considered misfits, even if it meant spending months in a cave with this rogue group. He was intimately connected with Jonathan, and often sought the counsel of trusted advisers, such as Nathan the prophet.
In contrast, Samson was much more of a loner. We have little evidence that he had meaningful conversations with others, or that he accepted anyone’s council. Like David, he also served as a leader of God’s people, but he died in the prime of his life, barely experiencing a fraction of the success that David enjoyed.
Larkin goes on to explain that many new Christian men struggle to replace the alcohol-soaked fellowship with which they grew accustomed in the local bar. Perhaps God wants us to maintain this close fellowship—only in a more constructive context. It is an immensely beneficial pursuit to seek healthy ways to bond together with men who are followers of Christ.
There is still a common belief that independence equals strength, and while this concept contains some truth, it is clear we were created to be at our best as we interact, and even depend on others. Living among others and experiencing reassuring fellowship with one another are important aspects of our humanity. Interdependence gives us a comprehensive experience in life.
The Irish singer-songwriter, Gilbert O’Sullivan, had it completely wrong in his 1972 hit which spent six weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He may have sold nearly two million copies of “Alone Again (Naturally)” that year, but when he postulated that it was natural for him to be alone, he could not have been more wrong. As men, we may readily accept this false ideology for a number of reasons, but in fact, the Bible tells us it is unnatural to toil through our lives alone. If we take the initiative to patiently build beneficial bonds with carefully selected godly men, we’ll find success and strength is often found in numbers.