Too often men’s conversation stays on the surface.
“It was a tough week,” I said to a friend when we exchanged greetings after our church worship service. We left it at that as he shut down the sound system and I went to gather my family for the ride home. It was not unlike most other brief greetings in the foyer after the service, especially for introverts like us. I thought nothing of it as we drove home.
Life is like that—some weeks are hard and others are a breeze. I enjoy my work but there are weeks when things come up that are not as enjoyable. And recently there had been some extended family issues a few provinces away that my wife and I have had to deal with in addition to the usual work and home stresses. These had contributed to my “tough week.”
I’m a college professor. I work with words. It is my job to speak and to write words that help students and others to articulate what is going on in their spiritual lives. Recently, I even wrote a book about men’s spirituality. At church I teach a Sunday school class and occasionally preach.
My friend is a carpenter. He works wood with his hands and tools. He is not skilled with words, but he knows how to get a job done. He operates the sound system at church where he can sit quietly and do his thing. He doesn’t even read books or columns like this yet he taught me something important.
The next day my friend called to invite me over to his house to watch Monday night football. This was odd I thought. We had watched the Grey Cup and the Super Bowl at his house with other guys but now he said, “It will be men’s night, just me and you.” I don’t get this kind of invitation very often. I wondered what he wanted to tell me. How could I refuse?
He offered me a drink and snacks and we watched a bit of football and also part of a hockey game. After one game was over he apologized that he had not followed up on my comment about having a tough week. “Do you want to talk about it? You don’t have to but I thought I’d ask.”
I was blown away! I was thinking, “Of course I want to talk about it if someone cares enough to ask!” He didn’t invite me over to watch sports; he invited me over to talk. A man who works with wood was asking a man who works with words if he wanted to talk! He not only offered to listen to me, he taught me a lesson about man-to-man conversation.
Too often men’s interaction is on a surface level. We talk about sports in a bar after a few beers to relax us. We go hunting or fishing or golfing where talking at all is bad etiquette. But what is needed is connection on a deeper emotional level.
That is not only what women sometimes want and need from us but also what we need from each other as men.
Men need to talk and even those of us who work with words and ideas need an activity to loosen our lips. Men are not like most women who find it easy to sit around and talk for hours.
Men need something to do, a game to play, a project to work on or a mountain to climb. It’s easy for me to talk at work when I have a topic, a script and a lectern or a pulpit but when it comes to my personal life it is more difficult. Some of my best personal conversations with other men have been on hikes, work projects, playing or watching sports, when we doing something together, when our bodies are engaged.
This past week it was the common activity of watching sports that provided the opportunity to have a deep conversation, not only about my tough week, but about the temptations, struggles and joys of being husbands, fathers and brothers.