In an article found in Newsmax, Lynn Allison reported on a study that concluded: “The good life is built with good relationships.”  “A rare study that tracked the lives of 724 men for nearly 80 years revealed the most powerful indicator of success and happiness doesn’t lie in our genes, wealth, social class, or IQ.  The Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest study of adult behavior, found that strong social connections make people happier and physically healthier.” 

This study began in l938.  For the next 79 years, participants were asked “about their work, their lives, and their health. Results showed that flourishing in life is linked to having close ties with family, friends and community.”  Robert Waldinger (one of the study’s authors, as well as a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital) observed, “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health…Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care, too. That, I think, is the revelation.”  

“The sad fact is that at any given time, more than one in five Americans will report that they’re lonely,” Dr. Waldinger noted.  In his opinion, rather than “focusing on the quantity of friendships, it is important to focus on the quality.” The author of the article noted, “the study found that conflict adversely affects our health so, for example, a bad marriage is less healthy than getting a divorce.  And having a warm, wholehearted relationship is protective.”  

Numerous reports speak to the epidemic of loneliness among men in our society. For example, David French noted, “Between 1990 and 2021, the percentage of men who reported having no close friends quintupled, from 3 percent to 15 percent.  The percentage who reported ten or more close friends shrank from 40 percent to 15 percent.”  In French’s opinion, the answer to our culture’s crisis in masculinity is found, “in distinct, virtuous masculine relationships.”

This leads to the question each man needs to ask: “Am I intentionally building soulful friendships with other men?”  Since moving to Baxter almost four years ago, I have prayed to be in a soul care group with other men.  I found Dan and Bruce in my church.  What have I learned from this experience?

First, be intentional.  I have waited for almost four years. I have gotten to know men both in my church and in the community who are followers of Jesus.  But I was looking for men with an “open spirit.”  Men, take it from me; you need to be with other men who want to go beyond the head stuff.

Second, know that you have a need to be known by other men.  Approach your encounters with a humble and contrite heart.  Let your needs be known, while seeking to invest in other men as well.

Third, start slowly.  Men are not used to sharing at the “heart” level. I find myself being careful and measured in my sharing. The soul is shy and needs a safe place to be known.

Fourth, confess that you may fear being known by other men. I must confess that I am still fearful of allowing others to know my real self.  “Will these two men still accept me for who I am?”  

Here is some counsel based on advice from Larry Crabb on building a soulful group: Try starting with: 1) We accept you, 2) We believe in you, 3) We see you and are glad to stay involved – and in your confidence, and 4) We give to you.