This continues the story of my friendship with James, a straight, “alpha male” type. I’ve grown close to him as a strong-willed, natural leader. Our bond has been tested and strengthened by the difficulties of living together with a diverse group of guys.

I am writing this to encourage others to push through painful difficulties with friends and not to give up but to build solid, long-term friendships.

Even though James and I have very different personalities with different weaknesses, and we have hurt each other badly, we have not run away. As we’ve worked through the pain, we’ve formed a strong bond of love and trust.

Probably the biggest test of our friendship came with what happened to our mutual friend and housemate, Pierce. One Sunday morning, a girl walked up to me in tears saying, “Pierce is dead!”

My first reaction was doubt. I had just seen Pierce very healthy and alive the day before! I think denial and emotional numbness are normal first reactions to a tragedy, but I questioned my poor grieving friend like a defense attorney.

Explaining everything to me through tears, she proved that she had her facts right.

The day before, Pierce had worked a full day at his regular job before immediately going to his second job that night. While driving home at 3am, probably drowsy, he lost control of his car and crashed into a tree at high speed, killing him instantly.

The police called his parents, and they told my friend who told me.

Then it hit me.

I got alone and cried, but I couldn’t show my grief to the other guys in the house. I needed to be strong. They already had too many reasons to think I was weak. I couldn’t show weakness now!

Of course, I did go to James to share my feelings. As leaders of the house, we had to work together to help the others.

James did not give me hugs and warm affection. He calmly pointed out that Pierce was now enjoying eternal fellowship with Jesus Christ; we should be happy for him, not sad.

James wanted me to be a man, to be tough, emotionally disciplined and not giving in to my grief. After all, we should consider ourselves like soldiers in battle who can’t afford to stop and grieve when someone dies. We have goals to accomplish!

I couldn’t fully process everything at the time, but you can imagine how I felt as a sensitive guy, given that advice, even though James spoke the truth in a Christian way.

Inside, I felt like James was telling me, “You disgusting f*g! Stop being so f***ing weak and at least act like a man!”

I tried to be strong and did not cry in front of James. During the next few weeks in our house, James filled the “Daddy” role while I quietly filled the “Mommy” role. He urged the guys to be strong and not let Pierce’s death stop their progress, but I put my arms around grieving housemates and cried with them where James couldn’t see.

When I went to Pierce’s funeral, I chose not to sit with James so he wouldn’t see me cry in my grief. Instead, I sat with another straight friend, Ben, who always hugs me and shows me love I can feel deeply. I cried my share of tears in Ben’s arms that day.

When I continue, I will tell how things got worse as I hurt James. Surprisingly, though, this did end well!

Has a friend ever hurt you — intentionally or unintentionally — when you needed their support? Did you run away from the friendship during grief or difficult times, or did you work things out? Have you ever felt ashamed to be “too sensitive”?

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