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”?
I think the only time I was feeling shame at being sensitive was my middle school days. It was during some periods of bullying that I had that were traumatizing. For better or worse, I toughen up from the experiences while also becoming somewhat cynical about the world around. I didn’t wear my heart on my sleeve anymore to allow my vulnerability to be exploited by others. Hence, this is why I’m an Enneagram 6. I would not allow the world to see me as weak. If you want to get to the more benevolent me then you better have noble intentions.
I was not bullied much as a child, so I may not fully understand your pain. Of course I should not wear my heart on my sleeve, but sometimes I just can’t hide grief. I just want to be stable enough to care for others.
Grateful for your sensitive heart, Marshall. I’m certain you were a support to many during this awful time.
As always, I love you and the way you understand me so well.
By expressing affection I did make several people feel better in their grief. I question whether I always do the most actual good when all I seem to do is make people FEEL good.
I appreciate this article, not simply because it shows a brother struggling with grief-work, but also how you are nurturing a relationship even through pain and sorrow. The verse, “Jesus wept,” keeps going through my mind as I am reading this. To be followers Jesus, I believe, gives us the unique privilege to follow different paths of expressing our emotions. Because of Christ, we may very well have both the permission and the empowerment to model a different mode of life, even down to the raw core of dealing with grief. If anything, this website showcases men of incredible emotional and spiritual courage! Thank you for your accepting spirit in helping me feel drawn in to join you all.
Yes, because Jesus wept, we can weep too. My friend was concerned that I should not grieve as non-believers do, but rather I should have hope. He thought my weeping was a result of bad emotional self discipline, not focusing on eternity but letting the world affect me too much.
I felt weak and less of a man afterwards. Unlike me, Jesus wept out of compassion. I wept out of a type of selfishness. I didn’t understand at the time, I just knew I felt like crying.
Marshall, can any grief really be totally divorced from sone measure of selfishness? Whether it was the death of my mother or the recent depression and overwhelming grief I have felt for the death of my childhood innocence due to abuse, I find that the mind is preoccupied somewhat with how this is all affecting ME.
That is a normal part of grief. And it isn’t wrong.
Don’t discount your tears, brother. In their own way, they were pure.
Thanks Kirk, I just want to do the most possible good. That means being as unselfish as possible. I haven’t reached perfection but I do want God’s kind of unselfish love!
…and there, again, is another indication to me of the mettle of the man with whom I am writing. Marshall, you are a treasure to my soul! May the Lord do great and even greater things than you could ever imagine. How I am honoured to call you my brother!
Thanks so much Paul!
and now for another case of the inverse of Ashley lol. While I am a feeler on the inside, it’s deep on the inside. I am an introvert. to many people I seem just plain cold. While with death I wouldn’t be the same as your friend and am more sensitive than that it wouldn’t be long before I was trying to give you practical advice to make you feel better. I remember years ago a friend of mine was going through a tough time and I was not the best support – may have had more to do with being 18 and immature though. but many times with my husband for example he is the sensitive one that needs hugs and attention and I’m all “don’t stay down – keep going. it will get better just hang in there.”
But those are comforting words, Ashley. They are different from, “Don’t cry. Be a man and suck it up.”
Ashley, yes! In my own situation I am glad James was there telling everyone “keep going!” just as you did. I was just too emotionally weak to do that well enough myself.
I know your friend meant well, and this story has a happy ending. For that, I am grateful.
It is troubling, though, the number of people that think men shouldn’t cry. I am a man, and I cry bunches. There is nothing wrong or abnormal about me.
Not sorrowing like the world has nothing to do with tears. Paul says to sorrow not even as those who have no hope. We have hope that we will see Pierce again. We don’t agonize that he is lost. Tears are priceless and precious. And everyone grieves differently.
Kirk, Thanks for all your encouragement!
I do believe that I should cry when I’m grieving. Even my friend James would say that. It was my excessive crying and my hints demanding attention for myself that were the problem. That was the emotional weakness that James was confronting.
Ok, brother. I’ll trust you on this.
Talking about grief, today I went to funeral of another friend, this time a suicide victim.
Eryk was a man in his 50s dealing with SSA. He had no parents, no children, no spouse, few friends, and he lived alone. He was in my church and I had known him almost 20 years. No one saw the signs he was suicidal. No one mentioned his SSA at the funeral. All the pastor said was that he was “broken” and had “character issues”.
Let’s talk about how to care for older singles in this situation so we don’t have too many more tragedies like this.
Breaks my heart, Marshall. Oh, to pull these brothers close and lavish them with true support and friendship.
amen to that!
Thanks Kirk. I saw several guys at the funeral who are single and in their 50s. I am pretty sure most of them are silently dealing with SSA, loneliness, and other pain. I talked to one and he is definitely not doing well. I am going to do what I can to show God’s love to those guys!
God bless your endeavors!
Sending a hug your way Marshall. How sad. I love your last statement about caring for older singles like your friend…I do believe the church has fallen a bit short in this area…at least from my observation. May your Heavenly Father give you comfort in this time.
I guess it takes strength to respond like James did to Pierce’s death, but I think it also takes a lot of strength to grieve well, to be there for others in the midst of tragedy, and to process your emotions where others can see. I’m glad you were there to provide that.
I think I instinctively avoid close friendships with people who would have James’s response in the midst of tragedy. It’s kept me from having to deal with this sort of situation, but perhaps it’s been limiting to the number of different kinds of people I’m friends with.
Ryan, normally I also avoid people with a personality like James’s because they are typically selfish bullies that use others for their own benefit. James is definitely NOT like that.
James is far from perfect, but instead of using his power to gain fame and money, he has disciplined himself to pursue God and as a result to help people. Being his friend is not safe or comfortable, but well worth all the pain!
Because of his influence I have been able to face and deal with life long issues. As a result I have new goals, a hope, and a joy in life for which I am so grateful!
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