This concludes my current friendship series with James, a straight, alpha male type leader in my life. We’d grown close, but the bond between us was severely tested when our mutual friend and housemate, Pierce, died.

After Pierce’s funeral, I felt almost paralyzed. I just couldn’t force myself to lead at the house. James needed me to lead and be a help to him, so he confronted me on being too passive. I admitted he was right, but I felt unable to get beyond my emotions and lead others.

Things degenerated until James and I barely talked. We actually avoided each other as I experienced serious emotional pain.

I questioned myself. Could an emotional guy like me ever really hope to get along with a tough guy like James? I was tempted to give up on him as a friend, but I couldn’t forget the ways he’d kept showing me love. Especially that time he physically defended me from a violent housemate.

When James and I finally talked, I told him how much grief I still held for Pierce and how much additional pain I felt for our troubled friendship. James urged me to take my trouble to God and find out why I felt paralyzed by grief and emotional pain.

Somehow, God let me see the way out. The pain of my grief was real, but I realized I felt more concern for myself and who gave me attention in my suffering.

I didn’t think about what my friends, especially James, really needed. One of James’s love languages is acts of service, but my big ones are quality time and physical touch.

It was never spoken aloud, but essentially I had been selfishly demanding him to show me love in my favorite ways while I withheld showing him love in his primary ways.

A light went on inside. I’d use James’s own love languages to express love to him. God gave me the desire and ability to do the acts of service that James and the other guys needed and that I should have been doing all along.

Additionally, I deliberately gave James words of encouragement on his emotional self-control and hard work. I admitted he was right about my passivity, and I started fighting through it to accomplish important goals.

Around the same time, James had some serious issues with his former girlfriend. One day, he just opened up and shared some deeply personal emotional stuff. The walls between us collapsed, and we loved and trusted each other again!

I am still not being the kind of active leader I need to be, but I am moving in that direction. I am setting goals and taking steps.

James and I still have to work through mistrust and misunderstandings, but I don’t think either of us doubts that we have a solid commitment to each other as friends.

I tell this story so others will be inspired to keep working through problems and build strong, genuine friendships with others, including straight guys!

Because of James’s influence, I have much more of a sense of purpose. I am much more courageous, and I feel much more like a real man! Yes, it is really worth it!

Have you ever drifted apart from a close friend or seen the friendship get restored? Have you had a beneficial friendship with a straight guy where you learned from him — and he learned from you?

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