I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone? [Stephen King – Stand By Me]
This has to be one of my favourite movies of all time. I had the opportunity to watch it again this past weekend and was struck by the fact that there are literally hundreds of coming of age stories from a Girls point of view but remarkably few about boys.
This time I watched it with my Dad, who was born in 1940. Although the film was set in 1959 and my dad is about 7 or 8 years older than the boys portrayed much of what they experienced would have been very similar to his own life. Hell, much of what I experienced 25 years later in 1984 was similar.
Boys are the same, generation after generation. As a result so are Men.
As the credits rolled my Dad cleared his throat in that way men in their 70s do when they are about to say something profound and said that he had read about a psychological study done a few years back that asked the question; “If you did something to completely screw up your life, do you have a friend who would stand by you, no matter what?” Over 90 percent of men said no.
Something happens when a boy becomes a man. He tends to become isolated from other men. Sure we have friends, or what could more accurately be described as colleagues, but we tend not to forge deep emotional bonds with one another that can withstand testing or trauma. It’s so pervasive in our society that it has become the butt of a lot of jokes. Quite simply men don’t talk about their feelings and therefore we don’t develop the same kind of emotional bonds that women do.
Why is that?
Psychologists, sociologist and anthropologists have wrestled with this question for years. Many people, much wiser and better educated than I, have written volumes on the subject. I’m not about to rehash that here. But I would like to think that if I completely screwed up my life, at least one person would stand by me.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. [Proverbs 27:17]
That verse from Proverbs has been quoted so many times by men’s bible study groups it has become cliché. But the message is an important one. Men need each other. The way we love isn’t soft and fuzzy, it’s iron on iron, it’s loud, it’s rough, and sometimes sparks fly.
I’ve experienced my share iron sharpening sessions. It’s never a pleasant experience but two men who truly love and respect one another can walk away from a knock ‘em down, drag ‘em out battle of wills both sharper for it and with a stronger, deeper bond than ever before. If I totally screwed up and needed someone to stand by me, I would hope they would at least respect me enough to call me on my bullshit first and help me to become sharper as a result.
To me the deep respect that the main characters have for one another regardless of their past, family situation or future prospects is the enduring message of Stand By Me.
Do you have anyone who will stand by you? When was the last time your iron was sharpened by a trusted friend?