I love you, too, bud.
I love you, dude.
I love you, Bro Montana.
I love you, holmes.
I love you, Broseph Goebbels.
I love you, muchacha.
I love you, Tycho Brohe.’
I Love You, Man (2009, Dreamworks)
Its an unwritten yet universally followed rule that one guy can’t say ‘I love you.’ to another guy without adding something to the end of the sentence like ‘man’ or ‘bro’ etc (but maybe not Broseph Goebbels…that’s weird).
Its no surprise that in the western world man’s ability to express himself emotionally has taken leaps and bounds. The call for masculine emotional expression was one of the catch cries of the gender wars of the 20th century. Psychologist Gordon Walker notes “A strong influence of generational differences needs to be acknowledged when looking at the changes … For example, a lot of the younger males, who are more emotionally expressive and responsive than previous generations, were brought up by feminist mothers of the ’70s.”
Walker is saying that men who were raised by these second wave feminist mothers are typically more accepting of emotional expression and less likely to see them as a sign of weakness than previous generations.
The popular term that is now used to describe these emotionally expressive male friendships is ‘bromance’. Bromance is a blend of the words bro or brother and romance and while the phrase ‘bromance’ was coined in the nineties it has only been in the last couple of years that the term has reached a tipping point.
A bromance can be described as an intense and intimate male friendship that is affectionate but not homosexual in nature. Pop culture offers us a long list of famous bromances even though you may not have recognized them as such at the time. Consider the following selection of famous bromances put together by ESPN’s Bill Simmons. The complete list can be found here.
‘The original bromance was Lewis and Clark. I’d break down the others like this: Costanza and Seinfeld (funniest); Norm and Cliff (second funniest); Diggler and Rothchild (third funniest); Borat and Azamat (grossest); ); the Rat Pack (most influential); Flintstone and Rubble (best animated); Kurt Warner and Jesus (most inspirational); Jules and Vincent Vega (most violently entertaining); Kobe and Shaq (most destructive); Damon and Affleck (wealthiest); Tom and Jerry (most psychotic); Spade and Farley (best one-time chemistry that couldn’t be recreated, even by them); Lennon and McCartney (most successful); Redford and Newman (coolest); Scottie and Michael (most titles); Clooney and Pitt (most overrated); and Red and Andy (the greatest bromance ever), with Red and Andy’s beach hug in Mexico doubling as the single greatest bromance moment.’
As amusing as Simmons’ list is I have to disagree with him in regards to the original bromance (no disrespect intended to the famous explorers). Strong male friendships have existed throughout history and believe it or not emotional expression between men is not a 20th century feminist invention.
The Bible is full of intense male friendships but the Jordan and Pippen of biblical history was David and Jonathon.
These men were kindred spirits. Both were warriors (1 Sam 14, 1 Sam 17) and both had great faith and passionate love for the Lord. David is the only man in scripture described as a man ‘after God’s own heart’(1 Sam 13:14) and scripture says that Jonathon’s soul was knit to the soul of David (1 Sam 18:1).
Jonathon had every reason to take David as his enemy. Jonathon’s father Saul correctly declared that ‘As long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established.’ Jonathon understood however that his father’s actions had caused the anointing of the Lord to pass onto David. He trusted God and loved David, giving him every symbol of his authority (1 Sam 18:4).
Twice David and Jonathon made a covenant with one another because of the love that they shared (1 Sam 18:3, 1 Sam 20:16-17). Before David was forced to flee for his live because of Saul’s attempts to kill him, Johnathon and David kissed and shed tears together. Jonathon said to his great friend. “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” (1 Sam 20:42)
This is the key to true biblical bromance. It is having the Lord between us. When Jesus is what joins us together and stands between us it not only gives us the same values and elements of the same culture, it gives us the same spirit.
Men, how many friends or brothers in Christ do you have upon whose death you would say, “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! “Jonathan lies slain on your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women.” (2 Samuel 1:25)
I’m not suggesting that our same gender friendships are to be closer or more dear to us than the relationship we have with our spouse. David didn’t have the greatest track record with the lady’s and his words here are clearly hyperbolic. Regardless, the point remains that David was not casual in his relationships with those whom he was called to walk with. He covenanted with Jonathan. They deliberately committed to one another and sacrificed much for each other.
Biblical bromance is not based on sharing sexual conquests, playing video games or various drinking games as is often the case in the world (though for the record we Christians are biblically allowed to bond over the likes of Halo and such). Our bond is that of Jesus Christ, what he has done for us, how we are created through him and how we are to worship him in this world.
So when God knits your soul to someone, get your bromance on. But always make sure Christ is at the centre and that he is the focus of your friendships.
And remember, I love you, my brobi wan kenobis 🙂
Thanks for this post James. I enjoyed reading it. Bromance or even mateship is critical for both men and women. What we receive from relationships with the same sex is different to that of our spouse or partner. It’s critical to growing as individuals.
There is something special about having a deep bond with a mate that is grounded in Christ. In realising this we need to be aware of our close friendships, as they will affect how we live out our lives. That is even more critical with the person we marry. We will be built up if we develop close friendships with fellow Christians. But we will also be torn down if we only have close relationships with non-Christians as they will understandably have a different value system which will influence us. I don’t mean we shouldn’t have good friendships with non Christians, but that we need to be aware of how they potentially may affect our relationship with God and always balance it with solid Christian relationships.
Also men need to realise that it’s more courageous to be vulnerable about what is stirring within than to bottle it up. This macho image of hiding what we are feeling is not what masculinity is about. There is nothing tough about bottling up our emotions for the sake of not coming across as weak. Ironically those people are exposing how fragile and insecure they are. True masculinity and leadership is often founded in being honest about how we are truly traveling and when appropriate, being vulnerable with our struggles and feelings. Then people see the power of Christ in our lives as we stand up against our battles in life.
We need more men to step up to the plate and display a level masculinity and strength in character that this society is crying out for. Instead we have men being confused about what masculinity is about and therefore not leading and protecting our families and church communities as they should.