Listening to boys, particularly those in early and middle adolescence, speak about their male friendships is like reading an old-fashioned romance novel in which the female protagonist is describing her passionate feelings for her man. At the edge of manhood, when pressures to conform to gender expectations intensify, boys speak about their male friends with abandon, referring to them as people whom they love and to their feelings as, to put it in Justin’s words, “this thing that is deep, so deep, it’s within you, you can’t explain it.” They talk in great detail and with tremendous affect about their best friends, with whom they share their deepest secrets and without whom they would, according to 15-year-old Malcolm, “feel lost.”
In many ways this quote and the research behind it seems to be obvious. Anyone who works with high school students knows how powerful friendships are with guys. While we jokingly refer to this phenomenon as a bromance, that isn’t too far from what it really is.
Youth ministry implications
- When two close guy friends are actively involved in your ministry it can be fantastic. You can always count on both of them.
- When one best friend is involved and the other either isn’t involved in the ministry or is not a believer, this causes a conflict that can lead to mixed loyalties.
- Some youth workers may mislabel them a clique and try to break them up by putting them on opposite teams or different small groups, this can backfire as that friendship is more important than your youth ministry.
- It’s easy to be dismissive of this friendship and unintentionally damage your relationship with both young men.
- It’s better to make space for best friend relationships than it is to fight against them.