Personal Growth

Do Dads Need Friends?

by Chris Pennington

Two men hiking together

“My wife is my best friend.” While there’s genuinely something precious about that statement, I fear it often means something more like, “My wife is my only friend.”

Adult male friendship is hard and many of us just don’t have friends.1 We can chat casually with other guys, discuss business, sports, family, politics, or church life, but for many of us, it never rises to anything resembling “friendship.” And so many men live life mostly alone, even though God created us to be relational.

A working definition

We probably all have different ideas of what makes a friend. If you think of a friend as someone you can share every detail of life with, then your wife probably should be the only friend you have. And if “friend” only means “someone I know,” then I’m not sure we’re thinking of the same thing.

For clarity, by “friend” I mean something like, “someone you share some part of life with, care for, confide in, depend on, and enjoy.”

Why do we struggle?

Why is it so hard to make friends for many guys? While there are, I’m certain, a host of sociological, cultural, and personal reasons, here are a few spiritual excuses I’ve noticed in myself.

  • “I don’t need help; I’m independent.”
  • “I’ve never seen male friendship modeled.”
  • “I don’t like being vulnerable.”
  • “I am strong enough.”
  • “I don’t want people to notice my shortcomings.”
  • “What if they don’t want to be friends?”
  • “I don’t have time for others.”
  • “I feel awkward pursuing male friends because of the homosexual community.”
  • “I’m afraid of losing friends, so I’d rather not have any.”
  • “I don’t know anyone who likes the things I like.”
  • “I want to focus on my own goals.”

These are only a few of my excuses and sinful responses to the topic of adult male friendship. Do any of them resonate with you? Believe it or not, the act of writing a list was very instructive. I’d encourage you to write out your own list of reasons you don’t pursue adult male friendship.

Proverbs and friendship

If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t seen healthy friendships between men. In our culture, when you say “adult male friendship,” most people think of guys who drink together and tell crude jokes.

In our churches it’s usually more wholesome, but equally devoid of true relationships. Think about it. When was the last time you reached out to a guy in your church for mere friendship? You didn’t need a tool, you didn’t have an agenda, you just wanted to spend time with him and see how he was doing?

So how do we pursue healthy friendships with other men if we haven’t seen it modeled? Let’s let God tell us. After all, he created us to be relational and dependent. Here are a few of God’s words to you in Proverbs:

1. It’s better to have a few real friends than a host of fair-weather friends.

Proverbs frequently references fair-weather friends (e.g., Proverbs 14:20; 19:4, 6, 7). These “friends” are often self-interested and lack tact (Proverbs 25:17, 29; 26:18–19; 27:15). But there are friends who stick with you through anything and love you at all times. Consistent faithfulness, then, is a mark of true friendship.

“A man of many companions may come to ruin,2 but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

“Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away” (Proverbs 27:10).3

2. Friends can help or hurt you, but they always affect you.

However much we may pretend we are independent and unaffected by others, that just isn’t the case. God made us to be communicative, relational beings. Your friends will change you—for good or ill.

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)

“The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.” (Proverbs 28:7)

3. True friends do what’s best for you in the long term, even if it hurts you in the short term.

True friends act in your best interest. They’re open and straight-forward, not full of flattery (Proverbs 29:5). They’re willing to say the hard thing, even if it doesn’t earn them immediate praise (Proverbs 28:23).

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)

4. Gossip is a poison that destroys close friendships.

The moment you hear or begin spreading gossip, the foundation of a friendship begins to erode. You may be tempted to gossip yourself or you may only be listening to gossip (from a friend or even in your home). Either way, you’re participating in something so strong that it can separate close friends.

“A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” (Proverbs 16:28)

“Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)

5. Good friends encourage you and appropriately disagree with you.

We dads need friends who encourage us, but we also need friends who will disagree with us. “A true friendship should have both elements, the reassuring and the bracing.”4

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another [i.e., healthy disagreement between friends is good].” (Proverbs 27:17)

Some examples

I’m admittedly poor at developing and sustaining friendships. I can point to a host of reasons—“I’ve never seen it modeled,” “I moved regularly as a kid,” or “I didn’t have people my age growing up.” I needed some real flesh-and-blood examples, and in God’s kindness, he’s given me several friends in the last few years who have taught me what it means to be a good friend. Here are some of the ways they’ve been a good friend to me:

  • Even though we live across the country from each other, I have two friends in particular who make an effort to stay in touch. They call me every couple of months just to shoot the breeze.
  • My friends regularly ask how they can pray for me. Then they pray and tell me they’ve been praying for me.
  • They send me articles, books, podcasts, and the like they think I’ll enjoy.
  • They’re good listeners. When we talk, they often ask a lot of questions and then just sit there and listen.
  • They confront me in gentle directness when needed. I can think of one time in particular when I needed correcting for something I said. My friend was both direct and incredibly compassionate, calling out my error and gently leading me back to Christ.
  • They’re comfortable in silence. They don’t always have a word to say or some piece of wisdom to share. Sometimes they just sit there and enjoy life together.
  • My friends are faithful examples in their churches and are always encouraging me to do the same. They’re invested in other people, open their homes to others, and quite literally plan their weeks and vacations around other people.
  • My friends share their love for Christ and dream aloud to me, telling me what they hope to see God do through their lives.
  • My friends openly share their own struggles and ask for prayer. They’re humble and fervent to kill sin.
  • My friends encourage me to be faithful to my wife and to invest in her. They’ll often ask me about her and about my kids, encouraging me to pour my time into them. One of my friends almost always ends our conversations by saying, “Alright, go cherish your wife and your kids. Thanks for chatting.”
  • Many of my friends have rich devotional lives and are always sharing what they read that morning.

I hope those brief examples give you some ideas. We all want good friends, but today God is asking you to be a good friend. Take one of the examples above and reach out to someone today. Do you have any other examples you’d like to share? Add a comment below!


  1. In our culture, it’s a given that guys struggle making friends. In the last week, I’ve heard a national radio program explore the topic and saw several commercials playing off this reality.

  2. Amongst English translations, there are a variety of opinions as to the sense of this first phrase. My focus here is primarily on the last part of the verse, but the verse as a whole seems to be setting up a contrast and means something like, “People who have lots of fair-weather friends may be broken by life, but those with true friends navigate the hardest of times together.”

  3. Notice that we’re not to think of receiving good friends only, but also of being a good, faithful friend.

  4. Derek Kidner, Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 42.

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