“We asked 100 married men, ‘Who do you talk to first when your wife finds out you’ve cheated on her?’” I heard this question recently on a re-run episode of the classic dinnertime game show “Family Feud.” Funny the things we remember, right? Oddly, I also recall the number one answer was “bartender.” Really? Yep. The number one person that one hundred men surveyed would turn to first in a time of crisis was a bartender – not a priest, not their fathers, not a close friend . . . a bartender. That sadly reveals the extent of the epidemic relationship failure among men today.

I’m not talking about the failure of men cheating. While sad enough, I would argue that the greater tragedy is that they have no one to talk to when they fail. The majority of them will bottle up their infidelity – along with the host of other failures they give in to – never telling anyone; never unburdening themselves of the pain and baggage of their “lives of quiet desperation.”

If Those Catholic Men and Exodus 90 are about anything, they are about identifying and releasing the true power of real male friendships and accountability in the context of our Catholic faith. So how do we identify a friendship between men that keeps us from isolation but also keeps us moving forward?  Here’s four qualities:

#1 – Authentic friends are on the same quest. “True friendship consists in mutually perfecting one another and drawing closer to God.” St. Teresa of Jesus

What makes authentic friendships exciting and challenging? The journey. Drawing closer to God with a brother beside you is the most compelling thing I know. Realizing that when one of you stumbles, the other one is there to pick him up; makes the road more bearable. When my friend, Martin, gets a little weary with life’s challenges; I’ll jump in, crack a joke, buy him a beer and a great cigar, and remind him that whatever he thinks he’s going through, he should offer it up for my salvation! You see, we’re on the same path . . . the same journey . . . the same quest. Pope St. John Paul II called it “the path of Gospel heroism.” Authentic friends understand this and acknowledge that we can never leave a brother behind.

#2 – Authentic friends are honest. “True friendship ought never to conceal what it thinks.” St. Jerome

The enemy of our souls has a favorite tactic. It goes like this. In his slimy, sly voice he whispers, “If they knew everything about you, no one would have anything to do with you. You’re a fraud. You’ll never be holy.” Of course, his lies are just that. To destroy them, though, all we have to do is be honest. If we really want “iron to sharpen iron”, if we really want to grow in the grace of our Lord, we have to be honest with at least one authentic friend. Sure, it takes a little courage at first, but once you’ve opened up, it becomes natural. Man up. Spit it out. Be honest. Good grief, you’re not that unique!

#3 – Authentic friends are vulnerable. “God sends us friends to be our firm support in the whirlpool of struggle. In the company of friends we will find strength to attain our sublime ideal.” St. Maximilian Kolbe

Real guy relationships only happen when we put ourselves out there – when we’re willing to say, “This is me. I want to grow. I want to take risks. I’m willing to change. I want a good life. But, for now, this is me.” You’ll be surprised at how many guys are looking for a friend they can be that open with. You’ll also meet a few guys who can’t handle the truth. Let’s face it. We live in a world with walls, and a lot of men are willing to hide behind those walls and lick their wounds until they slowly die. While we need to find a way to knock down their walls and rescue these brothers, right now at least, I’d argue we have to focus on those who want relationships.

#4 – Authentic friends treat each other with compassion and respect. “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” St. Thomas Aquinas

The best icon of authentic love I can think of is the Holy Family. While much could be (and has been) said of the deep love between Jesus and His mother, it is the example of St. Joseph that jumps out to me when I think about the Holy Family. St. Joseph must have felt the incredible responsibilities of fatherhood when he held Jesus in his arms for the first time and felt the beat of that tiny Sacred Heart. Every father has been there. He must have felt a deep fatherly pride as the God-man he protected grew into the man who would save the world. But, even though St. Joseph was the closest person to our Lady and our Lord, he was still their servant and protector. St. Joseph is what authentic masculine love looks like. It serves, it protects, and it is compassionate, respectful, and abiding. Just as we pray for St. Joseph’s intercession for us as fathers and men, we should look to his example for how to build authentic friendships with our brothers.

  • Marty Doucette

    Nice thoughts. But I think the beginning is woeful. Men cheating on their wives is hardly a good way to set a bar for communication. Also, as much as I value my friends, and I have a few, I would never dump on them anything that should be reserved for the confessional or for my spiritual director. Those two (the priest and the spiritual director) are my very special friends in very special ways. My Exodus 90 friends are life-long ones with whom I would (and have) trusted my life. My relationship with them is worth any sacrifice and is also lots of fun. They know me and I know them. We pray daily for each other and for our families and meet at least weekly. But mortal sins are not part of our communication. If one of us were to commit one, we would all invariably know sooner or later and we would deeply pray for that brother and would be there for him in his recovery. But none of us either wants to know or should know the stuff that belongs in the confessional or in the chair where we sit with our spiritual director. Lastly, my best friend is my wife.

    • Phil Alcoceli

      Great clarity and clarification in your comment! I totally agree that friends should not outright substitute confessors or spiritual directors, because many men do not have the solid, balanced maturity to be a reliable, holy counsel to revealed big sins. On the other hand, if you find or have a Catholic friend with that kind of high maturity, he will totally cooperate with God’s plan for you and then also send you straight to the confessional. A real friend consoles, encourages and/or pushes you to your absolute best but never plays God or ordained priest. Your last sentence (eliminating the emasculated men from it) is one of the most EPIC ever. Given a truly Catholic woman, that’s what very truly masculine men do. God bless you and your holy lady!

  • Phil Alcoceli

    Good article. Stil, I’m curious. Why begin with men cheating (a detestable sin quickly being outmatched by the cheating, liberated-into-sin women) when the problem mostly appears to be the emasculation; the emotional, mental and spiritual castration of modern men, Catholic or not. Indeed, the more emasculation, the greater the mass escape into pornography, a big growing problem in both the Protestant and Catholic camps. That and the drift of some men into bisexuality or open homosexuality, which today enjoys the status reserved in the past to royalty.

    Emasculation is the raging, five alarm fire we are running from. The strong, holy friendship of Catholic men is a top weapon against personal and world evil but it needs to remain alert, pure and open to discussing not just the embarrassing, dark areas of our own personal lives but also those even more embarassing and dark areas inside the Mystical Body of Christ, being infiltrated and corrupted at all levels by the most skilled, sentimental liars and treasonous impersonators that history has ever seen. Catholic manly friendships remain as the solution but only if they remain 100% pure Catholic. Men Together as one message: God or nothing.

    • Mike

      The current situation you so eloquently speak of is even worse than we can imagine. In addition to being emotional, mental, and spiritual, the emasculation is also physical; and is enforced from the earliest moments of our individual castrated experiences in this society. Only when EVERY life and body (male or female) is treated with equal dignity, as sacred and inviolable, at all times, and in all stages of development; will the emasculation cease. Sadly, in the majority of instances, our collective emasculation is not only being condoned, but also perpetuated (actively or by acquiescence) by the Catholic Church itself.

      • Phil Alcoceli

        Thank you, but you were more eloquent than me, by far. Emasculation of men at all levels was necessary for Satan to bring forth the over-feminized, over-sentimental, super soft, obssesive, blind, suicidal insanity that today plagues men, women, the Church and the world. Satan wants all of us to think that evil as a love impersonator is inevitable and unstoppable so we need to compromise. Jesus didn’t. It’s all a Wizard of Oz style, spiritually emasculating trap. Pray and resist.

        Among the many things that God may inspire for you to do to fight this core evil, I humbly suggest that you also pray quietly for Jesus’ Divine Masculinity (God and Man in One) to overrule Satan’s over-feminization in everyone you encounter or think about. In the just the flesh, we are born from a woman and deep love and gratitude is due. In our True Identity, mind, heart, soul and spirit, we are born from God the FATHER and only He holds our Authentic Personal Reality and deep love and obedience is due. Also pray for Jesus’ Divine Masculinity to fill you and influence every one you touch, even through the phone or computer or prayers, turning them to God’s Authentic Gold.

      • Phil Alcoceli

        I thank you for your compliment and I refer it back to God, the true source. Eloquence is only good as far as it both actually ives and communicates God’s Truth. At the same time, your comment shook me and was very bracing, like ice cold water. You speak with a balanced, mature, solid Truth. No mutual-admiration-dead-society here, but admiration and glory for God’s work, compassion and mercy in us and to us. Emasculation of men at all levels was Satan’s plan in order to bring the overfeminized, toxically emotional, suicidal blind imbecility that plagues men, women, the world and the Church today. Satan wants us to believe in evil as all superior, inevitable, unstoppable, unavoidable and invincible. That is a spiritually emasculating trap, Wizard of Oz style, and we must not fall in it or continue to do so.

        God ordained that we would be born for such a horrific time as this is. God may lead you and others toward different ways to combat this core evil and combat it we must. I humbly suggest we add to that a daily prayer for Christ’s Most Holy Masculinity (God and Man in One) to fill every man, woman, child, the Church and all Creation to restore all to the unique and original identity, holiness, humility, wisdom, power and beauty that He intended from the Beginning. Satan’s Overfeminization is the enemy, Jesus’ Most Holy Masculinity the solution. “Shoot” that prayer to every person, group of persons, and all of Creation you find or think about. The Church, work, family, this and other websites are places were we can rally the troops with our example, words, sacrifice, prayers and love. It’s the Way of The Cross and walk it we must with Jesus, “per crucem ad lucem”, through the Cross to the Light.