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We often associate hospitality with women (just think of phrases like “hostess with the mostest,” or that two-thirds of students seeking college degrees in hospitality are female). But when men take charge of hospitality, something powerful happens for their friendships and the greater community around them.
Men embracing the virtue of hospitality can be a catalyst for cultural renewal that can change the world for the better.
A collapse of community
That Western nations are suffering a crisis of community collapse is hardly news. This crisis is documented in books like Bowling Alone and countless articles about the “loneliness epidemic” and “crisis of isolation”
It’s also well documented that this crisis hit men worse than women:
Only 1 in 5 men reported receiving social support from guy friends in the week prior, versus 2 in 5 women. Stats like this have led experts to coin the phrase “friendship recession” in regard to male friendships in particular.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard the same from psychologists, priests, and others who meet broad segments of the population. I’ll never forget how the experienced priest who prepared my husband and me for my marriage urged my husband to keep making time for friends as he got older — and encouraged me to support that. He had seen many men neglect friendships as they aged, bringing unhappiness and loneliness.
This “friendship recession” is affecting men’s health, both mental and physical:
Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity … [Loneliness] was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke …. Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
The collapse of community doesn’t just negatively impact men, of course, but women and children, in more ways than I can say here. The breakdown of social support networks makes it harder for both fathers and mothers to raise their children and for families and marriages to grow healthy and happy.
When men take charge of hospitality
Getting together with friends and family is the obvious fix for the “loneliness epidemic,” but honestly, it’s not easy. It takes a lot of effort to build friendships and community, both emotionally and at a practical and physical level.
Even for the most casual get together, someone has to put themselves out there. They have to choose a date and time, send some kind of invitation, and either coordinate a place to meet or tidy their space and probably provide snacks. When you’re swamped with work, kids, housekeeping, and endless tasks, hosting is something easy to keep putting off. Yet it’s only by putting in this effort that we can take steps to cure the “loneliness epidemic.”
Often it’s the women of a community putting together events. But when men take charge of hospitality, their friendship is built up in a deeper way. These kinds of events weave threads of social connections that end up enriching the lives not just of the men who participate but of their wives and children too.
A benefit to the whole family
I saw all this firsthand when my family moved to a new community last year. At our new church, my husband met a group of men with a robust culture of hospitality. Various of these men organize and host a monthly book club, a monthly poker night, and plenty of other events, some just for the men and some with wives and families.
Joining the group has been so much fun for my husband, and this growth in his friendships benefits our whole family. We have been blessed by meeting people who generously open their homes to others and put in the effort to organize and host all kinds of events.
At their best, these gatherings encourage the kinds of “friendships of virtue” of which Aristotle wrote, communities in which friends call us to become better people, not through lecturing or moralizing but through being who they are and who God created them to be. The friendships built at these events strengthen families, marriages, and churches.
There might be a crisis of male friendships, a “friendship recession,” but it just takes one brave soul to change the story and start building up the friendships that all human beings crave. When men embrace this virtue (continuing an ancient tradition of manly hospitality), everyone around them benefits, too.