#26 - How to fight for a life of friendship with Justin Whitmel Earley

August 15, 2023
Justin Whitmel Earley

Episode Summary

We're super excited to welcome Justin Whitmel Earley back to The Aro Podcast for his second appearance. In this episode, Justin and Joey delve into the themes of his latest book, "Made for People: Why We Drift Into Loneliness and How to Fight for a Life of Friendship." They have a candid conversation about the art of building and maintaining meaningful friendships, the power of habits that nurture a friendship-focused lifestyle, and the significance of covenant friendship. Both Justin and Joey share their personal stories of friendship, emphasizing the role of vulnerability as the foundation of genuine connections. Justin even offers his perspective on what defines a good friend and provides insights on fostering a culture of seeking authentic friendships from a young age. This episode is true gold, and if you enjoy it, you'll find even more to love in Justin's new book.

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Episode Transcript

Justin Whitmel Earley (00:00):

And I go out this chapter with the, uh, the twin arts, um, of rebuke and encouragement, or if the art is honesty, the habits to practice a rebuke and encouragement. And this is, that might sound fancy, but it's a simple idea. Um, human beings have dignity, but they also have problems. So if you think of it a life of like, as like a house, um, we're houses that need renovation. We got some good bones. We're we got some solid history, but we're not where we need to be. Yeah. And so it's gonna require some idea of rebuke, of pushing back and saying, Hey, I love the way you do this, but it always comes across like this. And I could see a version of you that is so much more whole, you know? And that I like pairing them. 'cause I think the best rebukes come with some encouragement. Yeah. And I think the best encouragement comes with, comes with some, but watch out for this friend. You know, when people have said to me, you're really great at X, but watch out for this. I think, oh, that's so helpful.

Joey Odom (01:02):

Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. Hey, it's Joey Odom, co-founder of Aro. And I wanna do something a little bit different right now. I wanna give a little bit more of an intro, a little bit more of a monologue around the topic we talk about today. Um, Justin Earley, Justin Whitmel Earley who, you know, from the common rule and habits of the household, he's written a new book called Made for People. And it's about friendship and it's really maybe about loneliness. And so those two obviously are so intertwined. And so it talks about the epidemic of loneliness and then friendship and how important it is. And then the arts of friendship. And I think this is one of the more important topics that we can talk about. And maybe it's just where I kind of am right now. Early forties, kids in middle school, high school.

And you think back on the times when you were in college, you think right outta college. And even when kids were even in elementary school, it just seemed like there was a lot of overlap with people. And that made it very easy to be friends. It made it easy to have friends. And so one thing that Justin says when we talk is, you know, you don't wanna be the person that's, you know, wealthier and busier who used to have friends. And I feel like that is, and he says it is the natural current. But I want you to think of a feeling. I want you to think of that feeling in college when you were with your friends and you were with the people who were close to you, who you lived around and or that weekend away that you have with friends. And just what that feels like.

And just that, that feeling of full acceptance and being fully known and fully loved and just feeling like you belong. If you can capture that feeling just for a minute. And I think Justin proposes that this is possible in everyday life. Um, and you think about the friends you catch right up with. You have a weekend with them. In fact, I was in, I was in Nashville a few weeks ago, and I was around, I was with a friend and he, I was with him and his friends, and I thought, oh my gosh. Like, what a cool group of people to be around. I wish I lived here. And then I had this epiphany, well, I can go create that community on my own. I can go create that community where I live in Knoxville, and it's gonna take a lot, it's gonna take some intentionality.

So, and I don't, in talking with Justin, I don't know that I'm good at friendship. I really don't. I don't know that I'm good at friendship about the intentionality that it requires and, and what it, what it requires. I mean, but I do know I love friendship. I love having close friends and things as, you know, if you listen much, a lot of this filters through our kids. And I really want my kids to be good friends and to have good friends. And I want 'em at an early age to have those things. And Justin proposes something at the end of this interview that was really interesting and, and the importance of modeling good friendship to your kids. What it's like to have good friends. We model everything else. I mean, at Ara we talk about modeling good, you know, behavior with your phones and, but I never really think of modeling good friendships and what those should look like.

So this was, this was challenging for me. And I'm, I'm grateful for Justin. Justin is one of these unique people. And if you've read his work, you know how specific he is with his language, with all of his words. He is a linguist, but he chooses his words very, very carefully. And I was really glad that we could do this interview in person. So we were at, uh, we borrowed Gabe Lyons studio. Gabe, thank you for, uh, for your studio, for this interview when we just sat and talked. And something about Justin that's interesting is Justin invites you in to, it's gonna be maybe an odd word, but he does invite you into intimacy. So I remember reading a quote about Mr. Rogers. They said, Mr. Rogers, he demanded intimacy in his friendships and relationships. And I think Justin does that as well. It's, it's, you know, of course you have the time for catching up, cutting up, having fun, but there needs to be some depth there.

And so then you find, I, I find myself with him being more intentional with my words, being a little bit more vulnerable. He just kind of invites that of you. And so this conversation was exactly that. I'm, I'm hopeful. I really am hopeful, I think of his two books that have done great. I think this is gonna be his biggest book because of the topic. Because as I read it, as I read this book, I felt it. I felt what he was talking about. And it was very meaningful. And as you can tell, as I've been talking for almost five minutes here, this was a meaningful one to me. So I'm excited for everybody to listen. And here's what I wanna encourage all of us to do is take some of this and begin to apply it and maybe be a little bit more, go out on a, on a limb with somebody of a friend and, and maybe encourage them, um, and be specific your words and invite into intimacy.

The book is, I say this about people we have on who are authors, and we do invite authors on who write great books. But this one is not only great, but it's, it's important and it's vital. And I think, and Justin, he says this, so I agree with Justin is, is our lives depend on it. Our relationships depend on our kids. Future relationships depend on how we absorb this and model it. So I'm excited for you to listen. Please forgive the long monologue here, but this is one that really, really hit me and I think you're gonna enjoy it. So please sit back, relax, enjoy this amazing conversation with Justin Whitmel Earley. It's the year 2000. You're standing in the lockers in the middle of your school and a guy named Steve, ask you a question. Take me back to that moment.

Justin Whitmel Earley (06:42):

Yes. Wow. We're starting at the beginning.

Joey Odom (06:45):

We're starting at the beginning.

Justin Whitmel Earley (06:46):

Okay. I moved to Richmond, Virginia when I was in ninth grade because my dad got promoted in politics to the Attorney General of Virginia. So I was known by all these new kids at a new high school Right. As it's like transitioned to eighth grade to ninth grade's. Not bad enough. <laugh>. Um, I'm known by all these new kids as the, the politician's son, but I don't know any of them. Right. And I was, uh, I played the clarinet <laugh>. Okay.

Joey Odom (07:17):

So obviously you had a bunch of girls following

Justin Whitmel Earley (07:19):

You everywhere. It was, I sat in a section of girls Yeah. But it was not the relationship I wanted to have with all these girls. Um, I, uh, I tucked in my shirts, my t-shirts often

Joey Odom (07:32):

Respect yourself. Yeah. I like it.

Justin Whitmel Earley (07:33):

You can. And it was, uh, something my dad encouraged me to do. I'm not sure why. There's a lot of things that weren't helping my social status <laugh>. So I was feeling, it was like, I felt so isolated, um, from everybody else. And the thing that I remember about that time was that every decision was incredibly hard from like, what t-shirt I would wear and tuck in to, you know, should I answer a question in class? I just remember thinking, I guess this is just life. Like life is hard. Life is anxious. Life is, um, slightly depressed. It was only years later that I realized that stuff isn't baked into life itself. That stuff is baked into loneliness. 'cause what I was going through was, was loneliness. Yeah. And I had this, uh, kind of random bonding experience with a friend named Steve. We were away at a youth retreat and we both happened to like skateboards. We met on the halfpipe, actually. 'cause I had seen like other kids doing hacky sacks, skateboards things. These were my tickets to the in crowd. Yeah. I thought so. I had been practicing them.

Joey Odom (08:34):

I, is it hard to keep your shirt tuck in when you're skateboarding Yeah.

Justin Whitmel Earley (08:38):

<laugh>. Yes. Yeah. And this is the sign of a skater, right? The shirt is not tucked in. Sure. Okay. Um, so Steve and I met at the halfpipe. We had this, uh, what c s Lewis calls a u two moment of friendship. And he writes in, um, the book called The for Loves about Friendship. And he says, it's when, when two people discover they have something in common that the rest of the world just sort of doesn't understand. They look at each other and say, you two, I thought I was the only one <laugh>. And so for Steve and I, it was hacky sack skateboards and playing drums. Um, so the very nineties, yeah, sure. Very nineties time. Uh, but for us it was that moment of finding somebody else out there. And, and so this, this is what led to this moment that you refer to a couple weeks later, we're standing at the lockers, and I think it was Steve, neither of us can quite remember, but I'm pretty sure it was Steve.

'cause he's the kind of guy then and now who says whatever comes to his mind. It was like, you know, Wes Anderson movies. Like you just say whatever you're thinking, right? It was like a Wes Anderson moment where he says, should we be best friends? And as if it was a decision on whether or not to get slurpies after school or something <laugh>, I was like, that sounds like a good idea. And the moment was over <laugh>. And it changed the trajectory of my life because high school was still awkward and high school was still difficult. But I no longer face those circumstances alone. I faced them beside a friend. And now I see. And I felt ever since that I was made for this thing called friendship, that it completely changes the character of everything else in life. Like everybody has hard stuff. High school's still hard. Yeah. But when you walk through hard things with a friend, everything changes.

Joey Odom (10:18):

The line you said was almo. It almost took my breath away whenever I read it, which was, and I'll say it again for the listener. So much of the anxiety that I thought was baked into life was just baked into loneliness. At what point, you talk about, in the book, you talk about the fact that you can't really self-diagnose loneliness. Yeah. At at what point do you really, do you think you, that you recognized that you were lonely? Was it, is it now looking back, you know, you know, 20 some years later? Or is it, um, yes. Or is it at the moment, like, did you maybe feel it at the time? How did you begin to realize that you were actually feeling lonely? Yeah.

Justin Whitmel Earley (10:51):

I it's, it was years, decades later. Wow. Um, so, and I think that's really instructive because there's a lot of stats. So we can get into some of them coming out now on the problem of loneliness in the modern world in America and the West at large. Um, and most of us feel like, oh, that's somebody else's problem. Most of us don't really resonate with being lonely. It was as actually, as I read through this research and the way it makes you feel, the way that loneliness makes you feel about the rest of your life. That I started to think, oh, I never would've self-identified as lonely. But that's what I felt like, oh, that was like, when I thought everything was just hard. And when I started to realize this was a serious issue, was decades later when I see other people going through hard things in life.

This might be in parenting, it might be in work, it might be, you know, sickness, family members suffering. And I'm seeing the difference between the people who just crumple and the people who move on and become resilient and per, you know, persevere anyway. Right. Is so often whether you walk through that with somebody else, by your side, because the, all of us have hard things, but the difference between those of us who make it and those of us who don't is often are we doing it with somebody else? Yeah. And that's when I started to realize, oh, I remember that time in my life where I didn't have anyone else. And fortunately, I feel like ever since that moment of the lockers, something really did fundamentally change. I mean, I've, I've lived in China, I lived in dc, moved back to Richmond into college, you know, all these different phases of life, but every single one, I think intuitively since that time, I've thought I need to find that kind of soul friend here. I need to find that kind of awkward friend who's willing to say, you wanna be best friends. Um, and it does require some awkward intentionality, but that has just made the, the difference everywhere I go.

Joey Odom (12:40):

What's interesting about that too is I, I don't know, at that point, without having, with, with having experienced loneliness and without really having experienced friendship, not even knowing that you wanted that, not even knowing that that was possible. Right. Right. That, that, that's, that's such an interesting thought to, and I think about my kids. I mean, as I read this, as I, as most of us do, I, I just think about my son is going into ninth grade, my daughter's going into eighth grade and thinking about they can't even real, they don't really understand what it's like to actually have that friend yet. You know what I mean? Right. Or even know that that's possible or that that's a thing.

Justin Whitmel Earley (13:11):

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, this is one of my most frequent prayers, hopes and exhortation to my sons. And I've, I've got four boys. So, um, but I often will just say to them, you know, you guys stick together. Mm. When they go to the playground, I'm like, what's the one rule? Yeah. And they know the one rule stay together. Mm. And I'm just, I'm just so hopeful that, uh, you know, teaching them at a young age to forgive. Yeah. Stay together, stick with each other, translates somewhere later on. 'cause it's not easy. And everybody's going through that Yeah. Lonely stage sometime. Yeah. Um, which is, which is one of the important stats I think that that is shown in the research now, is that it's the norm in American life to be lonely. Yeah. So it's not something that either we should be ashamed of, or we should totally fear existential crisis for our children. Like, like mental illness or bouts with it. Most people will experience loneliness. Most people will have really hard phases of life. But setting an example of friendship as a parent, I think is one of the most powerful things you could do for your kids. And, and teaching them that friendship is where the good life is. So go find friends. Yeah. It's not to say it's easy, it's just to say this is one, one of the most important things we can hold out to them.

Joey Odom (14:26):

It's, it's such an important message too, because I think of how I ask myself, am I modeling good friendship for my kids? This book was so important, especially for people. You know, you become people in your thirties who used to have friends. Right, right. And, and that's the natural, you talk about this natural current towards loneliness. Am I, and am I, it puts the onus on us as parents. Like, are we, am I modeling good friendship? And, um, one of our mutual friends, Andrew East, um, he and his wife Sean, they do a monthly game night. And so Yes.

Justin Whitmel Earley (14:51):


Joey Odom (14:52):

They bring people all across with this recognition that this is when people start losing friends. They're kind of in the younger thirties. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So this is when people start using friends. So let's, let's preempt that. And so Heath Wilson and I co-founder Varo. So we're, we're kicking that off for ourselves. And just let's, let's start with a small group of just having a game night, and then what that's gonna do. We've talked about it today. And then let's involve our kids in, you know, every few times that there is one just for them to see, like, this is what healthy friendship looks like as adults. So that becomes such a normal thing in their life.

Justin Whitmel Earley (15:20):

Yes. I, I love that. And I love the idea of just intentionally putting on display for your kids. Yeah. Um, one of the things that I'll often do is when my, my one of my guy friends come over, let's say at like nine o'clock to like mm-hmm. Have a drink and talk or something. Um, I will try to get my two older kids to stay up a little bit. I like that. Just to hang around, like, you know, watch the fist bumps being exchanged, watch the, making fun of each other happening. Right. Um, and just like get 'em in a little conversation with their so-called uncles. Uh, and then they can go to bed and we can hang out and talk, because I just, I want them to see that their dad was somebody who cared about friendship. Yeah. And who, who brought people into the home. Because I want 'em to see that I'm not enough, you know, that I can't do anything. I do marriage, family, work, writing, none of it. Yeah. Like, I can't do it without friends. And I want 'em to see that I'm insufficient alone.

Joey Odom (16:12):

This book, you talk about how it is life or death, the this truly it is life and death. You talk about the, um, you talk about this, the, the suicides and all that. And I think the term for it is the deaths of despair. Deaths of despair. Which is, gosh, what a what a what a term in and of itself. And I, I had a little glimpse of this. This was a while back. I had, I got a very bad notice tax notice in the mail that was, I'm laughing now, which is good. But it was, it was, it was a big, big tax notice. And to the point where I luckily, I talk to my older brother, Jacob. We, we talk, um, virtually every day as I'm driving into work. And so you

Justin Whitmel Earley (16:51):

Talk to your older brother every day. Yeah.

Joey Odom (16:52):

Every, yeah. That's incredible. It's weird when we don't, it, it's, um, we talk every day and it's, um, that's incredible. It really is. I love that. It's just like, Hey, like I'll just text you if I haven't called by, you know, 7 15, 7 15. He's like, Hey man, are you gonna call? Like, you know, just kinda almost grumpy at me. Oh my, my gosh.

Justin Whitmel Earley (17:08):

I love that. I'm gonna come back to

Joey Odom (17:09):

That. Keep going. We, so we said, so I, this morning I said, Hey, I'm just, God, just let me explain what just happened. And I felt it took the power out of that. And I recognized what I recognized. The, the alternative path in that story is, this is the sort of thing, and I'm, I'm not trying to overdramatize, this is the sort of thing that people kill themselves over. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, this is the sort of thing. And so, but by giving it oxygen mm-hmm. It was, it all the power was gone. And so I think about like, in isolation, that's the kind of thing that happens. And you think about all those things, especially if you can get, get to them early. Early. Yes. And you just, before it get, becomes such a big monster.

Justin Whitmel Earley (17:43):


Joey Odom (17:44):

It was an amazing thing for me. And just that this, this act of staying out of isolation intentionally getting away from isolation. No, it was a little embarrassing. Yes. It was a little embarrassing. Yes. You know, it was obnoxious, but all the oxygen's gone here. I'm laughing with you about

Justin Whitmel Earley (17:57):

It, <laugh>. That's so good. Here's why I think the stats on loneliness are, are fascinating right now. And it's, you know, it's the kind of stuff that, you know, chronic loneliness reduces your life expectancy to the tune of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or something. I mean, it, it's real and it's empirical. But when you hear that stuff you normally think, like I said earlier, oh, that's somebody else out there. Yeah. That's somebody like locked away in an apartment that just doesn't see anyone. What's so fascinating is if you dive into some of this research or you read the Surgeon General's reports on it, it's not people who are physically isolated. It's people who are emotionally isolated. You can be around other people and lonely in a crowd Really, really easy. Yeah. So the kind of loneliness that is tearing our physical lives apart is the kind of loneliness where you might have people around you, but you're not known by them.

You're harboring a secret failure. You're harboring a burden alone. Um, it's, it's that idea of like, you're slowly becoming a person. And this really does start to happen really kind of post-college. Uh, that you slowly become a person who's busier and wealthier that used to have friends. Wow. And, and most of us, the current American life is pushing us there. Right. And, and what you just named and Oh, I had this, you know, embarrassing situation or this problem when you keep it to yourself, that burns inside. Mm. It literally starts to melt you from the inside out because you think I'm not worthy in some way. I messed up in some way. I, I don't measure up in some way. Other people can't know this. And those kinds of emotional actions are exactly what we do to keep ourselves lonely. And that's why we start to physically and emotionally come apart.

But just that act of saying, I need to be known for the full picture of who I am, suddenly takes the power out of that struggle. Exactly like you said. And it might be mental health, it might be an addiction, it might be something else, but the idea of trying to become a person without secrets is the most healthy thing you will ever do for your body and your soul. <laugh> wild. Like, just talk to call your brother and be like, so I got a tax bill <laugh>, you know, and suddenly you're safe again. It's amazing. Yeah. 'cause we were meant to be fully known and loved anyway. Yeah. And, and that's the space where we start to come to real emotional and physical health.

Joey Odom (20:16):

And not to be, to call on my brother too much. He offered me zero money, by the way. Yeah. <laugh>. So if he's listening, um, he may wanna just cover that tax bill if he really love me. But, um, the answer to that loneliness is covenant friendship is what you propose. And this book you say, is all about how to fight for friendship. So you, you illustrate the arts of covenant friendship. I, yeah. I'm interested in that term. I wanna dive into a couple of them, but I'm interested in that term, the arts of covenant friendship, because it's also the habits, it's also the routines. Right. It's also that sort of stuff. Will you, will you tell us just a conceptually about, and maybe even for listener, define when you say covenant friendship, what that means, and then how you concept it around the arts of covenant

Justin Whitmel Earley (20:53):

Friendship? Yeah. So I sort of, my friends and I have used this term covenant friendship for a long time. So I didn't invent it at all. Um, but I wanted to pick something that's just sort of lit up the mind or called attention to it, because friendship has become really devalued as a word. Yeah. It's a verb now, right. In the age of Facebook. It's something you can literally do with a click, you know? Um, and so friendship has actually suffered a serious loss of value as a word. I mean, Aristotle, you know, millennia ago would, would write that a life without friends is not a life worth living. So the ancients regarded friendship as something incredibly important. And really it's recent history, like the last century or so. For example, you have Abraham Lincoln writing his friend Joshua Speed. Um, this is before he became president.

Notes that we would think are romantic. Yeah. Just because of the way that it was typical for men to talk to other men. The Bronte sisters talk to you, talk to their friends like this. Just, if you just go back about a hundred years or so, you see, see people treating friendship with a sort of sacredness, like it was a holy place of life. And what I'm trying to do in the word covenant friendship is give it some of that dignity back and say, it's not something you can do with a click. It's something that you can work on over time. It's not something that's easy. So you can't, I love writing about habits. <laugh>. Yeah. Two of my previous books are about habits, but to be honest about friendship is you, you can't do it in your subconscious, which is the definition of a habit.

Something that can become rote. Friendship is far more of an art than in habit. But that idea of covenant friendship is the idea of knowing somebody fully. This is how I define covenant friendship, knowing somebody fully and sticking with them anyway. Hmm. And this is, you know, everybody sort of thinks for a minute and they think of their great friend in high school or college or now, and they think, yeah, that person knows what I look like. You know, at my worst when I'm calling about the tax bill or without my makeup on, or when I've like, you know, made bad decisions. And for some reason they're like, I'm here for it. You know, they're, they like you. They invite you in, they invite you closer. And so that idea of knowing people fully and sticking around over the long haul, anyway, anyway, vulnerability and time. I call that covenant friendship. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it, and it means promising, you know, it means full revelation. It means being honest, it means forgiving. Those are the first four chapters right there, <laugh>, you know, um, um, but, but I, I I want to dignify the word friendship and call people to a form of it that's, you know, not the modern disposable cut version of relationship. Yeah. Where you have one problem, you throw it out.

Joey Odom (23:30):


You mentioned vulnerability. And I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna skip from vulnerability to honesty. And I like the distinction you make there. Yeah. Vulnerability is important. I mean, it, it's, it's huge. It's critical. The, there's a line. It, just to touch on it real quick, and again, my, my brother and you talk about how you and Steve, that you have this, this vulnerability and this openness and this confession with each other. And even sometimes just the acknowledgement that there's something, so my brother Jacob was telling me about a, a line, I forget what it is, but it's in the end of a conversation. It's just, is there anything you're not telling me? Which is similar to what you asked. Oh,

Justin Whitmel Earley (24:05):


Joey Odom (24:05):

But in this case, the answer is only yes or no. And it's just almost Oh, wow. Which isn't that interesting. It's almost like the, like the, the beginner course towards like, true confession, but just acknowledging is there's something you're not telling me. Yes. End of conversation. You know what I mean? Just knowing that there's something out. Isn't that an interesting concept? That's

Justin Whitmel Earley (24:23):


Joey Odom (24:24):

I like yours and Steve's better because you have to actually go into it and say the thing. Well, we,

Justin Whitmel Earley (24:27):

We say, um, if, if there is, you can tell me next week too. Oh, I didn't know. Okay. Yeah. Sometimes. So it's like, I, I like, I like that. Yeah. I like that. It's this sort of acknowledgement that it's hard. Yeah. So not all at once. Right. Come back to me, you know? Yeah. Right. I like that. It's gracious. 'cause vulnerability is hard. It's really hard. Yeah. Like, not many people do what you did. And that is say, Hey, I got some Yeah. Embarrassing news. Yeah.

Joey Odom (24:50):

And, and then what, what's cool about it, and I love this line. You say, you say what felt like a terrifying moment of vulnerability to the person who's ex to exposing themselves looked like an incredible act of bravery to me. Yes. So someone else like, oh, I hate feeling vulnerable. But to the other person, that's a brave thing to do. In fact, it probably gives them courage. Right?

Justin Whitmel Earley (25:09):

Absolutely. And it, I know we're gonna, we're getting to honesty. Yeah. But, but I just, I think that's important to note because I, I talked to increasingly people about this who will say, you know, what's the difference between girls and guys and this, or are men worse at this? I'm not actually sure. Um, I think vulnerability is hard for everybody. Yeah. But I think wherever you're coming from, it should be regarded as an act of bravery. Yes. Because when I am honest with my friends about my weaknesses, they curiously see that as strong, because it's honesty. Yeah. And it's, you're, you're, you have the integrity or the courage to say, I am incomplete. Yeah. And when they do it to me, I, I see them as brave. And, uh, you know, that's really masculine <laugh> that's really feminine. Right. It's just really human. Yes. To show you the chinks in your armor. Yeah.

Joey Odom (25:57):

And vulnerability. It is a continuum. It that pain point, vulnerability, I think by nature has to hurt to some degree. Yes. Or require something of you. And so that could be on a, a much different continuum mm-hmm. For one person's person versus the other.

Justin Whitmel Earley (26:10):

That's right.

Joey Odom (26:14):

Quick question for women and moms out there. Do you feel the need to recapture some joy in your life? Maybe some joy you felt before? And by the way, we all go through those seasons so we all understand, but if that's you right now, I wanna encourage you to check out Annie Grassley's coaching. She does one-on-one coaching to help women and moms find and create more joy in their lives. Help them get life out of life by quieting the noise and what the world is telling them they're supposed to be. And reminding them who they've been created to be. If that sounds interesting to you, check out the show notes. Go check out Annie Grassley's Coaching, and if you just wanna learn more about Annie, who she is, she has a podcast that's dynamite. It's called the Unrefined Joy Podcast. Go check it out on all platforms, the Unrefined Joy podcast, and check out the show notes for info on both of those things. And now back to the show. So if vulnerability is, you say this, if vulnerability is speaking the truth about yourself, honesty is speaking the truth about or to someone else, right? Right. The honesty chapter to me, I've repeated lines from this probably 10 times since I've read it. Honesty was my favorite chapter. Really? It was, it was really, really interesting. And you said things in ways I'd never considered them. Huh? I'm just gonna be quiet. Will you just talk about the honesty chapter? It's, it's, it's my favorite.

Justin Whitmel Earley (27:32):

I I love that. You love that one. I actually remember writing and having self-consciousness about that chapter of just like, is this enough? I don't know. Um, so this is just a neat moment of encouragement. Um, some of the most important times in my life have been after I've been vulnerable. And usually there's space like somebody with a high eq. Hopefully your friends have reasonable EQs, but you can practice, you can get better at it. Right. Realize that. Like, okay, you just told me how you're messing up or something. I do have some thoughts. You know, it's kinda like the, the marriage problem's. Like, I have some thoughts on how to fix this. I'm not gonna mention them right now, <laugh>. But at some point a good friend will say, Hey, um, you should consider blank. And I think this is actually remarkably counter-cultural now, because I, when I read about how people think about friendship now, and I did a lot of reading about, you know, how do people conceive a friendship?

A lot of the, the popular slogans you'll hear are things about a friend is someone who accepts you the way you are, um, non-judgmentally and fully. And I see the, the truth in that. Yeah. I see the goodness that they, you want to be able to be seen and heard by friends. We just talked about that. Um, but my conception of a good friend, and this again actually goes back to Aristotle, is also somebody who sees the way forward with you, who loves the same virtues. Aristotle would've put it. And that's the idea that somebody who doesn't quite accept you as you are, they actually want you to move forward into the person you can be. Yeah. And I go out this chapter with the, uh, the twin arts, um, of rebuke and encouragement, or if the art is honesty, the habits to practice a rebuke and encouragement.

And this is, that might sound fancy, but it's a simple idea. Um, human beings have dignity, but they also have problems. So if you think of it, a life of, it's like a house, um, where houses that need renovation, we got some good bones, we're we got some solid history, but we're not where we need to be. Yeah. And so it's gonna require some idea of rebuke, of pushing back and saying, Hey, I love the way you do this. But it always comes across like this. Hmm. I could see a version of you that is so much more whole, you know, and that I like pairing them. 'cause I think the best rebukes come with some encouragement. Yeah. And I think the best encouragement comes with, comes with some, but watch out for this friend. You know, when people have said to me, you're really great at X, but watch out for this. I think, oh, that's so helpful. Um, so I, I think we're, I think being good at telling a friend what they need to work on and what they're great at is a sign of true honesty and a sign of honoring their whole humanness. Yeah.

Joey Odom (30:12):

When we, we spoke, um, a few months ago, and we were talking about your story and we were talking about Lauren. And one of the things that I just loved that you said, and I still even get choked up thinking about the way you said it. You said that when you were at your lowest, Lauren saw a future for you that you couldn't see yourself. Yeah.

Justin Whitmel Earley (30:27):

I've been thinking about that moment ever since we talked about that.

Joey Odom (30:31):

It was so, it was such a, a beautifully, and I don't even know how you come off of this stuff off, off the cuff. There's like the words, like the way you organize, arrange words. You're such a linguist. It's so beautiful. Even just off the cuff, how you said that to me, and that was Lauren saw a good future for you. Yes. You couldn't see it for yourself. The thing I, the thing that maybe struck me in most about this on the rebuke side is rebuke is your friend can also see a future for you. Mm-hmm. And it's a dangerous future Mm. If you don't do something. Yes. And sometimes we can't see that sometimes, sometimes just the insidious nature of whatever we're doing, getting a set of habits or patterns or Wow. But when a friend can see a different future for us Yeah. And loves you enough to say, of course. I don't want you to go over the, the yes. Edge of that waterfall. You know what I mean?

Justin Whitmel Earley (31:13):

Oh my gosh. That's so good. Yeah. I, I really, I think about, and we're referring to a previous conversation where I was in the depths of mental illness and struggling with some serious anxiety. And Lauren, my wife, I mean, she just, she saw an alternative future that I was just unable to, to see or believe could be possible. And I think back of that now as a sort of ultimate act of covenant friendship. Mm-hmm. I mean, when you're friends with someone and all of us are broken people, so we'll all have hard times and you see the possibility that they don't Yeah. It's such a beautiful thing to arm over their shoulder, hand in hand, walk towards that with them. 'cause they can't see it, but a friend can. Mm. And a friend through both were, you know, saying the hard things and saying the good things can call you to futures that you would not have had otherwise. Yeah. You know, you didn't, you couldn't see it. And also you wouldn't not have got there. That's right. But for the friend, which is why friendship is so amazing. It

Joey Odom (32:10):

Is so amazing. And, and the encouragement side on that other one is it's, it's, I think sometimes we do things that come naturally to us, and because they come naturally to us, we may not view them as unique. You know what I mean? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And so whenever someone can name that and someone can offer that encouragement, and again, it, it's calling someone's attention to a good reality that should be cultivated. Because I think very often we, we might stop doing that good thing unless someone were to say, Hey, this is good. Oh yeah.

Justin Whitmel Earley (32:38):

Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I think, I don't even think I know what I'm good at until friends come in Yeah. And say, Hey, this is a gift, which is incredible. 'cause I have all these kinds of mis evaluations of my own self. I think I'm good at X. And they're like, that was just okay. And I was like, oh, maybe I should work on that. Which is actually helpful to know. Right. You know, especially in the context of relationship where, you know, you're loved anyway, so they're not leaving.

Joey Odom (32:59):

Yeah, that's right. The, will you talk about the awkwardness of rebuke and encouragement because there's smm awkwardness, especially if it's two guys. Yeah. Yeah. You

Justin Whitmel Earley (33:08):

Know, Lauren, as I was working on this book, Lauren kept drilling the word a she's like, you need to remind people that it, it requires being awkward to be a good friend. That's partially why I think back so often to that moment at the lockers with Steve and I. Yeah. 'cause there was this, this sense of let's actually say what we mean. And yes, you're probably never gonna be at your most eloquent when you're trying to explain why your friend has a problem. You know, like an intervention is hard <laugh>. Yeah. Um, even just like helping a friend out and being like, Hey, you were kind of abrasive back there to this person and it's you, you're not gonna say it well, but, and um, yeah. Try looking a friend in the eye and telling them how much you appreciate them. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you're gonna start to feel all kinds of self-consciousness.

Right. Like, I remember recently I saw, um, this was about last year, this time I saw a friend from college I hadn't seen in almost 12 or 13 years, but he changed my life in college. He absolutely changed my life by, um, helping me through a hard phase and helping me make better decisions. And I remember just before leaving, I was put an arm on a shoulder and just was like, Hey Ken, you, you changed my life back then in college. And as soon as I start to say it, I'm like, well, it's a little awkward. Yeah. But all the things that are really worth saying are,

Joey Odom (34:20):


Justin Whitmel Earley (34:20):

So I just wanna give people permission, be awkward as some of the most beautiful moments that you'll have

Joey Odom (34:27):

Because you, do you say this, we, we create realities by speaking words. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I think of, I thought about me as a parent, and it's really easy to see that thing in your child and speak that word over them. You know, it's that, you know, the, the tongue carries life and death.

Justin Whitmel Earley (34:41):


Joey Odom (34:42):

Or you can create or you can find that thing, that little thing and speak that I still remember whenever I was, this is not a, this is not a parent, this is actually just a random, this is a random, um, camp counselor at a camp I went to. And then this had to have been 30 plus years ago. And I still remember he found me in the, the breakfast room. And he said, Hey, I've been watching. He's like, you're, you're a leader of men. And so, you know what, I then believed him that I was a leader. That's right. Whether I was or not, I have no idea. But then I started acting like a leader.

Justin Whitmel Earley (35:08):

He saw an alternative future. Isn't that amazing? And suddenly became one.

Joey Odom (35:11):

And I don't know, I have no idea who that guy is. He won't, won't remember who I am. But that sticks with me. And think about if we can do that and just, and not flippantly. Right. I mean, it has to be from a place of sincerity or

Justin Whitmel Earley (35:21):

Yeah, sure, sure. But I think it's a, it's a beautiful reality that we should hold onto. Yeah. Parenting, friendship, work setting, any, any, like relational setting the power of some intentional words, though they might be a little awkward. They change other people's lives. I mean, so much of our life goes unsaid. Yeah. There's so many things we thought, I wanna say this, but I'm just too embarrassed. The beauty of saying them. It's like you're sitting on the end, other end here now, and you have a different life because of what that guy said. It's a sentence. Yeah. A sentence. But it created a new reality. Yeah.

Joey Odom (35:58):

When you talk about the art of covenant, you talk about that making a promise. And I, I'll let you let you describe it, but I, I it's just the contract with yourself. Will you explain you the attorney and also the, the, the writer of, of of about friendship. Yeah. Talk to, talk to us about the covenant and what that means.

Justin Whitmel Earley (36:17):

It was, so a quote I learned in preparing for this was, um, I'm gonna paraphrase 'em. GK Chesterton wrote that making a promise is, uh, making a commitment with your future self. Uh, which is a great antidote to fomo by the way. It's a great antidote right now to thinking that by, by covenanting or by making a promise, I'm actually saying I'm not gonna leave my future self to chance. I'm gonna try to have some agency over the future, which is, I, I relationally I think incredible because most of us, right? I mean, we don't know what the future holds. Yeah. For most of our friendships, uh, we don't know <laugh> if we're still gonna be around liking each other or be in the same city or be working this job or that. And that's why I think covenanting of friendship or making, uh, promises in the future.

Yeah. Now, this is not, you know, till death to us part sort of marriage stuff. This is a different tier <laugh>, but it is, uh, I like to call it gestures of covenant. For example, I tell this story in the book, um, one of my friends, and we were new friends. Uh, I had been friends with this guy named Barrett for about a year max. But we had really been like getting close and realizing we had a lot of things in common. And he had asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding. And then at the wedding ceremony right before the ceremony, he gives all of his groomsman a bottle of scotch, which was cool. I like scotch, but as I'm opening it, it had a black Sharpie marker, the, the numbers 2 0 3 7 written on top. And I was, and I saw everybody had a different number.

And I was like, what is the, some sort of code? And he is like, no, that's just the year that we'll drink this together. <laugh>, it was 2037. Wow. And this was, I think 20, you know, 17, 18 when he got married. It was, you know, decades in the future <laugh>. And I remember being simultaneously honored and taken aback that this guy assumes we'll still be hanging out, having great conversations on porches with scotch 20 years from now <laugh>. And also a little like, well, I was not asked, you know, like this was like interesting a kind of claim over my life. Um, that was good. But it was also sort of like, oh, that's a promise with my future self. Like, I gotta make sure we keep up relationships. Yeah. Right. And that's, I think the, the beauty of covenant or promising in friendship.

Yeah. It, it's not, you know, marriage till death do us part, but it's signals that, Hey, I expect a future with you and I want a future with you. And some of the light ways I've seen this, you know, in our life, like just saying to another couple, Lauren, and I've said to a couple before, Hey, it really is helping us when we hang out together. Could we do like a, a wine night every month or so? And the other person on the other side of the table hears that and suddenly they're like, oh my gosh, I'm wanted.

Joey Odom (39:06):


Justin Whitmel Earley (39:07):

And there's the, there's little ways. I mean, you know, bottle of scotch tickets to a concert year from now. Just small gestures that say, let's make a promise with our future selves. Let's just try to keep doing this. That pulls us outta this realm of life, of well, who knows what the future holds and say we're, at least we're gonna try to say that the future holds friendship for us. And that's a really cool thing.

Joey Odom (39:30):

It is a cool thing. And it does, it reframes, it reframes things for you. I, I had an experience this two weeks ago with one of my best friends, Mikela, um, one of my best friends. We were clo we're close. We have a weekly scheduled call time. Like this is one of my very good friends. And he called me one night, I was at dinner with some people and I see Mike calling. I get, get a little bit nervous, admittedly. Mm. And so I step out and he and his wife are on the phone and they said, Hey, we want to ask you if you would be Theo, that their new infant, if you had gets me a little choked up, if you'd be Theo's godfather. Oh, Mike Mike's Catholic, his family's Catholic. This is a, a big deal. And there was something about him saying that I should probably tell him this directly as opposed to making him listen to it on a podcast. Yeah. <laugh>, I should make it awkward. It maybe feels less awkward now, but just saying, but

Justin Whitmel Earley (40:19):

I gotta hear it now. You guys

Joey Odom (40:20):

Say it, but just saying, just realizing yes is one of my best friends, but now we're bound. Now we're tied. Now we're tied. That's right. Because, and if you look, I mean, like the, the godfather's responsible for the child's salvation, right? Yes. That's no small, that's no small task. But this is, but this changed things. And we are tied, and I am tied to him. And I am in the truck if he ever calls, if Theo needs everything. And so that's literally for the rest of my life, I'm an outlive Theo. And so for the rest of my life, I'm tied to him to, to them. And it was a really powerful, significant moment in my life, um, because of that. Yes. I know you can't call everybody, you know, all your friends or your kids' godfather. But it was something that really did escalate an already tight relationship. I

Justin Whitmel Earley (40:58):

I love that. That's, that's making me think. One way to paraphrase this would just be to try to make family out, friends and friends out of family. Because I think Wow. The people we're stuck with in family <laugh>, our deepest longing is to actually actually try to love them and get along. Mm. And but, but you know, you're bound to each other 'cause you're family. Right. And I think the people we love and get along with our deep desire is to say, can we just keep doing this? Can we be bound together in some way? Yeah. And the, the honor of, you know, making somebody of Godfather or just start my kids call some of my friends uncles. Yeah. It's just these small signals of saying we, you know, we're friends, but yeah. We're also kind of family too.

Joey Odom (41:39):

Yeah, that's right.

Time was, time was another one. And all of this other stuff is good, you know, all in a way. Like all this other stuff is good. The honesty, vulnerability, it's good. But time, time really is, if you wanna see what someone values, look at their calendar. Right. Yeah. So, so, uh, the, the line you say about time is the schedule can be the difference between the life and death of a relationship. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, will you talk a little bit more about that? Especially as someone who's in their thirties. I'm not gonna call you 40 yet, but I'm not

Justin Whitmel Earley (42:07):

Terrible far off.

Joey Odom (42:09):

You're getting there.

Justin Whitmel Earley (42:10):

I so I was actually just thinking about scheduling because you've said a couple things now where it's clear that you've, you've got this art going in your, in your life, you calling your brother Yeah. Almost every day. Right. You and Mike are have a touch point. Yeah. I mean the, the game night,

Joey Odom (42:29):

The, the coincidentally most of this is since I read Made for People, and I'm not kidding about that. <laugh>, my brother and I did talk before, but a lot of this is just instant. Like I see the immediate thing that, I mean even, you know, I mean the calling it a covenant friendship we were in, started to, um, be over talking, but we were in, um, Heath Wilson, who, he and his wife Misty. Um, we were outta town for the weekend, my wife Kristen, and me with them. And we looked at each other at dinner after reading this, and we just said, Hey, we are in covenant together. Let, let's be in covenant together. Gosh. And we didn't have any, any relics or anything, but just the saying of that is the

Justin Whitmel Earley (43:02):

Words that changed futures,

Joey Odom (43:03):

It changed it, it does. And we're tied. The, the families are tied to each other. It's that loyalty. It, it's, so yes, I am implementing a lot of these, these things.

Justin Whitmel Earley (43:10):

This is, this is, this is my great hope. Mm. Like my great, great hope is just to give that gift of friendship back to people and say, for all of human history, this has been the at the center of the Good Life. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But you have to name it to do it. Yes. And like my, you, I'm just honored, happy, and excited in this moment. 'cause my great hope is know this is coming out a week from this conversation is just to give people language to remember, oh my gosh, I've always felt this.

Joey Odom (43:42):


Justin Whitmel Earley (43:42):

I've always wanted this. I, in fact, I have some of this. It just needs to be named. And if that happens, like schedules are the kind of the first thing to follow. Once you understand that something's important, like you have this realization often midlife like, oh my gosh, if I don't start exercising <laugh> it, things are gonna go really bad for me, <laugh>. And you start to be like, okay, I'm gonna make a schedule for that. Yeah. Um, you start to realize, oh, I'm getting poor. I need to have a budget check-in with somebody. Or you're, you know, you're working at your company. It's like, okay, this is a really important value. We need a touch point. Every week, the things that we start to understand are urgent for physical and spiritual thriving. We set up as rhythms. Right. And one of the greatest things we can do for this huge topic of friendship is to say, what is the small rhythm?

And this is where it can be a habit. And I think this is really important. Yeah. Um, friendship has a wildly outsized impact on your life compared to the time you put in it, which is, so think about anything else that's essential for physical survival, like friendship is or anything else that's essential for spiritual and mental thriving. I mean, you're eating multiple times a day. You're sleeping hours a day, you're working all the time. If you're trying to get mentally healthy, you're meditating regularly. Maybe you're working out regularly. But one hour of friendship a week, and I do this with my two best friends, Matt and Steve. We're actually every other week we get together on my front porch, hopefully my, my kids get to see them coming over and we just sit down and start telling our secrets. We also laugh and joke and drink beer and, and talk, but we, but it, we're becoming known.

We're becoming people without secrets. We're becoming people who are honest. That hour or two every other week is so small compared to all the other things that I do in that week time-wise. And yet my life is completely different for that hour. Hmm. And my, I say that because I wanna encourage people that nobody's listening to this. And it's like, oh my gosh, I never knew I wanted friendship <laugh>. Like, everybody knows they want friendship. It's common sense. It's just not common practice. Everybody's out there thinking, I don't, I want this so bad, but my life is not structured for it. I don't have time for it. And I'm saying, no, it's not. You're right. Because the, the American current is to push you to be a busier person who used to have friends. But the encouraging thing is, you a little bit of fighting back one hour a week, one game night, one couple's night starts to completely change your life. It is actually within reach, but it does take a schedule.

Joey Odom (46:17):

Yeah. There, there's this, um, there's this thing in it that I, I I will, I agree with you. No one's gonna be like, oh, I didn't know I need friendship. But then I think there's a difference between that. But then, and this is the feeling I got as I was reading the book, it just, it just sparked something. It just like, I, it's almost like I felt a little like shadow or glimpse of what, of what that feels like. And it did open up and you was talking about the soul deep need. Yeah. Which I love that term, the soul deep need. And I just felt this soul deep need for it as you're reading it and just think. Okay. And so that was, you answered one of my questions, the practical side, like, where the heck do I start? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, would you say that is, is it with the time, is it with the schedule? I,

Justin Whitmel Earley (46:56):

I think so. I, I would, I would say two things. If you have somebody in your life who you know, oh, this is that kind of person to me, I think starting with the words Yeah. Of saying, Hey, you know, listen to this podcast. I just, and, and I just, I, I think that you and I might have a shot at this or, you know, have your Wess Anderson moment at the locker. We just say what you mean. I think for people who have someone in mind, you know that that is what it is. There are people out there who are like, I don't even know who, yeah, I would do this. 'cause maybe you just to a new town, maybe you just lost a friendship and you're mourning the loss of that. 'cause that's, that's real. You know? But I would encourage those people, you, unlike marriage, you can use a, lose a lot of friends and still be relatively healthy.

I mean, it's not totally unnatural to move in and out of relationships, but if you're in that stage where you are like, I don't know who I would do that. I would say, look, look for a geographic location. Maybe the gym or your, your church community or your, the AA group you're going to, or whatever. Like the thing is, like somewhere where you're gonna be tied to people and just start leaning into it. Yeah. Leaning into that schedule. Because it's, life is a lot more like a high school dance than not. Everybody is sitting around waiting to be asked. And when you start to lean in that community and then you start, you know, maybe after the run or after the workout, you're like, Hey, you wanna get a coffee? Um, a lot of things can, you'll start to find, oh, this is the person. You know? So if you have the person lean into conversation. If you don't have the person lean into some geographic circle. 'cause you need bodies, right? Yeah. I mean you, it might go without saying, but you're not, you're not gonna find this online. Yeah. It's just not the format for it. Right. Um, so, so lean into a geographic place. Hmm.

Joey Odom (48:37):

And I, I think that the power of, of naming things, it, it really is, it really is very powerful. I think. So Heath mentioned Heath a couple times, then Clay Dai, who works with us, the three of us, we do it three times a week, workout in the mornings. And even right now it's a workout. But even as I'm, we're sitting here talking, I'm thinking, what if we just called that like, like what? Like name it a friend. I'm, you know, something really cheesy and awkward. Yeah, yeah, yeah. <laugh> and I'm the, but I'm the emotive one of the three of them. So they probably just stare at me. But, but calling it a thing, an active friendship. 'cause what we are doing is we're caring for each other in, in the fact that we wanna keep up Yeah. Physically, so that we can live longer, we can be there for each other, we can be with our families. That is an act of friendship. It is in and of itself. And so just even calling it that, so it makes me wonder about people who, you know, bump into somebody at the water cooler at, at the office and just, you know, naming that a thing or something. Just how that can begin to take a life of

Justin Whitmel Earley (49:28):

Its own. It can. And I actually think low hanging fruit for this, 'cause it's probably in most people's lives, is you probably have a text thread with somebody or some little group where you, you generally talk about working out or something. Yeah. Or you generally, maybe it was a, a group that just went to dinner together, but you have like three couples on a chain. Sometimes we'll name, and I see my friends doing this all the time. They'll name like, uh, you know, the whatever restaurant we just went to, supper society, <laugh>. And then somebody's like, yeah, we should do this again. And it's just that little power of a name that saying, Hey, we're, you know, let's keep talking about this. Or I have a text chain with a couple friends. Um, and not all of us are extremely close. Some of us are, and we just text the workouts we did every day because we, we, like you are thinking this is not just about, you know, getting prs, this is about Yeah.

Being strong enough to stay healthy and fit enough to be the dads we need to be. And when just those like little encouragement and then we named it the name, the text chain. Yeah. And it's now it's just this place of like, we're leaning into that habit and that ritual and that community and, and yes. If there's a theme emerging Yeah. The power of naming so good has outsized impact. You know, you give it words and suddenly it's something call someone a friend and suddenly they're like, oh, hmm. Hey, move into a new level relationship.

Joey Odom (50:39):

What do you do with a friendship where it is a parent that it's not gonna move to that next level? It is, it is very surfacey. Yeah. It's all about just talking, you know, RAs baseball or something like that, which is, which is fine. But what do you do with those friendships?

Justin Whitmel Earley (50:53):

Uh, this is a really hard one.

Joey Odom (50:55):

Yeah. <laugh>

Justin Whitmel Earley (50:57):

Because it's, and for me and, and others, there's, there's gonna be a lot of confusion and pain here. But, so for that reason, it's actually probably really important because some of the stuff we just talked about could probably sound neatly packaged. Like, here's an art, here's the thing, isn't this great? But anybody who's related to people has been hurt by them. And probably any relationship, anybody who's thinking about as they hear this conversation has bad parts and good parts. And herein lies a lot of the shadow side of friendship. Our friends will hurt us. Yeah. They will disappoint us. Um, they'll sometimes leave us, sometimes we'll leave them. And by the way, you can't be friends with everybody. I mean, it goes with, maybe it goes without saying, but to say that you and I are friends is partly to say that we're different than everybody else.

I'm not friends with everybody else. Right. Yeah. And so a lot to be said here, but just first on the simple side, there's gonna be plenty of people who you're like, I don't think this is working. And I would just say, uh, that's normal. Not everybody is meant to be friends. In fact, you can't. Yeah. And, uh, you have, there's a lot of trial and error. So if you're thinking out there, you know a lot more about your errors and your trials, just say, that's normal. <laugh>. Keep trying. Yeah. It's, it is normal. It doesn't mean you have to live there, but keep trying. And then for, you know, people who are hearing this and thinking, yeah, but I was like betrayed deeply by a friend, or I was hurt so bad by this friend. I would also say, um, unfortunately normal there, writing the chapter on forgiveness in this book was my hardest and then favorite chapter.

Wow. Because it made me sort of wrestle with friends that I've, friendships that I've lost, friendships that got really hard friendships that ended messy. And thinking about, you know, if, if Covenanting is dealing with the future of friendship, forgiveness is dealing with all the, the past of it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and, you know, you, you only got two ingredients to friendship. Broken person and a broken person. Wow. So if you, if you don't practice forgiveness, you're not gonna be able to practice friendship. Um, so that's, that's baked in. Wow. And this, there's a whole messy conversation here. <laugh>. It hurts.

Joey Odom (53:13):

Yeah. I wanna close with a question that you're not prepped for. And maybe, maybe it's not that profound of a question, but I just, I think most people probably listening, most people in, in, you know, in, in our peer groups, their parents who think about, they hear messages like this and run it through the lens of their children. So, Hmm. When you, if you were to give, follow em here, a piece of advice to them to tell to their kids, and I'll just use maybe my kids an example. Harrison is a ninth grader, Gianna's an eighth

Justin Whitmel Earley (53:47):


Joey Odom (53:48):

Oh yeah. Grade. What, when it comes to friendship, when they have a limited scope, or maybe they haven't experienced a great friend or wherever they are, knowing these are difficult times. What, what would, what advice would you give to those, those kids, or to those parents to give to their kids when it comes to friendship at a young age?

Justin Whitmel Earley (54:05):

That's a really good one. I love words as we've talked about that. But I don't know that saying anything would be the most important thing to do. I, I think, and this happens when you, I talk to parents about technology too. They're like, ah, you know, it's for my kids. I'm like, oh, hold on, hold on. <laugh>, you need to work on this. Wow. Um, you need to be demonstrating friendship. Um, if, I think the first thing for any parent who cares about the life of their kids is they need to live it out. 'cause they're being watched. Right. Your kids are slowly becoming you. And the good news is you can start wherever you are. Yeah. Um, some, a lot of the relationships I write about in this book, you know, some are lifelong friends, some are like that, that, you know, groomsman story.

I knew the guy for a year and suddenly, so starting wherever you are and saying, I'm gonna start working on friendship because then my kids can see. And then I, I think one, if you're doing that, then yes. Starting to just, you know, drop those verbal. And this is, this is more about habit than the magic sentence. I mean, I have no magic sentence for these right people, but, but the recurring message of sort of signaling to your children, you will not be able to do anything you want to do alone. Mm-hmm. You're always gonna need somebody else. And, and it's not gonna be me <laugh>. Yeah. Like, it's not always gonna be me. You need other people out there walking alongside you in high school or college and trying to, you know, make space for them to do that. Trying to put them in opportunities to find that.

Um, I sent my 11 year old and seven year old away to a camp, you know, uh, week long camp just a couple weeks ago. And there's some anxiety as a parent, like, they're young. Are they gonna get mad? Are they gonna be bullied? Are they gonna be lonely? What are they gonna do? What I told 'em, what's the one rule you guys stay together? And then I thought, this is great exercise, because maybe they will be bullied and maybe they will have to have that awkward wander about that I had at the youth retreat where I met Steve. Maybe they will have to have that experience of like, oh my gosh, the world is lonely. Mm. But, but those are the kinds of experiences that allow you to experiment, friendship. And I started to comfort in myself thinking, okay, I've made a good decision. Yeah. Life is not gonna be easy. But I pushed them into a place where they've gotta work at friendship. And one of the first questions I asked when they came back was, who'd you meet? And they just started listing names. So-and-so was like, this, so-and-so was funny. So-and-so <laugh>. And I thought, oh, this is so cool. Mm. They got a week of practice at it. And that's probably one of the most important things I'll ever practice.

Joey Odom (56:50):

You took me by surprise by that answer. That was really good. And it is. It's, it's a reminder to me. It's easy in many ways to Yeah. Model to your kids that, that you stay physically fit, show them how you eat. Right. Exercise, even, you know, model, good phone, phone usage. I don't know that I'd ever considered just being a good model of friendship. Yeah. Admittedly, this, this is a, this is a big growth area for me. I'm excited about it because then you can show them and then here's what a real friend looks like. And then here's what, whenever I need something, Heath comes over, clay comes over, they hang out, or whatever that may be. So that's, that's really good. I think that's something we should all do. Um, the first thing I'll say is you need to buy made for people. Not you. You wrote it. Everybody else does. Um, and, uh, it, it is, and I don't say Lily, it's, it's, it's one of the best books I've read in years. It's one of the most practical books. And it does, it strikes this chord inside for something more. And, um, and what's comforting is that, that something more is achievable. It is out there, it is possible. So thank you for this work. Thank you for your words. Thank you for your time. Thank you for your friendship.

Justin Whitmel Earley (57:55):

Thank you, man. I, I can see in you the same thing that made me wanna write this. And I love that. Just this conversation is getting it out there. So yeah. To the future. Alright brother.

Joey Odom (58:08):

Thank you man.

Justin kind of turned my question at the end around on me. I wanted some things that I could tell my kids, that I could advise my kids on how to be good friends and make good friends. And he said basically, yeah, advice is fine, but you gotta model it. So I'm challenged, I'm challenged on how do I model this? So I'm gonna be more deliberate with my friendships. I am gonna take these arts and work to apply them not having to do all of them at once. And I'm gonna start doing that because it is so important. I'm very, very excited about it. I hope you love this interview. We're gonna give away a personalized autograph copy of Made For People. Go check out our Instagram at goro now we're gonna give away a copy of Justin's book. Please encourage your friends to buy it.

Buy some copies for your friends. Make this the physical representation of your friendship. Write them a note along with it to let them know that you care about them. That you wanna be the friends that you wanna go to, a deeper level of relationship in your friendship. So thank you for being here. Thank you for listening. If you're enjoying the RO podcast, please do us a favor. Go give us a five star rating. Go leave us a review on Spotify or Apple Podcast one. We'd really, really appreciate that. And, uh, we're grateful for you. Thank you so much for listening, and we will see you again next week. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod Co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support. And to our executive producer Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.