Football ShadowThe movie Friday Night Lights tells a compelling story of trials, triumph, and tribulation.

Odessa, Texas is a flagging oil town that values victory above all else, and that pressure is placed squarely on the backs of the young men who comprise the high school football team. Unsurprisingly, they shoulder their own questions along with the hope and heartache of the entire community.

The most powerful part of the movie is a speech by Billy Bob Thornton’s character, Coach Gary Gaines, who attempts to put life in perspective to prevent his team’s self-destruction: It’s halftime in a battle against a skilled and brutal rival. His players face defeat, the end of the season and, for some of them, the end of an era that will have been the best in their lives.

“Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there…  Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth.”

– Billy Bob Thornton as Coach Gary Gaines

This insight flew right by me the first time I saw the movie, but it’s powerful and it’s true.

More importantly, if we’re going to build the kind of committed, reciprocal, reliable, life-shaping, armor bearing friendships we all want and need, we have to embrace it.

Our constant battle.

We all fight a constant battle against notions of perfection.

In our public lives, we’re preoccupied with the scoreboard – having the perfect title, house, car, clothes, and accessories, taking the perfect vacations, etcetera.

In our private lives, we’re preoccupied with performance – doing the right thing, having the right attitude, and never struggling with sin.

We are often haunted by the disparity between our notion of perfection and reality, but we generally feel the need to maintain a façade of perfection nonetheless.

  • We want people to be impressed by our title and accomplishments.
  • We want people to think we “do well” based on our outward appearance and possessions.
  • We don’t want people to think that we’re fragile or immature.
  • We don’t want people to think we “have issues” or struggles.
  • We agree with the generalized notion that everyone is broken but avoid being vulnerable with our brokenness.

But there are several problems with the need to maintain the façade – one of which is its interference with the ability to develop armor bearing friendships.

Our perceived need to be perfect prevents us from being transparent and vulnerable. Paradoxically, both of these things are required in order to forge the foundation of trust that armor bearing friendship is built on.

Without imperfection, unconditional love has no meaning.

Our apparent need for perfection prevents us from forming the armor bearing friendships we want and need – but that’s not all: Without imperfection, unconditional love has no meaning.

As Steve discussed last week, love is a hallmark of armor bearing. Yes, the term ‘armor bearing’ connotes fighting – and it’s probably an accurate metaphor as life is in many ways a fight for faith, purpose, family, and friends – but armor bearing is also much more. Fighting is only situational. Armor bearing is comprehensive and focused on companionship in both conflict and concord. Intimacy is a necessary part of true companionship, and that’s why vulnerability is so important – and why faux perfection precludes armor bearing. 

Let’s put the concept back into an Old Testament context to gain further perspective: We started our discussion with the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer so take a moment to think a little more deeply.

  • Armor bearers heard the king’s secrets;
  • Armor bearers saw the king’s weaknesses;
  • Armor bearers felt the king’s hopes…
  • Armor bearers knew the king’s heart.

Armor bearers had the king at his most vulnerable. There was no façade of perfection standing between them. And yet, they were charged with protecting his very life.

What qualities that must have characterized these select individuals?

Armor bearers had to be noble. Absolutely trustworthy. Rock solid!

This is still true today.

Armor bearing requires vulnerability on behalf of both friends. This inspires “extreme confidence.” It’s in that safety where facades fall, friendship flourishes, and we find something incredible: Love and acceptance in the face of imperfection.

It’s God’s grace reflected from one person to another and with it comes hope for the future, both temporal and eternal. Our armor bearers help us see that our failures don’t define us and our mistakes can be overcome. They encourage us to search for our talents, develop our skills, stand at the plate, and swing for the fence!

This is the true power of armor bearing friendship, and it equips us to make the most of this life and prepare for what’s to come.


Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on ‘armor bearing friendship‘ – the subject of an upcoming book by Jer Monson and Steve Gerali. Your thoughts will help us shape the book, so be a part of the conversation in the comments below.  You can also subscribe to stay connected to new posts on armor bearing. When you do, you can download a FREE copy of Jer’s ebook, 12 Ways to Maximize Your Next Twelve!


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