A few months ago, standup comedian John Mulaney had a brilliant opening monologue on Saturday Night Live in which he dove headfirst into the modern plights of fatherhood. Mulaney’s technique, unlike Emily Dickinson, is to tell the truth so bluntly that you really just have to laugh at the fact that someone had the gall to be so direct. “My dad has no friends,” he says. “And your dad has no friends. And if you think your dad has friends, you’re wrong. Your mom has friends, and they have husbands. Those are not your dad’s friends.” Ha! File that one under “Laugh or Cry.” Mulaney, who has opted out of fatherhood (for now), doesn’t need children of his own to clearly have his finger on the pulse of the dad socialsphere. Based on the audience’s reaction he is onto something.

Why do dads not have friends? “Because dads want to be alone,” Mulaney says. Watch the full monologue below to hear his other theories, but Mulaney’s driving point is that, in an age when career often becomes a man’s first love, it is hard to make friends when you are an adult male. As someone who is also an adult male I have to agree with him.

One theory as to why fathers seek seclusion is that they are desperate for any amount of respite from external pressures. Everyone is under pressure today and the modern father is no exception. He is under pressure to be a loving example for his young children despite having deep issues with anger. He is under financial pressure as the rising cost of living continues to outpace inflation. And he is under pressure to not become like his own father—although that is clearly happening already (just ask his wife!). On top of that, he is under cross-pressures to be both strong and vulnerable, confident and humble, funny and serious, a successful “provider” and always available at home. So good luck getting him to be honest with you about the pressures he is under. Nietzsche once said, “Shared joys make a friend, not shared sufferings,” and if that’s true, then a friend will be hard to find when you need someone to take the pressure off.

There’s a scene in the great Thornton Wilder play Our Town where the character Doctor Gibbs tells his wife, “I tell you, there’s nothing so terrifying in the world as a son. The relation of a father to a son is the damnedest, awkwardest—. I always come away feeling like a soggy sponge of hypocrisy!” Doctor Gibb’s experience is that of most fathers I know. If our purpose is to be a good example then we are destined for failure. Faced with such an impossible task, who wouldn’t want some alone time?

After his synopsis of the secluded male, John Mulaney talks about the one success story of a grown man having friends: “I think that’s the real miracle of Jesus. He was a 33-year-old man and he had 12 best friends. And they were not his wife’s friends’ husbands. And he didn’t meet them a long time ago in school. He met them in his 30s! Remember when your dad went fishing once? These guys went fishing every day!” Leave it to a lapsed Catholic comic to remind us what is so special about Jesus.

Jesus recognized the pressures of the world and provided such relief that 12 men decided to ditch their crummy jobs just to hang around him a bit more and hear what he had to say. And what does Jesus say? “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). Rather than giving fathers seven tips to be less angry or laying out a plan to open a college savings fund, Jesus describes his own Father as someone entirely unlike other fathers. It’s sort of a “my dad’s better than your dad” trip except that he’s not expecting earthly fathers to be at all more like his Heavenly Father. It may sound crazy, but Jesus recognizes that there is something different between people and God.

In Jesus, there is good news for the father who finds himself under the pressures of this world. God is not a model to imitate, but is that which Man could never be. While he who is evil may lose his temper at the drop of a hat, God is slow to anger (Psalm 145:8). While he who is evil may fail to provide for his family, God’s very name is Jehovah Jireh (“The Lord will provide”). While he who is evil is becoming more like his father than he’d care to admit, God is making all things new.

The words of playwright George Bernard Shaw give every dad full permission to let his guard down and accept his status as an earthly father: “The best brought-up children are those who have seen their parents as they are,” he says. “Hypocrisy is not the parents’ first duty.” To be a decent father, according to Shaw, is to be an honest father, which requires being honest with himself as well as those who he imperfectly cares for. It is in this moment when our Heavenly Father shows himself to be our great Provider, too. God himself serves as the paternal ideal which not only takes the pressure off earthly fathers, but enables them to be transparent with their children and, yes, even other dads. It just may be that shared sufferings will bring them closer together.

There’s an old Yiddish proverb that says, “When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.” It’s a saying that gratefully applies to my own life and I can only hope the same goes for you. Whenever my own dad has given me a gift, it has been to my joy and to his delight. We both take pleasure in the age-old dynamic of father caring for son. To the contrary, when my two-year-old gave me a Fathers Day drawing with the caption “Best Dad Ever,” I nearly teared up. My son was too young to realize how sentimental the moment was, but it was true to the Yiddish proverb. The reversal of roles simply took me by surprise, and I was nearly undone. Unlike any earthly father or son could ever do, the Son of Man once gave his own life to his Father and he did it on behalf of the whole world. It is a gift that is enough to bring secluded fathers out of hiding. A gift worthy of both our tears and laughter.

Featured cartoon from The New Yorker.