The screaming could be heard well into the night. Men fell on darkened soil, clutching their last gasp of air before meeting death. Cannons blasted, sending bombs ricocheting off stone laid walls. The struggle was great. The defending fighters toiled through the long hours of the night but were quickly becoming exhausted and running low on ammunition. A young soldier is chosen to run a message for help. Under the cover of darkness, with the moon’s glow casting shadows on the open field, our hero darts for the tree line. He is chased by enemy fire and footmen. Narrowly, he escapes under the cover of foliage, toting a message that reads, “We need you. We cannot do this alone. Please send reinforcements” (a scene from The Last of the Mohicans).
There is a central message, screaming from the innards of men. This silent subterranean churning imprisons men to the clutches of fear, regret and longing. If you lean in toward the hearts of men, you can hear it’s grumbling from deep within … I need help!
One merely has to look around the masculine infrastructure of America and see that the men within its walls are under attack—hyper-masculinity (i.e. the macho-men-only-play-sports-watch-football-snap-into-a Slim-Jim-beat-your-chest-belch-and-eat-farty-foods thinking), homophobia and a variety of other fears are keeping men closed off from the line of help, from deeper connection with their brothers. Men are searching for significance and purpose, but they’re not finding it in the usual places. The women are saying, “Grow-up,” culture is screaming, “Stay a little boy,” and the ego is whispering, “Feed me.” What is a man to do? Sadly, some men’s groups have settled for shallow meetings that convey very little opportunity for them to genuinely connect on a deep level. And yes, contrary to popular opinion, discussing how well a favorite sports team will do this year is far from deep. As men, we need something more.
[PAST THE WATER COOLER TALK] Most of the men you meet in our society have nice, safe walls that they have put up to keep out any kind of intimate conversation or appropriate affection among their own gender group. Sure, there are some things guys will talk about: sports, work, cars … but once the question, “When was the last time you were intimate with your wife?” or “How are you doing with following through on your word?” are asked, the walls immediately go up! A sign that reads, “NO ENTRANCE!” might as well be tagged on their heart and forehead. Men must begin to move past the surface “water cooler talk” if they’re going to make any forward movement in their journeys to become the men of God that they were originally designed to be.
Part of the difficulty with the “water cooler” approach is that it camps at the behavior level—a doing level, if you will. But in order for men to get past merely managing problems and into genuine and honest brotherhood, they’ve got to get to a being level. Author and psychologist, David Benner, said it best, “Being must precede doing.” Men are great at doing. We can do the dishes, mow the lawn, go to work … this is all doing. What we oftentimes struggle with is being. But when it comes to being there to listen to our wives without trying to solve the issue right away or being honest about the real issues underneath our behaviors, we tense up; we drop the ball. Why? It’s primarily because most men can’t handle “not solving the issue.” We like having a firm grip on the problem—not the other way around.
Most men have the innate urge to “manage” and “control” or else they fall for the lie that they’re somehow not being a man. If they don’t have life and the havoc that life presents all neatly packaged and presented perfectly, then men somehow feel like they’ve failed. But this mentality is wrong! Men need a place where they can struggle with the answers and it be okay. They need a venue to release and talk without fear of rejection and ridicule. They need a freedom to just be them and feel validated in their masculinity.
[REAL FREEDOM … WITHIN MASCULINE FRIENDSHIP] This freedom in manhood can be yours. But it isn’t going to happen unless you have a band of brothers that are willing to walk your journey with you and visa-versa. Believe me, I’ve tried. It just doesn’t jive with the masculine heart. Every man needs a team of men to encourage him to be that man who will conquer his fears and embrace the God-instilled desires of his heart. Frankly, men need more than brief, in-an-out-get-togethers. Instead, we need deep inner connection and relationship. But we’ve got to go into the uncharted waters to get it. We’ve got to risk coming clean and admitting our deep places of woundedness and struggle. We must first do this with men—that’s right, with men! In order to survive the onslaught inner-death, men must hurdle the lie that hyper-masculinity is manhood or that homophobia is a normal “guy thing.” In order to respond to this message deep within us, men must be willing to take the dive into deep affirming and affection friendship with another guy. It is the men who must adequately affirm other men in their manhood. For it is as author, John Eldredge, says, “Masculinity must bestow masculinity.”
Men have got to be ready to walk this trek out with each other—not just for our own sake but for the sake of God’s universal kingdom, each other and those close to our inner circle of influence. The message etched on every male heart is speaking loud and clear: Please help! Now who will return the call?
[Jared Feria is the author of Over the Edge: Journeying to Recapture the Heart and Soul of a Man and director of In His Fullness, an organization helping men answer that call. He can be reached at www.inhisfullness.com.]
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