Shame: A Toxic World of Self-Deception

Jonathan Daugherty

Shame is the underlying belief that you are defective as a person. It is different from guilt. Guilt is actually good because it alerts us to inappropriate behaviors and can be a useful emotion to point us back to truth. But shame is destructive because it doesn’t act as an alarm for wrong behavior. Instead, it chooses to attack your personhood through the deception that screams into your soul, “You are a mistake.” It slides right by the behavior and lunges at your inner being.

This toxic self-deception can create great confusion, frustration, and even despair to the point of seeking relief through addictive patterns.

The entire premise of shame-based thinking is founded on lies. You are NOT a mistake. God took great care and precision in fashioning you after Himself (Gen. 1:26,27; Psa. 139:13-16). But shame wants to cause you to believe that at the core of your being your design is defective. If that were true, then God Himself is defective. Shame lies about who you really are.

But belief is a funny thing, isn’t it? Does the object of your belief need to actually be true to keep you from acting as if it were? No! A good example would be people who believe in Santa Claus. The fact that Santa doesn’t exist in reality (sorry) has no bearing on how people who believe he exists will act. The belief is what ultimately drives the behavior, not the object.

So, if shame has convinced you that you are defective at the core, a mere cosmic mistake, guess where your actions will follow? They will lead you down a path of self-hatred and woundedness because the belief says you should behave in self-destructive ways.

So, where do we form our beliefs? From our thoughts. Do you see the breadcrumb trail we are on now? Starting with your self-damaging behaviors, you wind a trail back to the underlying beliefs of shame, and then you must come to their place of origin: your thoughts. Thoughts are those ideas that we allow to remain in our minds until they become patterns of thinking. Imagine thoughts being to you what cud is to a cow. You bite off an idea you read in the paper, or in a passage of Scripture, a conversation you had with a friend, or from a sermon you just heard. You chew on it for a while and down it goes into your mind library. Over time you bring it back up to chew on it a little more and send it back down, this time even deeper than before. Do this long enough and you form a belief, whether the original idea was true or not.

Shame is toxic because it moves us to embrace false beliefs that affect how we view everything else in life. If you latch on to the belief that you are a mistake and defective at your core, every decision you make in life from that point forward will be tainted in some way by this false belief. This is why it is so important to combat the lies of shame with the truth of God’s Word.

We are told that God’s Word is alive and active, sharper than a double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). Now that’s the kind of weapon we need to extract this cancer of shame! As you wield the Sword of the Spirit in all the areas where shame has deceived you, new patterns of thought based on truth will form new beliefs. Your new beliefs will move you toward actions consistent with your true identity and carry you farther and farther from your old, shame-based lifestyle. But in the same way it took time for you to create a belief system built on shame’s lies, it will take time to reverse such a system and develop truth-based beliefs.

The following are some good starting points for building a new belief system based on truth.
Think of these verses as ‘Truth Cud.’

‘ 2 Cor. 5:17 ‘ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

‘ Galatians 2:20 ‘ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

‘ 2 Peter 1:3 ‘ His [God's] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Start chewing on truth today. As you bring truths such as these listed above back to your mind over time, you will not only develop a new system of belief, but you will also destroy the stronghold of shame in your life. And when shame is destroyed, purity and joy will thrive!

Need additional help in the battle for purity? See Every Man\’s Battle.

Getting Confession Right The First Time

Edward J. Grant

It had been years since Sally felt the gut-wrenching, searing pain of betrayal that left her world shattered in countless broken pieces. ‘This can’t be happening all over again,’ she thought, ‘not after all we’ve been through.’ What should she do? Where should she go with the holidays around the corner? Was her marriage over and should she demand her husband leave the home immediately? How could she be so stupid to ever have trusted him again? She was in shock, not unlike the shock that accompanies the death of a loved one. Her feelings would surely intensify in the coming days and weeks as the reality of her husband’s treachery settled in.

It began with the discovery of a pornographic web site on the computer. She knew that none of her three children had visited it and prayed that they hadn’t found the graphic pictures. That discovery, painful enough in its own right, was just the beginning. He confessed that hadn’t been honest with her when he first confessed seven years ago, admitting to using only four or five prostitutes during their marriage. There had been many, many more, ‘countless’ in his words. Then she was willing to attempt to salvage their marriage. Since that time they had both worked hard to rebuild, spending thousands of dollars in the process. They attended weekly support group meetings, marriage counseling, cried tears by the bucketful, and endured the interminable tug-of-war between hope and hopelessness. She began to see relational change over the years as both took the first fearful, faltering steps towards genuine intimacy, eventually renewing their wedding vows when she came to trust him once more. Now she learned that he had never been sober; he had lied to everyone. He had indulged in a number of affairs and never ceased frequenting prostitutes.

Having recounted some of the moral and spiritual failures of Israel to the troubled congregation at Corinth St. Paul wrote, ’11These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.’

As we reflect on one woman’s devastating experience caused by her husband’s sin let us consider several fatal flaws that contributed to his failure.

1. Confession needs to be complete. Whenever we try to do damage control by holding back important facts about our behaviors – often under the guise of ‘sparing her further pain’ – we are left with the relentless question: ‘If I had told her everything would she have stayed with me?’ Shame attends our incomplete confession and becomes the favorite target at which Satan hurls his accusations. King David was no stranger to the attempt to cover his sins instead of confessing them. He writes in Psalm 32, ’3When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.’ Confession brought relief and healing in his heart and in his relationship with God: ’5Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

2. Shame causes the intense pain that propels the addict into the predictable cycle of addiction. When some painful event in life accesses the well of shame hidden in the wounded heart the addict resorts to the familiar cycle of pre-occupation, ritual, and acting out, culminating with despair. The goal of acting out is a journey to the land of numb: no feeling is better than emotional pain. Loved ones are all too familiar with the emotional distance acting out causes between them and the addict.

3. Forgiveness comes from confessing our sins to God, but healing comes from confessing our sins to one another. James writes, ’16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.’ The healing God intends comes from caring relationships with fellow pilgrims wherein the lies we believe about ourselves can be dispelled. The four core beliefs of the addict are:
1. I am a bad and worthless person.
2. If you really knew me, you wouldn’t love me
(ergo no one gets to know the real me).
3. Sex is my greatest need.
4. Only I can meet my needs.
As fellow strugglers share their failures, pain and encouragements with each other the truth of divine, unconditional love begins to sink in.

4. Radical commitment to honesty. Unless a person is willing to commit to honesty regardless of the consequences, true change and healing is not possible. Jesus said, ‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.’ Walking in and living by God’s truth frees us from the weight of guilt, the arrows of shame and the accusations of Satan. Living by the truth is scary when you are accustomed to living a lie, but it is the only path on which we can find fellowship with God and the freedom He has promised.

Men struggling with sexual integrity, please see Every Man\’s Battle.
If you are married to a man struggling with sexual integrity, please join us for our Every Heart Restored program at our next New Life Weekend.

Sexual Purity And The Gospel

Lance David

I have a confession to make. I don’t understand the gospel. That’s not to say I don’t know the nuts and bolts of it. However, I’m embarrassed to say, the gospel rarely captures my heart. Let me explain.

The other day, my wife made a confession to me. Our three-year-old daughter had slammed the front door on the fingers of our one-year-old daughter (and this slamming thing has been a problem without a good solution for a while now). In frustration and fear my wife shouted, ‘You stupid kid.’ Of course she wasn’t proud of this and had hoped it would blow over, thinking it was probably the first time that the little squirt had heard that word. However, the next day, the question came, ‘Mommy, what does stupid mean?’

Have you ever wished you could take something back? My wife never wanted anyone in the world to call our precious daughter stupid- and she had done it! To solidify that this was not merely going to blow over, the next day my wife and I both heard our three-year-old say to our one-year-old, ‘You stupid baby.’

It was after this that my wife told me what had happened.

Now, I love my wife. She is such a good gift to me. She is not perfect, but is my perfect match. And, I love my daughter- the coolest three-year old in the whole world. And my wife felt really bad for what she had said. But I was struggling. My head said, ‘It’s not the end of the world for your daughter. She knows her mother loves her. This is a really good thing that your wife told you and she’s hurting.’ But I was starting to feel the anger well up inside me. Things like, ‘I’m a counselor, for crying out loud! People come see me because their parents said emotionally abusive things like this to them! How dare she say that to MY daughter!’

Now, my wife can read me very well and needless to say, my judgmental attitude did not go over well with her. The whole thing was rapidly going somewhere in a hand basket when God stepped in. Somewhere deep inside my wife’s heart she knew God was saying, ‘I’ve taken your punishment for you. And I’ve taken your judgmental husband’s punishment too. Neither of you need to suffer for your sin because I already have.’ And then my wife spoke to me, ‘It’s ok if you judge me, Jesus took my penalty. And he’s taken yours as well.’

The truly amazing thing is that she said this without any hint of defensiveness. It wasn’t one of those Christianized versions of ‘sticks and stones can break my bones.’ Instead she related a calming, strengthening, life-giving reality. The effect on me was marvelous. Instantly I knew she was right and that I could let go of my desire to get justice by being angry at and demanding punishment of my wife.

The truth of the matter is that I did not readily offer my wife grace because I so rarely accept God’s grace. Again, I am trusting Christ alone to save me from my SIN. It’s just that so often I don’t accept God’s grace to save me from my individual, practical, all-too-often-occurring sins. You know the ones like my judgmental heart, my arrogant spirit, my lustful eyes.

If I get convicted of those kind of things I usually think, ‘Okay. I slipped up again. That was bad, though not as bad as some people I know. I won’t do it again. I’ll try harder from now on. It won’t happen again.’ Or if the situation fits I try to handle my sin is by shifting the blame to someone else. ‘It did that because she deserved it.’

But Jesus’ offer is that I shift the blame to him. The really good news of the gospel is that God doesn’t whitewash my sin. He sees it for the filth that it is and he says, ‘You don’t have to suffer for it because I already have. Go ahead, walk in freedom.’

I think that for many of us on the path to sexual purity we forget our desperate need for the gospel to impact us in the rubber-meets-the-road ordinary arenas of life. What do you suppose would be the fruit in terms of sexual purity if our hearts were more and more captivated by the gospel? I pray that would be more and more of a reality for both you and me.

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man\’s Battle.

The Cost of Forgiveness

Brad Stenberg

The wrong done by sexual sin and betrayal is a serious matter, but the forgiveness involved is more serious still. That’s because forgiveness can set in motion the healing of a relationship where truth replaces deception, and a future hope is birthed out of ashes. But there are certain costs involved.

To ask for forgiveness costs you having to bear the sting of humility and humiliation. You have to give up the defenses that protect your self-image from being morally wrong by openly admitting your failure and being exposed. It also costs you what status or power you may have had with your wife because you have to give up that position to the one you have wronged. And it costs you the uncertainty of knowing whether your wife will be willing and able to overcome the many impediments to forgiving you. This kind of betrayal can cause irreparable damage to a marriage.

As difficult as it seems for you, think what it costs your wife to forgive you.

First, she has to give up her claim to justice. She has to let go of her desire to see you get what you deserve for your sexual sin. While she experiences the painful agony of being betrayed, it seems to her that you are getting by without this pain. Instead, she has to trust and obey God’s instruction to not take vengeance or carry a grudge, but rather to love you in the Lord (Leviticus 19:18). This is not easy.

Second, the forgiving process costs your wife her sense of safety with you. The discovery of sexual unfaithfulness in one’s marriage is described by many women as being worse than having your body torn apart, or having open heart surgery without anesthesia. This kind of trauma often causes a wife to organize the entire relationship around the injury. The hurt can reemerge in an alive and intensely emotional manner, like a flashback that feels overwhelming. Though you sorrowfully admit and repent of your transgression, she finds it difficult to let it go because she never wants to be hurt like this again. So she naturally protects herself from being vulnerable.

Third, the occasion for forgiveness has cost her the loss of trust in you. You betrayed a trust that you promised to protect. Your wife now has to protect what little trust she has left. Even though she forgives you for what you did in the past, trusting you is about the future. It’s going to take some time for her to be able to trust and invest in you again. This is something you will have to earn through more than verbal reassurances. She needs to see your bold, concrete, and consistent actions over time. Feeling remorse is good, and verbal promises help, but it’s your overall attitude and actions that will win your wife’s trust back. She has to trust that you will not harm her again.

So, in most cases of sexual betrayal a wife has the heavier emotional load to carry. She has to control intrusive and obsessive thoughts about your behaviors. She has to calm the rage that screams from her pain of rejection. She has to grieve the loss of not having the marriage she thought she had. And she has to find a way to restore her lost sense of self. Meanwhile, she also has to find the strength to act in ways that are attractive to you, while risking being vulnerable and intimate again. And she has to do all this while dealing with the difficult issue of forgiving you. It’s necessary, but costly.

In contrast, you want it to be over. You’ve confessed or admitted your behavior (though perhaps only after having been caught). You’ve pledged your fidelity and commitment to be sexually pure. You feel relieved, cleansed, and ready to move on. You think it’s in your and her best interest to forgive, trust, and get over it. But it is not in your wife’s best interest to forgive and trust you too quickly because cheap grace does not produce the lasting change you both need.

It cost God His only Son to be able to say, I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me for I have redeemed you (Isaiah 44:22, NIV).

So know and accept that the forgiveness process you and your wife are involved in will cost you both something.

For help in experiencing forgiveness and healing, we strongly encourage you to attend the New Life Weekend with your spouse.

Cultivating God-honoring Friendships with the Opposite Sex

David Mackey

What are your goals with the opposite sex? Think about it. Go back to the beginning when you first started wanting that girlfriend. What was your goal? Has it changed since those early years?

Over the years, a number of not so different goals have been presented to me as I have talked with various guys about that elusive girlfriend. In fact, I am quite aware that MY goals were most often like those ‘various guys.’ Most of those goals had an underlying theme ‘ ME.

Oh, let me clarify, these were NOT the goals presented to the girls’these were the true goals that come out of the heart’ often presented to my buddies but sometimes my secret. The goals were about ‘GETTING’- for ME, a girlfriend so that I might have some kind of status. Sometimes the goal was about ‘GETTING’- for ME, to a certain ‘base’. Still, other times, the goal was about ‘GETTING’- for ME, someone to stroke my ego.

Believe it or not, sometimes my goal seemed a little more proper or even spiritual. I was looking for the woman God had for me ‘ actually was ‘GETTING’- for ME.

Always it seems to come down to goals that are self or ME centered. The girls often were an object for my pleasure, or for my ego, or for my comfort through life.

The title of this article has a very different goal, GOD-HONORING FRIENDSHIPS. God-honoring friendships are probably much closer to what God wishes to see in our modern day relationships.

What would life be like if our goals were really about FRIENDSHIP and NOT ABOUT GETTING FOR ME? For many there would be seen an entirely new way of relating.

Friendships have different levels of intimacy then acquaintances. Within our friendships there might be a wide range of depths of intimacy. But, in friendships there seem to be some basic foundational elements.

In The Pursuit of Intimacy by Dr. David Ferguson and Dr. Chris Thurman some of the necessary ingredients found in intimate relationships are: AFFECTIONATE CAREGIVING, VULNERABLE COMMUNICATION, MUTUAL GIVING, and JOINT ACCOMPLISHMENT. In the book the writers are focused on building deeper intimacy in marriage. The ingredients however, are found also in friendships and they just might be helpful when incorporating them as some of the facets or goals in Cultivating God-honoring Friendships with the Opposite Sex.

Friendships often start in one of these areas. If you have ever worked at a summer camp, been on a missions trip, worked on a school or work project with others of either sex, you may recall that a levels of friendship often develops. This is because you are JOINTLY ACCOMPLISHING something together. This working on the same goal is a friendship builder. If the goal has spiritual elements to it, sometimes the friendships seem to be deeper.

Friendships sometimes start when one person is hurting and another comes alongside to give care and comfort. If this is from the opposite sex, this care by its very nature is affectionate, even if it does not involve touch. Ferguson and Thurman call this AFFECTIONATE CAREGIVING and it seems to forge and cultivate friendships.

Friendships sometimes develop when there is a pattern of MUTUAL GIVING. One person gives and the response is to give back. The giving can start as external such as material gifts, but in friendships it usually ends up more internal, as in giving of oneself in actions and deeds.

Friendships sometimes start and or deepen when we listen to a friend’s heart and give to a friend the story of our own heart. This might be called VULNERABLE COMMUNICATION. To share our hearts: our beliefs and values, our pains and fears, our wounds and scars, makes us quite vulnerable. When we share and someone listens and accepts us a deep friendship can be built. Likewise when we listen to someone else and accept them, they will be drawn to us as a friend.

Back to our goal. What if our goal was to actually cultivate friendships’ with both sexes. If some goals in our life were to care about others so that we give to them affectionately, friendships would be cultivated. If among our life goals was the goal to give to others, not just when they are in need but just to say I am thinking of you, or I care about you, friendships would be cultivated. If our life goals included communicating on the heart level with people in our lives, friendships would be cultivated. If we worked, served, accomplished side-by-side with others, friendships would be cultivated.

If we keep it about me and what I get, people will be pushed away and/or unhealthy relationships will likely be established. If we focus on others, building up others, encouraging others, serving others, seeking the hearts of others then God-honoring friendships will likely be cultivated with both sexes.

God's Sense of Humor

G. Mike Clark

Have you ever thought that God has a sense of humor, and this concept correlates in how we relate to our spouse, and He revealed it through His creation of us? When He designed us, God gave us a built-in design in how to relate to our wife. After we recognize the design of the architect, applied as the designer created it, it will work. If damaged over time, because of a sin in our life, it may take time for it to begin to work again, but for us men it will test our patience. We men expect instant acceptance after we ‘fall’, especially in our closest relationships, i.e. our wife, children, to accept our apologies saying, ‘we have changed’ and go on from there.

Fay and I have been married for over 28 years. During those early years I would apologize, endless times telling her, ‘I will try not to do that again,’ and I really meant it! Finally, one day she turned to me and said, “I believe that you are sorry Mike, but stop trying and do it!”

The writer of Proverbs said, ‘Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future’, (19:20 ESV). This is what she was asking me to do, ‘Listen to my heart and what I need from you, and just do it, honey.’ Why is this so complicated for us to understand sometimes? ‘Mike,the Lord said to me, ‘I gave you two ears, and one mouth, maybe I want you to listen twice as much as you speak to Fay.”

I just started reading, Safe Heaven Marriage’Building a Relationship You Want to Come Home To by Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Dr. Sharon Hart Morris. They wrote this book ”for all those who long to be emotionally connected with their spouse.’ Men, don’t we long to be emotionally connected with our spouse? They go on to say, ”couples need to feel emotionally safe, close, cherished, and respected. Only then can they intertwine their hearts and souls and become one, as God intended,’ (xiii). This is how our wife will begin to feel emotionally safe with us as we listen to their hearts, and then in time, because they feel emotionally safe with us.

In James 1: 2-8, he addresses the area of patience. Patience is an area that we men need to ask God for help. During this period of regaining ground, our wife is learning to trust us again emotionally. James says,

‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does (NIV).”

He goes on to say, ‘Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him,’ (James 1:12, NIV).

Let us not forget that God has given us our spouse to cherish and honor. She needs to sense that we will stop what ever we are doing at that time and ‘lend her both of our ears’. This may take some time for us to learn how, but stay focused on her and your relationship with Christ. Now, let me give you a word of encouragement to apply to your life today. Listen to God, study His Word, but do not forget to pray (speak) to Him daily. As you spend time reading Scripture daily during your quiet time, ask yourself the following question: What is the writer saying to those of us who are reading it? Not, what does it mean to me? (We will come up with all kinds of meanings.) Then, is there an application for me to apply to my life today? As we learn how to listen to God daily, it will be easier to listen to our family members beginning with our spouse.

Looking Good on the Inside

Chuck Underwood

What is it that keeps men imprisoned in a downward spiral of sexual sin? It can be summed up in one word’denial. The fact is we cannot change what we will not acknowledge.

Many men have a behavioral life that is in conflict with the professed values, and beliefs that define their Christian walk. They look good on the outside, but are pretty shabby on the inside–like the duck that seems to glide effortlessly across the smooth calm water. It looks good on the surface, but under the water that duck’s feet are anything but still: they are wildly kicking just to stay in forward motion.

Some men create a lot of ways to look good on the surface without looking at what goes on under the waterline’a lot of violent kicking.

Many times a man will try to solve his sexual addictions by making the problem someone else”a wife, or girlfriend. If only she would change, then I wouldn’t have to act this way. She just isn’t meeting my needs. Someone else must be responsible for my choices.

The most difficult thing for a man struggling with sexual sin is to be honest. The wisest man ever’King Solomon said, ‘He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy’ (Proverbs 28:13, NIV).

Admitting that there is a need to change is the first step out of sexual bondage. Minimizing the need to confess to God, others, and ourselves only obstructs positive growth.

What is the positive growth we are after? To restore the relationships that were destroyed as a result of sexual sin is of utmost importance. Sexual sin separates and isolates a man from his network of support. In a counseling practice one of the predictors of successful therapy is the degree of connection of a person to his family and friends. A sexual addict perpetuates fantasy in his daily life that plays a huge part in isolating him from other people. It becomes a double life that seeks to avoid exposure at all costs’bringing a loss of emotional connectedness. Disconnection and isolation are the very things that are realized in a world that becomes extremely self-centered.

The goal for every Christian should be restoration. This begins with confession. Confession implies transparency’a straightforward agreement with God that those choices were sinful. Confession is reality-based: a complete honest, humble emptying of self. The reality is being willing to deal with the sexual sin up close and personal. When a man comes before God in this manner He declares him forgiven’even righteous (I John 1:9). It is a three-part journey’forgiveness from God, forgiveness of self, and forgiveness of others.

God’s forgiveness is always available for the asking. But, have you ever asked God to forgive you and then not felt forgiven? First, forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a fact, a fact backed up by God’s own Word.
For some forgiveness isn’t accepted because there is a belief that forgiveness is not deserved’the idea of not being good enough to be forgiven. The reality is that men often stand in the way of the effects of forgiveness because they are trying to hide the complete truth from God and themselves.

Forgiveness and reconciliation must take place in order to restore relationships with Christ, wives, family, and friends. Reconciliation is a process of emotional reconnection to those vital relationships.

Can the downward spiral of sexual sin be stopped? Absolutely! What does it take? It takes honesty confession, growth, forgiveness and restoration. Acknowledging the problem and desiring to change is the pathway to establishing a behavioral life that is no longer in conflict with the values and beliefs of a growing Christian walk.

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man\’s Battle.
Also, take the loving step of helping your spouse. See the programs for wives and couples offered at the New Life Weekend.

Dropping the H-Bomb

Sam Fraser

There is a word in the English language that I have personally experienced and, over the years, have also found to be true for men almost universally. The hardest word for the male gender to accept is a 4-letter word. It begins with the letter H. Can you say H-E-L-P? Or should I write HELP! Although I have no research that proves this to be true, I do believe it must be genetic. To ask for directions is hard enough but to ask for – - – - is impossible. It goes against our maleness. It is down right unmasculine.

So much of what we learn from the world about what it means to be a man is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. From the world’s perspective of manliness, asking for help means I am weak, I can’t make it by myself, and I am a wimp’ or worse. Humiliation and shame move in. However, spiritually speaking, to declare the need for help is to initiate the truth that sets us free. So much of the Scriptures declare that we can’t make it on our own. It takes great courage and strength to confess our true condition.

“I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid” said Adam. Help! The shame of being needy is like being a ‘girly man’ in the world’s eyes.

There is a difference between humiliation and humility. Humility is the ability to ask for help and not be ashamed of having emotional needs. God has designed us for relationships and yet our culture and gender icons espouse independence and self-reliance. That sets us up for humiliation.

‘There’s no crying in baseball.’ It’s just not in baseball, it has become a way of life and applies to all areas of life as men. We learned long ago as boys on the playground that being needy or asking for help was a source of teasing and ridicule so we learned to bury that side of ourselves. Now, we cover it up and become self-contained rather than risk humiliation. In its place we learned to ignore, deny, minimize, and rationalize our feelings. In many aspects of our lives we can get away with that strategy. But when it comes to this on-going issue with our out of control sex drive, we need the support of other men. Not women. Men!

What is a man to do?

Scriptures constantly point to the reality that we need a Savior, that we can’t do it in our own abilities and resources. Paul prays in Colossians 1 that we do not rely on our own ‘puny’ human strength, but rather experience the power of God’s supernatural strength. Truly, accepting that we are needy and must receive help from others is a spiritual reality and is the beginning of sexual freedom.

So many of us try to fight this battle with sexual temptation on our own, isolated and alone, only to end up failing miserably over and over.

In the Every Man\’s Battle workshop, every man who has failed admits not having a band of brothers he can be vulnerable with and share the shame and humiliation of this struggle. It is not that there are no men’s groups out there, rather it is reaching out asking for help that hinders our growth. Utilizing these resources can be the way God leads us back to community, to being whole. No more lone ranger.

There are two steps to getting help. The first is to reach out. The second, actually utter the word HELP! Don’t let what happened to me happen to you. I realized I needed help but didn’t know how to ask. God allowed circumstances which forced me to get help. My situation came crashing down on me. We can come to the rock to be broken or we can allow circumstances to take their natural course and be crushed. Either way God will bring us into a place of restoration and reconciliation with Him. Freedom! If you have a choice I recommend the former!

True Identity

Kent Ernsting

Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? What have I been designed to do? What is my identity?

Perhaps the runaway success of Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life indicates that incredible numbers of people are searching for the answers to those same questions. Every man battles with these same issues every day.

Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says ‘Identity is Destiny.’

Who we think we are determines who we become, our dreams for the future and how we go about making those dreams become a reality.

As young boys we are told to, ‘Be a man’ or ‘Act like men.’ But how does our culture define masculinity? Movies, media and athletes practically shout their answers to the question. Is the ultimate man John Wayne, solitary and heroic, who is never intimately connected to anyone? Or perhaps it is a James Bond kind of guy smart, suave and debonair. He has a bunch of one-night stands. The message is that sex, without connectivity, validates maturation and masculinity. Or perhaps it is a sports hero with glorified images of power and strength and athletic ability? Or perhaps manhood is all about money and power. Success is measured by net worth and your value as a man is based on the size of your bank account, your house, the car you drive, or the prestige of your job title.

These are all examples of false masculinity. There is no relational piece to it at all. Where does that whole setup leave us? Isolated and alone. Hiding who and what you really are. If you’re hiding your true identity then you can’t connect with anyone else.

These images of masculinity promise satisfaction but always disappoint. There’s a huge bait and switch going on here.

John 10:10 identifies who is behind the spirit of the age and points to the One who has the solution to this dilemma. ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’

If men are to discover and live out their calling as men then we must uncover and embrace our God given identity. At the core of the crisis that men face is that we lose touch with our true identity. We lose the fascination with the story God wants to tell through our lives. The enemy of our soul is so enraged with the image of God that is reflected in you that he will hurl his mightiest weapons right at your soul. The thief is attempting to steal, kill, and destroy your identity, who God says you really are as a man. If he succeeds then he will render you spiritually impotent. He will kill your heart by watering down your true identity and slowly seducing you into living for a small god with shallow dreams.

With our identity stolen, we numb ourselves to escape this false identity by watching TV, surfing the Internet, or working too much. We struggle with pornography or creating fantasies or becoming workaholics. Men are bored.

What is our true identity? Genesis 1:26-27 tells us, ‘Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the bird of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

What did God have in mind when he created man? In the ancient near East the kings had a special advisor. The role of this advisor was to remind the king of his plans and to keep him on course. It is from the name of this adviser that we get our word ‘man.’ The Hebrew meaning of the word ‘man’ is ‘the remembering one who takes action.’ Men express God’s movement and action. Men ask, ‘Am I dangerous?’

God created men to uniquely move into chaos and mystery and have a vision for what it could be and create it. As men we can move into the uncertainty of circumstances that we don’t understand and cannot predict. We can move into the uncertainty of how people will respond to us. And having a vision for what our wives and children can become as image bearers we move into changing our generation. We move into leaving a legacy by embracing who we are and whose we are. We are faced with a choice today. Embrace your true identity or run from it.

On Vulnerability and Reason

Ron Leonard

I’d like to talk about vulnerability. Usually when you talk about vulnerability, you give emotional reasons for recommending greater vulnerability. Let’s say you’re one of those guys who isn’t impressed with emotional reasons for doing things. ‘After all,’ you say, ‘Emotions are just the caboose on the train, right?’ Well, where emotions belong is a subject of several other articles. Let’s agree for now, that they shouldn’t be in charge but that God didn’t make them for us just to ignore.

So, what if you are a level-headed guy who wants to do things thoughtfully, rationally and with his mind in charge? Maybe you might want to know what your emotions are doing but you don’t want them dictating whether you do things such as becoming vulnerable. That’s great! This article is for you.

Before we talk about vulnerability, let’s talk about its opposite. If we’re not being vulnerable, what are we doing? Largely, we’re hiding. We’re also doing such things as lying, clamming up, covering up, and oh yeah, hiding. Why do we do these things? Because we’re afraid that if our real self and behaviors were known, even to our loved ones, we would be blamed, shamed, embarrassed, mocked, ridiculed, or otherwise in trouble. So, hiding is perfectly natural and understandable. It’s also childish.

1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) declares, ‘When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.’

When we were children, we would try to hide our misbehavior in the belief that this would make our lives better somehow. Usually, it made them worse. When we raided the cookie jar, we weren’t smart enough to figure out that as Bill Cosby pointed out, ‘Sound travels.’ Our parents heard our misbehavior from the next room and came to see what we were doing. We tried to cover up our crimes by stuffing the half-eaten cookies back into the jar, but we still had the crumbs on our lips. Now that we’re older, we’re a little better at covering up, but our behavior is still just as childish.

When we were children, we did not have the benefit of a trained rational mind. We as children responded to things based primarily on emotions. It was only slowly that we learned to use our minds more. So, when we continue to hide as men, we are behaving emotionally, not rationally.

God has made men, more so than women, to be guided by their minds than their hearts. This does not make us better, it makes us different. Imagine for a moment being raised by two fathers rather than a mother and a father. Whew, painful!

If you are indeed the calm, cool, thinking man you see yourself to be, then hiding does not belong in your life. God made you a rational, goal-directed person. As a man, he also made you courageous, level-headed, and fearless. Hiding is not consistent with these attributes. As a man, it is time to put away childish ways.

If we know what hiding is now, what then is vulnerability? Vulnerability is exposing all (or at least more) of ourselves to the light of others scrutiny. It is a purposeful showing of things our emotions tell us to hide. Vulnerability is a conscious, reasonable, thought-out, goal-driven DECISION. Yes, there are enormous emotional ramifications, but it is above all a choice and an act of the will.

What are your goals? Is it to have a better family? Is it to have a stronger marriage and a closer connection to your wife? Then choosing to become vulnerable is one of the actions you take to fulfill that goal. It is not something we do to feel better (although we might in the long run). It is something that will definitely be scary and will probably be quite painful. But, isn’t facing down fear and suffering pain for our families what God made us for? Why do you suppose he gave us the heart of a warrior?

Why else should we choose vulnerability?

Why do we hang a trouble light on the hood? So we can see what the problem is so we (and our buddies) can fix them. Vulnerability is like that trouble light. Do you ever wonder why you have the same confused feelings about women and sex that you had when you were a teenager? Why haven’t they changed a bit? Because, they have never been exposed to the light. They’ve never been hauled out of the basement and hung up so they can dry out. No one has been able to see these things clearly enough so they can be worked on.

In nature, discarded things eventually disappear. Bacteria, in God’s divine order, chews up debris. After a short period of being rotten and smelly, it decomposes until it’s gone. This doesn’t happen in our brain. All of the accumulated stupidity of our lives is still in there. We need to become vulnerable so we can let God, our wives, and other men see it in the light and help us dispose of it.

Vulnerability is tough, but we can help. Join us at our next New Life Weekend.