The Male Wound of Pride

Sam Fraser

C.S. Lewis wrote an article a half-century ago about men and pride. Essentially his point is that the temptation for men is to be too proud to ask for help. Christian or secular it’s a guy thing! Universally, it is the hardest word to speak out loud. Help! It has long been a part of our cultural standard to not ask for help. It is hard enough to ask for directions let alone something so much more intimate. Asking for help is being needy. We receive the message over and over that to be needy is shameful. Admitting that we are not self-sufficient is unspeakable. We learned a long time ago on the playground that expressing certain feelings was not cool. Coupled with no validating adult males growing up to help us understand ourselves, we end up feeling confused and insecure inside. But on the outside we learn to not let it show. Much of our most tender parts gets shut down or buried. We end up loners, isolated hiding behind a false mask called pride.

We hide behind pride when we pretend we don’t need help even when we do. Many of us have male friendships but not so close that we can talk openly about our struggle with sexual integrity.

Learning how to ask for help for sexual integrity is a very humbling experience.

I remember the first time I reached out by going to a 12-step meeting. In those days, as a Christian, there were few avenues available and the church had no clue how to help. I literally stood with my hand on the door fighting with shame to step inside. So much of me wanted to turn and run. My pride won out and I did not go through that door. It was too humiliating to admit I was like all those others guys who couldn’t make it on their own. It was another 12 years until the pain outweighed the fear and I got help. And even then, reaching out was a product of being caught and having my world come crashing down all around me.

One of the defining characteristics of each man that comes to an Every Man’s Battle workshop is trying to fight the battle by himself. Not asking for help, attempting to fight this battle alone, isolated. As men, we experience a lot of guilt and shame because we can’t stop playing with ourselves. I could rationalize it when I was young but not as an adult. And as a Godly man, we feel all the more that we should be able to handle our sex drive. We think that since no other guys are talking about it we must be the only one with the problem. Whoops, got to hide that one!

Since we are not talking about it and for one reason or another seem unable to experience any sustained victory on our own, we end up feeling defeated. Our pride keeps us from confessing this failure in an important area of our Christian walk. We fake that every thing is okay or we avoid others by keeping everyone at a distance to hide the secret.

Pride keeps us from getting the help we need. Our wound won’t let us ask for help.

One of the main features when men begin to succeed is that they get connected to other men. Essentially, admitting the need for help. It takes all kinds of strength and courage to admit the need for help.

The Bible refers to reaching out for help and identifies as humility. Mmmm, humility! When I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10 ). For many of us God has been very patient in this important area and He will continue to be so. What Christ has done on the cross will always make it true. This issue has been the downfall for many and will continue to defeat us as long as we remain in male pride. It will continue to take us down unless we are humble enough to ask for help and connect with other men for support and encouragement. It is one of the defining moments for every man who attends EMB. It takes a strong man, not a weak one, to admit that. Pride or humility? Your choice.

If you can’t attend EMB, get connected locally. Pray and God will lead you.
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Loneliness: Winter in the Heart

Roger Parks

The experience of loneliness has been very familiar to me although I wasn’t aware of its impact on me until later in life. Having grown up as only child in a rural setting, I spent a great deal of my youth alone. At the time, I considered it quite normal to play by myself since I was very shy and didn’t have the desire or confidence to cultivate any friendships. My active imagination enabled me to entertain myself by creating various scenarios of baseball games in my mind and then acting them out on the field next to our home. Needless to say, it’s very challenging to enact an entire baseball game when you have only one player!

During the years from age 12 through adolescence I never consciously perceived myself to be lonely. Having no close friends and lacking a strong connection with my parents, I immersed myself in watching sports, reading, and studying, all of which kept me busy and assuaged any sense of boredom. Then at age 13, I distinctly recall viewing my first photograph of a naked woman, not in Playboy or Penthouse, but in Life magazine, a mainstream family-oriented publication! It was a small picture of Marilyn Monroe lying on a blanket. Even though it wasn’t sexually explicit (we’d call it soft porn today), it was enough to stimulate my adolescent hormones and introduce me to the exciting world of sexual fantasy and its close companion masturbation.

I remember feeling guilty and yet very excited that I had found a new ‘hobby’ to entertain myself whenever I wanted. At that juncture in my life, I had not yet been exposed to pornography but that absence didn’t prevent me from generating my own images. Remember, I have an active imagination! Combining these self-generating images with those elicited from seeing actual girls at my high school served as a powerful source to fuel my masturbation habit which eventually developed into a daily practice, i.e., addiction.

During my early adult years I viewed pornographic magazines on a very sporadic basis as my embarrassment usually kept me from entering stores to buy them. The masturbation continued unabated and by that point I didn’t give much thought to the habit since it had become such a routine part of my life. There were occasional episodes of guilt, especially after becoming a Christian during college, but I never seriously considered eliminating the habit altogether. I compartmentalized it and assumed the rest of my life could function as normal. Then came the Internet which introduced me to the intoxicating world of cyberporn. Viewing countless images generated a sexual obsession and intensified the masturbation. Of course, like any addiction, one builds up a tolerance such that greater amounts of the substance are needed to produce the desired effect. Without realizing it at the time, I had found a way to address painful feelings of loneliness by comforting (self-medicating) myself through viewing Internet porn and masturbating to these images. This led to a self-perpetuating vicious cycle of loneliness ‘ distress ‘ self-medication ‘ guilt ‘ and more loneliness.

This cycle generated an intense conflict between my desire to please and honor God through maintaining sexual purity and my actual addictive behavior.

Feeling disconnected from God and powerless to overcome this addiction through my own efforts, I sought help from a group of men who have struggled with the same addiction. Among the several valuable lessons I’ve learned in my quest for sexual purity, the importance of accountability within the context of a caring community is critical. I firmly believe that as Christians, God calls us to bear each other’s burdens and struggles in truth and love so that the body of Christ truly does become a healing community for all those afflicted with sin and addictions.

Can you relate? You don’t have to go this alone. Please see Every Man’s Battle for help on this subject.

What Makes Recovery Christian?

Lance David

For many Christians the idea of addiction recovery seems a touchy-feely, self-help, unchristian thing. With terminology that includes, “Higher Power,” “sponsor,” and “12 steps” recovery can be unfamiliar and possibly threatening to some Christians. It is certainly possible to do recovery- submitting to the program and to a higher power and experiencing sobriety- without following Christ. But this does not make recovery anymore unchristian than non-Christian couples remaining married until death does them part would make marriage unchristian.

For something to be unchristian it would have to be contrary to the gospel. Even though the terms may seem foreign to some Christians, the key principles of recovery highlight significant realities of that are contained in the gospel.

The first reality is that all of us are a mess. You may hide it or I may be in denial but that will not change the fact that we are both broken. This is the essential entrance exam both for Christians and those in recovery. The context for recovery is realization of the prodigal who knows that he has been fighting with pigs for sustenance. When a person does not view himself as a mess, he is more like the older brother who has all the riches at his disposal but remains aloof and on the outside. Jesus said, “It is not it the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17 NIV). It is tragic that many in the church today do not deeply understand and appropriate this, instead resembling Pharisees rather than repentant sinners. Those truly engaged in recovery, on the other hand, grasp this reality very well.

A second reality of recovery is that I am responsible for this mess. Neither recovery nor the gospel allows a person to wallow in the blame game of victimhood. No matter how a person has been sinned against, he is responsible for his response. Even though others have sinned against me, recovery only begins when I begin to struggle and repent of the character flaws that have developed as a result of my resentments. Jesus captured the essence of this idea with the admonition, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).

A third reality is that the path to healing in recovery must be done with others. Meetings, fellowship, support and sponsors all demonstrate that in recovery healing does not happen alone. Unfortunately, this is an aspect that most of us in the church in the western world have abandoned. Even with small groups, men’s groups, accountability partners, Promise Keepers and other seminars, most men remain terribly isolated from others- especially when it comes to our problems. We have been taught that it is not masculine but weak to be a broken mess. But to be isolated denies the reality that we all have blind spots that can only be exposed to us by other people. Furthermore, relationships provide the context for change in that just as we all get hurt in by unhealthy relationships, healthy ones heal. Sanctification and recovery do not take place without community.

A final reality of recovery is that it must include a recognition of and submission to a spiritual reality. Of course, as Christians, we recognize that the only “higher power” is the one true God revealed in the bible. However, the generic language of recovery makes the steps palatable to those who are not convinced of this truth. The twelve steps of recovery reveal a very spiritual agenda. It is one that includes submission, confession, repentance, reconciliation, and deep character change. These demonstrate that an addict’s core problem is a commitment to self and not addiction per se. Only by submitting to the One greater than self can the addict and the run of the mill sinner experience true inner healing.

The essential feature of anyone’s recovery that makes it Christian is the person who is in recovery. Christ did not come to give us principles, a system, a cause, rules or many of the things that we have perverted his message into. Christ came to bring us back into relationship with God. Left to our own ingenuity, we have found so many different ways, including addictions, to run from him. The story of the gospel is the story of God’s recovery of the human race to himself.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.