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.

Persistence & ‘Programs’

Jonathan Daugherty

How many times in the last week (or day’or hour) have you felt like giving up? Have you been tired, frustrated, or beaten down by life or addiction? What are the answers to your sexual acting out, and how can they possibly be implemented?

For those of us who struggle with sexual sin, ours is a daily battle with temptation. Our culture is becoming increasingly saturated with sexual images and innuendos. Pornography is a booming business and growing exponentially through the ever expanding Internet universe. Marriages keep breaking up due to “irreconcilable differences” or sexual infidelities. How can we curb such rampant impurity and lead a life that is pleasing to God?

Many in today’s culture (and even churches) would be quick to shove a “program of healing” in your face and spout, “Just do this and you will be fine.” This is the modern day equivalent of the old doctor’s quip, “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning.” We have become a society engrossed with programs to “heal” every ailment. We even have 12-step programs for compulsive fingernail biters! (Ok, maybe we haven’t digressed that far, but we’re well on our way.)

Does this mean all ‘programs’ are bad? Of course not. Are most programs useless? Not hardly. But if programs, in and of themselves, were effective, don’t you think we would see higher rates of ‘success’ from those who implement them? The answer should logically be yes. Then why are we not seeing a larger number of people in “recovery programs” finding long-term freedom from their compulsive behaviors?

I believe the answer is found in one word: persistence.

The Bible speaks of perseverance (or persistence) as endurance. The Greek translation for endure is hupomeno and has the connotation of “staying under” or “remaining.” Jesus used this word when He spoke in Mark 13:13 and said, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Does that type of long-term vision describe the attitude of our culture today? Hardly! We become impatient and frustrated when a candy bar doesn’t fall from the vending machine in less than 2 seconds. We have severely lost our willingness to endure and persist. Thus, the increased reliance on “programs” alone to remedy our every addiction.

Programs can be useful (such as our EMB workshops), but ONLY when coupled with persistence and relationship. When we persist, or endure, we are engaging in the hard work of “staying under” the leadership and accountability of another person (as it pertains to recovery). Persistence is most interested in the process, recognizing that enduring is not always clean, neat, glamorous, or “perfect.”

We persist because we understand the greater good of “remaining” until the work is complete. Persistence means I will not bail out no matter how intense the pressure is to quit.

Programs are oftentimes primarily interested in outward conduct. Are you “doing” the right things? Are you following each step correctly? And programs can often turn a person away to work on their issue alone, isolated from others. This is why so many people will start a solid program only to find themselves shortly afterward abandoning it as they spiral further into their shame and addiction. We need other people to help us maintain focus when it comes to fighting compulsive behaviors; not a list of rules.

One last note on persisting – it is NOT easy! In fact, one of the sub-definitions for the Greek word for endurance is “suffer.” Sticking to something and not giving up are character qualities that test our resolve at the core of our being. It requires increasing our threshold for emotional discomfort and developing habits of righteousness that lead us to the One who can “bear our burdens.” Jesus is our ultimate example of persistence. He is the “author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of God the Father.” Jesus “remained” where God wanted Him and provided us with freedom from our afflictions.

I challenge you today to adopt a new outlook on your personal journey of purity. Instead of seeing the mountain of potential failure spots in front of you, focus on the wonderful Savior who fully bore all your sin, shame, and guilt on the cross and said, “It is finished.” Let Him be your primary motivation for persisting and connecting.

Knowing the ROCK; Knowing TRUE Intimacy in Recovery: Part 5

David Mackey

Psalm 31:4”free me from the trap set before me’

Once more let’s review: Just as false intimacy was part of what helps maintain our addiction, TRUE intimacy will strengthen our recovery. This is our design: to have intimacy with both God and Others. In the Psalms, David equated knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress with knowing God intimately.

So far we have found that in knowing God as our rock we are free from shame and we are listened to with acceptance and understanding. These are pieces, deep pieces, of having an ‘In-To-Me-See,’ an intimacy relationship.

We also discovered that in knowing God as our Rock, He leads and guides us in preparation for Battle.

In verse 4 of Psalm 31, David, reveals the last facet of intimacy which we look at in this series. As with Shame, being listened to and guided, David, throughout the Psalms, repeatedly, equates knowing God as his Rock, Refuge, and Fortress, with safety or being free from traps.

Perhaps if we asked the average Christian what it meant to know God as his rock he would likely come up with this connection. The idea of sitting on a solid Rock in the midst of storm and turmoil is a comfort to so many. Our hymns and songs over the years are full of this comforting imagery.

For us, in this battle, this piece of intimacy seems even more significant. Our battle usually starts out with a trap. It seemed so innocent to curiously look at some pictures. What child/young teen could have ever envisioned the imprisonment set before them? Now, 20 or more years later as we break free from the imprisonment we have more traps than ever all around us.

Think about this idea we look at our battle. Psalm 31:4 says ”free me from the trap set before me.’ What a thought. Indeed, the simple natural feeling and act of masturbation became a trap. It worked best with images’ seemingly simple little pictures. What harm could that be? Yet the trap was so sure, so strong. It kept us ensnared for the trapper to come and the trapper eventually would have taken our life, our very soul.

So to be offered by God a relationship with Him and with others that involves freedom from those traps is remarkable and so very needed.

We could not’. Tho we tried for so long’ we could not free ourselves from the trap. Only intimacy can do it!! Intimacy, true intimacy, with God and with others can seem like a lot of work, especially after so many years of false intimacy. A lot of emotional work. ‘In-To-Me-See’ is often hard and painful but it is real and it brings real connection, real passion. The free stuff is a trap. It is false and once trapped it is difficult to get away from. You cannot do it alone. You need someone to free you from that trap. God offers that freedom in true intimate relationship with Him. He offers it in knowing and being known by him intimately and by knowing and being known by others intimately.

We need the power of intimacy with God AND with others to be free from the trap. And we need, we must have, true intimacy with God AND with others to avoid falling into the snare, the trap once again.

This is so critical. The traps, the snares, as we know, are many and they sometimes seem constant, daily, and all around us.

So this concludes our look at just 4 aspects of intimacy, or knowing God as our Rock, Refuge and Fortress. Amazing love‘ the song says’ How can it be!!! God, the creator of the universe, Jesus who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords offer us INTIMACY. True intimacy in which we are free from shame, free from traps. Where we are listened to, understood and accepted as God’s child (He wants to be ‘Abba,’ Daddy!) and Jesus be brother and friend. Amazing love!!

And in this relationship he will lead and guide us through the battle. We will, while in intimate relationship with HIM and intimate relationship with others WIN THE BATTLES. Eventually, with Him as our rock, our refuge, and our fortress, we will win the war.

Once again I invite you to, in your recovery, pursue the path of true intimacy with all your being. Remember, this is not as much a command from God but rather, it is an invitation. Intimacy with God and others is what we were created for and it will bring real fulfillment and a strong recovery and the Battles will be won!

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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