Knowing the Needs of a Man’s Heart

Bob Damrau, LPC, LMHC

Men feel most like men when purposefully moving through life with the confidence that what they have to offer impacts the lives of family members and neighbors in some positive fashion. Navigating this side of eternity, however, is rarely marked by fair skies and calm seas. The storms of life often bring doubt in one’s ability to make a difference. The winds of adversity can add despair as thoughts spiral downward. Men tend to think, ‘I don’t have what it takes,’ so they drop their sails and are tossed aimlessly in need — never sending out a call of distress.

Most men learn to hide their needs as boys. They are taught what is acceptable and not acceptable at home. The masculine characteristics are encouraged and usually include strength, independence and fearlessness, while unmanly attributes like weakness, dependence, and fear are disdained. So, to be accepted, guys strive at an early age to gain supreme control over their feelings (usually by pushing them down) which results in not being able to identify the needs that are embedded in those emotions. Dragging this type of strategy into adulthood results in a continual denial of a man’s needs, as well as the deprivation of his heart’s longing for genuine connection.

‘Needs are a key factor in love and intimacy,’ says David Ferguson in his book entitled Top 10 Intimacy Needs. Ferguson continues, ‘It’s possible to ‘hydro-plane’ through life and never share the joys of intimacy with another human being.’ The lack of a real emotional life, where feelings are voiced and needs are met through caring for one another, leaves a man vulnerable to the changing current of his times. When not directed by their feelings about themselves or the needs of those for whom they care, many men turn to an addiction, which will never bring satisfaction ‘ lust.

Before reading the rest of this article, I encourage you to reflect on these questions.
What do you think are the origins of lust in your life?
How does this problem affect your relationships today?
Are you willing to change course?

If your musings conclude that your acting out behaviors go deeper than, ‘It feels good;’ if your fantasies often center around the desire for real intimacy; and if you genuinely want to break the compulsive cycle, then listen up. IT’S OK TO HAVE NEEDS! God created man with emotions in line with His own image. He also made humanity needy, so that individuals might exercise faith in the context of relationship both with Himself and others bearing His likeness. The very first problem recorded in the Bible is spoken by the Lord. Genesis 2:18 says, ‘It is not good that man should be alone.’ God’s remedy for this was to create another human being for the purpose of relationship. Man was never meant to go it alone, neither should he remain isolated.

So, what does a guy really want? Knowing the needs of a man’s heart requires him first to identify what he is feeling. Let me explain. When a man acts out, whatever he was feeling would most likely go away, leaving him unable to target that emotion and, therefore, sinking him deeper into need. You see, there are needs imbedded in every feeling. For instance, a person feeling alone needs support. Or a man who is in transition may need comfort (change always carries a degree of loss). The guy who is feeling rejected probably needs acceptance or a sense of security. Now, once the feeling is identified and the need is generated, then a healthy connection with a spouse, friend or brother-in-arms will lead to getting that need met. And whether or not a need is met has a profound impact on a man’s life. This is another appropriate place to reflect.

Are you OK being a person designed with needs? Can you identify the relationship between your acting out and your unmet needs? What are your most vulnerable internal triggers (feelings/needs)? A person admitting he has needs is not admitting some personal weakness or that he is unhealthily dependent or that he lacks courage. Rather, it is a confession of one’s humanness. All men have needs as per God’s design. Acknowledging neediness is both truthful and beneficial. It is the rudder that keeps a man on course as he grows to love God with his whole heart and those around him from his heart. May you have fair skies and favorable winds.

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

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.

More Tools In The Battle: Part 1 of 4: Love Each Other

David S. Mackey

In my previous articles, I have written about what I believe is ultimately the key to all healing, the key to becoming all God created us to be. Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love God and others with your whole being, with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. My premise was and is that a large part of the Battle is to leave the false intimacy of sexual acting out and pursue the true intimacy of loving God and others with our whole being.

In the pursuit of True Intimacy, there are many tools God has given us which are useful in this Battle. Most of the ‘tools’ found in Scripture are tools which can help us in all facets of our life, with many different struggles in our life.

In the New Testament, there are found a series of ‘Each Other’ messages which, when practiced move us in the direction of intimacy. These ‘Each Other’ messages can help us build True Intimacy, with God and others.

Remember, 1 John says that we cannot love God without also loving others. Naturally, it is also true, that when we love others we are also loving God. The ‘love’ we are ultimately talking about is that Agape (Greek) love, unconditional love, which includes our whole being.

In this series of four articles we will look briefly at many of these ‘Each Other’ messages. I believe if we put these into practice it will help build toward Truly Intimate relationships. They will enhance our relationship with God and others. In so doing, we will find more victory in the Battle.

In this series of 4 articles we will identify and look at several of the ‘Each Other’ passages with the goal of moving away from false intimacy and moving towards true intimacy with God and each other.

LOVE EACH OTHER

The very first ‘Each Other’ statement covers them all. ‘Love Each Other’ or in some translations, ‘Love One Another’ is found 17 times in the New Testament. Jesus stressed love in many ways throughout his teachings and, of course, even more so in His actions. Peter, John and Paul reinforced this message in their letters to the church. Loving others will be a powerful tool, maybe THE powerful tool, towards fighting this Battle by building True Intimacy.

Love is many faceted. Love is huge. Love is a noun. Love is a verb. Love is an adverb. Love is a feeling. Love is an action. Love is God. Love can’t be exhausted. If God truly is Love then it has the attributes of God. That’s big, Love is huge.

What would our lives look like if they were all about love? How much more would we win the Battle? If we could live a life characterized by love, we could remain in Victory always even in the smallest of Battles.

So loving others and loving God needs to be our goal. The goal of having our life characterized by love. A pretty big undertaking for the biggest of attributes and if it wasn’t for God in our lives it would be impossible. God, however, does desire to be in our lives and he has given us a whole list of actions and attitudes that together will characterize our life in love.

WWJD? Easy answer- ‘love’. It is pretty silly (maybe futile is a better word) to try and figure out what Jesus would do in every specific situation. Especially in this culture, in this post industrialized nation, in this information society which is so different from that of the New Testament times.

We DO know, that in whatever ‘He would do’, it would be done in love. Maybe the bracelet we should wear is not WWJD? but HWJL?. ‘How would Jesus love?’ is probably the question we should be asking. Because loving each other is what we should be about.

I ask again; In your days of acting out, what would have been different if loving each other had been on your mind? What choices would be different if you had been in the habit of thinking ‘How Would Jesus Love?’

How would your relationships be different if right now, this very day you set out to love unconditionally the people God has put in your life? God has put your wife, your children, your mother, your father, your siblings, your work peers, your church friends and many more in your life. How would today be different if you set out to love them?

Imagine how much victory you would have in your battle if loving others were the main goal of your day! LOVE will bring us victory in our battle…guaranteed!

The ‘Each Other’ passages are actions and attitudes of love–and actions of love build true intimacy. When True intimacy destroys false intimacy the Battle is WON!!!

For help with the battle for sexual purity, please see Every Man’s Battle.