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.

Shame vs. True Conviction: Knowing the Difference at the Heart of the Battle

Jim Grimes

Shame and true conviction are very difficult concepts to grasp for shame can easily masquerade itself as true conviction. In addition, both produce very strong emotional reactions that result in changed behavior. So what are the definitions of shame and conviction? Shame is a negative emotion that combines feelings of dishonor, unworthiness, and embarrassment, while true conviction is a firmly held belief or opinion. Knowing the difference is at the heart of the battle in dealing successfully with sexual addiction. Let’s take a look at where the resulting behaviors that come out of shame and true conviction lead.

On a recent visit to the discovery science center with my family, we spent some time at the sand and water exhibit learning about the effects of erosion. In reflection, this exhibit is a visual picture of destruction that shame can cause, and the devastating effects of shame on the spiritual health of men.

To begin with, the interactive exhibit allows you to construct a dam using sand, thereby backing up the water behind. Once the water accumulates, it literally tears away the walls of the dam, creating a small canyon for the water to escape through. Observing this phenomenon I was struck with how it reflects the effects of shame when dealing with addiction, and was reminded of Matthew 7:26 where the foolish man built his house on the sand.

Shame is sand when it comes to building relationships with ourselves and others. When the storms of life such as stress, problems at work, or conflict with your spouse arise, the coping abilities you possess can crumble because addiction provides you with a false sense of mastery. This is sinking sand because it produces shame. These strong negative emotions can lead to isolation, hiding, denial, division of the self, depression, decreased self-esteem, and feelings of anger towards oneself and others.

In Philippians 3:18-19 Paul speaks of people who are ‘enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.’

Shame focuses on the here and now, just like in the sand and water analogy of the exhibit. Once a breech was created, we had to focus our attention towards that one area, and we found that considerable effort was required in order for us to seal the breech and restore the dam.

Having seen that shame erodes away the very fabric of relationships with self and others, what are the results of true conviction? First off, a person receives numerous blessings from living out a life based on true conviction. Where shame led to the destruction of relationships, true conviction leads to strengthened relationships and community, openness, acceptance, union of the self, joy/happiness, healing, and increased self-esteem.

Living through true conviction is like building your house upon the rock. The storms of life will come and rage against you, but you will stand because you have built wisely. Proverbs 28:13 states, ‘he who conceals his transgression will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.’ 1 John 1:9 says that ‘if we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Within a humble man, true conviction leads to confession. In confession, you find compassion, and in compassion, healing and restoration.

This week, I challenge you to spend some time engaging in an object lesson: create a dam in your backyard using dirt and a garden hose, and observe the devastation that transpires when a small break is formed in the dam you built. As you do this, train your mind to listen to and respond to true conviction rather than to shame. Shame works to destroy your inner life and your sense of self, just like water quickly erodes away a dam once it’s broken. Instead, stop the break and erosion. Rebuild your life and character by responding to the true conviction of the Holy Spirit through confession, openly taking responsibility for your actions, and choosing to build your house upon the Rock.

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

Re-building the Bridge Called Trust

Pastor Ed Grant

The old covered walking bridge across the Delaware River had stood for as long as anyone could remember. It connected the town of Portland, Pennsylvania with Columbia, New Jersey. During the spring one year ice flows combined with a large amount of rain and the swollen river washed away part of the bridge and weakened what remained.

Trust between people is like a bridge built from both sides of a river. When it is built with care and careful planning it will be durable, capable of weathering the storms of life. Occasionally it will need repair and certainly will require periodic maintenance, but individuals feel safe to put a great deal of emotional weight on the bridge: keeping one’s promises is expected; sensitive secrets divulged are carefully protected; personal flaws and weaknesses are accepted.

Happy is the person who has one or two close relationships! Building the bridge called trust is costly, risky and requires a substantial time investment, but the rewards are truly fulfilling.

What happens, though, when a large section of the trust-bridge has been washed away through betrayal, deception or a litany of broken promises? The ache and bitterness of soul can be almost unbearable. King David wrote about the agony caused by a friend’s betrayal: ‘If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.‘ (Psalm 55:12-14).

Is it possible to re-build the trust-bridge? How can we be sure that it won’t be washed out again?

Because we are all fallen human beings the potential for getting hurt again is always a possibility. Only Jesus, the friend of sinners, Who loved us while we were still His enemies, is worthy of our complete emotional trust. His nail scarred hands continually reach out to us, inviting us into His loving embrace. Having said this, however, God does intend for us to take the risk to restore broken relationships and to establish new ones. The trust-bridge must be re-built from both sides. Whether it is a marriage, a parent child relationship, or a friendship, the following principles apply to re-building trust.

For the wounded:

1. Those wounded need to take an emotional inventory: what happened; what has resulted from the person’s action; in what ways can I still trust him/her and in what ways is it unwise to trust?

2. The wounded desperately need God’s healing hand and His protection against the root of bitterness that frequently spring up from a wound. Healing may take a long time, depending on the damage done to the trust-bridge.

3. Trust and forgiveness are not the same . Forgiveness may be given long before trust is re-established. Those who have breached trust must demonstrate their trustworthiness over a period of time.

4. Talking with a close friend, a pastor or a counselor can provide insight and a different perspective. Don’t go through it by yourself!

5. Ask God for wisdom and discernment to help you determine the sincerity of the person’s sorrow over the offense, the desire to make restitution, and the efforts to change.

For those who have broken trust.

Solomon wrote, ‘Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for.’ (Prov. 16:6a). Love is the consideration shown for the injured; faithfulness is demonstrated by consistent change of behavior . Fleshed out it looks like this:

1. There are no quick fixes for the pain caused, nor are there any shortcuts to getting back to the way things were before. A great deal of patience and humility is needed to hear the other’s pain, often many times.

2. Accept responsibility for your actions without blaming others or explaining them away. Attempts to explain minimize the offense and show the wounded loved one you ‘don’t get it.’

3. Accept the consequences of your actions, including the emotional distance, and make restitution when possible.

4. Be accountable for your actions without becoming defensive.

5. Ask God to give you a view your sin from His perspective and to allow you to grasp the severity of the wound you caused.

6. Pray regularly for God’s healing touch upon the person and for sensitivity to their needs.

God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.”

The wonderful benefits that spring from trusting relationships is worth the risk of potential heartache. God can heal heartache, but He won’t fill the lonely void within when we refuse to build trust-bridges with others, especially with His people.