A March article in the Boston globe garnered a lot of attention headlining that “the biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.” The post resonated with many men because we know it’s true! As children, we made the much needed connections with ease but as we’ve grown up we’ve also grown apart.
In a world of mass connectivity, you would think that we would be having more meaningful conversations, but the fact is, even in our spiritual circles and churches, we are NOT connecting in real ways.
In January, the messages at the church I attend focused on the theme “At Capacity.” On one particular Sunday, our pastor spoke about our capacity to love and be loved. While he was talking and sharing, I began to ponder both the Scriptures and his message:“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” 1 John 4:11-12
No one (here and now on earth) can see God or experience His physical love and presence and so He wants to show us love through each other. God’s love is brought to FULL expression when we receive His love and can fully express that love to others in our life.
And then it dawned on me – one of the reasons we as men may feel incomplete in the “love department” is because God intended for us to find His FULL expression of love from each other and that includes other men; however, for years we have been afraid to be transparent, real and/or affectionate with other men because of the social, cultural or even “Christian” restrictions we have encountered along the way.
Mark Greene in his book Remaking Manhood shares: “We live in a society that asks man to whitewash their narratives and keep a lid on their emotions. This is both killing men and damaging the boys coming along behind. The varied and rich personal stories of men and women and the conversations those stories invoke are part of the greater narrative of being human. If we are struggling in life, it is not because we have shared too many stories. It is because we have shared too few.”
We must work on our male relationships. Our sons, fathers, and male friends have been missing out on the full expression of God’s love because we have been afraid to show it or afraid what others may think or say. We’ve developed relationships that keep each other at arms distance and absent from the heart.
Thank goodness that we live in a time when young men feel slightly more comfortable with being real and semi-affectionate (hugging a male friend is no longer taboo) but I’m suggesting that we have a long way to go and we must work hard at our relationships with other men. To not be involved in each others’ lives means we will not ever participate in God’s full expression of love on this side of Heaven.
Pastor Jason left us that day with this quote: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” It sounded familiar and I figured out why. The phrase can be found in the lyrics of a song on my iPhone – the song “Nature Boy” sung by one of my mom’s favorite singers Nat King Cole. And get this, the partly autobiographical song was written in 1947 by poet Eden Ahbez and it is a tribute to his mentor Bill Pester.
For years we have been afraid to be transparent with other men because of the social, cultural or even “Christian” restrictions we have encountered along the way. We’ve developed relationships that keep each other at arms distance and absent from the heart. A relationship like the one between David and Jonathan are merely stories of old not healthy experiences to be shared and told. To not be involved in each others’ lives means we will not ever participate in God’s full expression of love on this side of Heaven.
Men: We need each other. We can’t do this alone. We need to talk to about our feelings. We need to stand up and share our fears, our failures, and our dreams. I don’t care how vulnerable that feels at first. It will get easier with time. It’s time we grow up and stop letting our fears and insecurities define us. I don’t know about you, but I am done with feeling numb and disconnected. That is not the man I want to be in the world. That is not the man I truly am.” Dan Mahle
My invitation to you is this: Let’s lean into our fears and find the courage to try something different. To explore new expressions of masculinity that no longer keep us boxed in, silent, and ashamed. We are meant for so much more . . . We have the potential to be whole, integrated, emotionally-connected men: Clear, conscious, strong, and compassionate. We are those things already. We just have to drop the facade of who we think we’re supposed to be and allow our true selves to be seen. It’s time we rise together as wholehearted men. Will you take the leap?