"Men's Issues: Making It Through the Minefields"
by Pat Means
Seven years ago last month I was at a
conference site in central Europe, attending training sessions for the
Christian organization with which I served. I was awakened in the
middle of the night by the ringing of the phone next to my bed. Even
half-asleep I could hear the strain in my supervisor's voice: "I
need you to come to my room immediately. It's serious."
The next four hours were the start of a nightmare: confrontation over
the discovery of my extramarital affair, immediate dismissal from the
ministry in which I had served for almost twenty years, and the
beginning of a wilderness period that included divorce and the loss of
I got into counseling, found a support structure of other Christian
leaders, and began to work on my own personal recovery. More than
anything else I wanted to find some answers to the question 'How could
this have happened to me?'. That led to a five-year study of the
factors that can lead to crisis in the lives of otherwise dedicated
A sobering picture has emerged from the confidential surveys I take in
my "Manhood Without Models" seminars for men: burnouts and
"blowouts" affect one out of every two men in our society;
more than 60% of Christian men are involved in some type of secret
sexual sin or addictive behavior; and forty percent own up to having
had an extramarital affair since becoming a Christian.
But Christian men don't have to become casualties in the wars that
threaten their private lives. This series will look at three of the
most dangerous minefields that criss-cross our journey through life as
men, and the steps we need to take to traverse them.
Strength, Success and the False Self
The women's movement has called attention to the way in which physical
beauty has been used as the unfair standard against which all women's
worth is measured. But society also judges a man's worth on the basis
of external success. If a man makes a lot of money or has a
prestigious job, he is valued, honored and rewarded far more than the
man who doesn't make much money and has a more menial job. In our
culture, words like "loser", "bum", and
"deadbeat" are all used exclusively for men. All of them are
put-downs of a man's worth based purely on the standard of external or
vocational success. This pressure on men to succeed, to always look
strong and competent, has at least three destructive results.
1. Killer Levels of Stress
Drivenness, adrenaline addiction, and eventual burnout are
increasingly the experience of Christian men today, even (or perhaps
especially) men in the ministry and the helping professions. Author
Tim Hansel in When I Relax I Feel Guilty talks about waking up one
morning during the period in which he was ministering on Young Life
staff and realizing that he had become a "sour, driven salesman
of the abundant life," and that, if someone were to peek in the
windows of his house and see how he truly lived his life, that person
would never want anything to do with the gospel he preached! That
realization was a wake-up call for Hansel, and he began looking for
ways to slow down and enjoy the journey more. Reflect on these three
questions for a moment: Are you deeply weary with your work? Do you
find yourself becoming increasingly callous with other people? Are
your dreams gone? If you answer to all three is "yes", you
may already be sliding into burnout.
Growth Steps: For most men, dealing with a killer level of stress is
primarily a matter of deciding whether or not you can live on less:
less praise and recognition (for the bionic levels of achievement you
attain), less money and fewer work hours in exchange for greater peace
and more enjoyable relationships. Talk with you wife about the
trade-offs. Meditate on Matthew 11:28-30.
2. An Erosion of Our Relationship With God
The emphasis on being (or at least looking) strong and successful runs
directly counter to a virile spiritual life. King Uzziah was one of
the most naturally gifted leaders in all of history. He became king of
Judah at age 16, and went on to become a great warrior and city
builder and statesman. But after listing a lengthy litany of Uzziah's
achievements, the writer of 2 Chronicles goes on to write this
chilling epitaph to his career: "For [Uzziah] was marvelously
helped until he was strong. But when he became strong, his heart was
so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord
his God. . ."
A little over a year ago, my wife and I started a new ministry of
speaking and workshopping. As with any new endeavor, this start-up
phase has been full of adversity and financial challenges. I hate
adversity, and I hate being weak. I feel much better when I'm strong
and successful. But I have to (grudgingly) admit that I've also had to
depend on God as never before in a one-day-at-a-time kind of way, and
that I've grown through the experience. I'm not suggesting that we
exalt vocational struggle (or any other kind of hardship) to the level
of a virtue. But the self-congratulatory smugness that often
accompanies strength and success in our society can lead directly to
the kind of spiritual deadness that Uzziah ultimately experienced.
Growth Steps: Mediate on 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. How does
being "weak" fit in with your own view of what a man should
be? What masculine qualities are required to live out the attitudes
Paul expresses in verse 10?
Note: Part 2 of "Men's Issues: Making It
Through the Minefields" .
Patrick Means is co-director of Inside Out Ministries, and the
presenter of the popular "Manhood Without Models" seminars
Go to more articles from Patrick
Means in STEPS Magazine
NOTE: Reproduction in any form
without the express written permission of the author is prohibited.