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A Desperate Jealousy – Further Thoughts

A short while ago I posted an article here with the tongue-in-cheek title of “A Desperate Jealousy.” In that article I expressed my desire to have a mentor. I said, “I am absolutely desperate to have someone who will invest in me. I am desperate to find a person, or have a person find me, who will play Paul to this Timothy.” That article seems to have struck a chord with other men, both young and old. I received many emails and there were plenty of comments posted beneath the article in which other men expressed the same desire. I had a chat with a friend who is a pastor who told me that he felt a similar desperation for a mentor but was never successful in finding one. Reading the article helped him understand that he could, at least, find a person or two in whom he could invest time and attention.

Since that time (and, to be honest, since long before then) I have been doing a lot of thinking about the nature of men’s relationships with each other. One of the more vivid examples I know of that illustrates the way men interact is found in Bill Perkins’ book When Good Men Are Tempted. I will include an excerpt from the book:

In his best-selling book Don’t Stand Too Close To A Naked Man, [Tim] Allen tells about an experience he had while in jail. The event occurred right after he was placed in a holding cell with ten other guys. The first thing he noticed about the cell was that the toilet was in the middle of the room. He probably noticed that because he had some business he needed to take care of. He said he looked at the can, then at the ceiling, then at the can, then at the ten guys in the cell. He wanted to leave. But the door was closed and locked.

He made up his mind that he would not use that can. No way! How could he take a dump with ten other guys watching? Finally, he wrote, “Digestion being as it is, things must emerge. I ambled tentatively to the can. I turned away and started back to my seat, but knew it was no good. I was committed. I sat down and suddenly all the men began moving toward me. I panicked.

“I didn’t have to. This still blows my mind.

“What they did was form a horseshoe around me with their backs in my direction.” Why had they done that? Allen said, “Because they’re men, too. It was a big revelation. These aren’t just losers like me, but they’re men. They do this so you can have some privacy and no one can see in from the outside.”

That last statement is profound because it describes what every man needs. We need friends who understand our fears and offer us protection, men who will stand guard around us during our times of vulnerability and shame.

It’s too bad Allen had to go to jail to discover the willingness of men to shelter each other, to stand guard for each other. Because most men aren’t forced into such close relationships, they never find that out. As I’ve talked with men, I’ve discovered most of them feel that their struggles…are personal. They’re private. They’re shameful. Like a trip to the can – it’s not the sort of thing they want other men to see.

It was a couple of years ago now that I first read this quote and it has often been on my mind since then. I absolutely agree with the author’s conclusion that men feel that their struggles, whether with lust or finances or marriage or anything else are shameful and deeply personal. From the time we are children men are taught to suppress the expression of pain, fear and helplessness. We are taught that such expression of vulnerability is weakness. Most of us would rather use a toilet in front of other men than confide in them our sin and struggles.

There is nothing feminine or emasculating in confiding our struggles to other men. There is nothing wrong with expressing fear and helplessness to other men. We do not need to do it with hugs and tears and sobbing, nor do we need to use the words “intimacy” or “feelings.” We can express love without using the word “love” and can maintain our pride, our dignity, but still allow ourselves to be transparent before others.

But how many men do this?

As I mentioned, in the days following the posting of my article I received a lot of comments, but perhaps the most interesting comment came from my mother. “Men are lonely,” she said. “Men just do not stick up for other men.” This is not mere pessimism on her part but is a lesson she has learned by watching my father and other men interact with each other. I wonder if she is right. Is it true that close relationships among men, mentoring relationships, are the exception rather than the rule?

Judging by what I have seen and experienced I suspect she may be right. It would be easy to moan about this and to spend my time wishing that some godly man would come along and begin a mentoring relationship with me. But I suspect that the true answer to the problem lies within. It lies with people like me who see the value of mentorship. We are the ones who can be used to make a difference in the lives of other men. And so I encourage men like myself to seek out and to find other men in whom you can invest – men in whose lives you can make a difference. While you may never have that mentor you desire, perhaps God will use you in just that role in the life of another person.

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