Today’s broken culture leaves many men in a desperate fight for their lives during the holidays. When there’s supposed to be cheer in the air, warmth in our hearts and glad tidings on our lips, unfortunately the holidays also usher in the most dangerous time of the year.
Holidays can bring cherished moments with loved ones, special traditions and memories that last a lifetime. Holidays also bring an opportunity to bring hope to the hurting, love to the loveless and compassion to the lonely.
As we enter the holiday season, keep your eyes and heart open to the fact that many men need help, and need Jesus. Broken families can lead to feelings of shame and guilt. Financial pressures can undo our facades. Failed marriages and relationships can create discomfort and loneliness despite being surrounded by people. Men are like icebergs – you only see the tip. Below the waterlines this Holiday season are some sharks of the season that seek to devour them.
Although depression may occur at any time of the year, the stress and anxiety of the holiday season—from November through Valentine’s Day—may exacerbate a lack of fulfillment. One study showed the most common stressors were feelings of loneliness and "being without a family."
For many people, holidays are a painful reminder of what once was. This is especially true for people who have experienced a significant loss such as the death of a spouse or a break-up.
The season also brings the deadliest time of the year for the heart. According to one of “America’s Top Doctors” Dennis Goodman, more people will suffer a heart attack in the coming weeks than the rest of the year combined. Thousands of people will visit emergency rooms this season with arrhythmia -- often a warning sign of stroke or heart attack -- a diagnosis Dr. Goodman coined: “Holiday Heart” syndrome.
David Petraeus and Tiger Woods were two of the most revered and respected apex predators in the masculine pecking order. Both breathed the rare air of cult status in the most coveted zones of male glory: battle and sport. They were disciplined warriors who possessed the spoils of manhood while simultaneously achieving “role model” status bequeathed to those who are professionally transcendent. Both were also known best for wearing the color green. The four-star general who hunted America’s enemies in Afghanistan suited up in green fatigues and the four-time Masters Champion dawned the iconic green jacket at Augusta National sealing his own mythic status. Their icon status and aura created a perception that they were also morally sound, emotionally mature and relationally committed to their families. Men and women, young and old, presidents and endorsers alike swallowed these two personas until one day both men lost their cultural “anointing” thanks to spicy and public revelations of sexual indiscretions. Their falls from grace were painful sucker punches to their admirers and to a nation that covets its’ national treasures.
The news outlets acted like a pack of wild hyenas with a fresh kill, eating the flesh off the story as fast as possible without much energy or thought going toward the very real moral and emotional conflicts resonating within these sad events. Predictably, journalists set to work dissecting the events, profiling the mistresses, and providing plate after plate of consumable journalistic gossip. This dance of detailing the logistics of immorality while never commenting on the actual moral angles of the story is the oxymoronic state of our news community. So what we got with the Woods and Petraeus affairs were the juicy details and “twinky” analysis bereft of any useable intellectual nutrition or meaningful insight from very painful stories about men. God forbid we hold up a mirror and actually learn from the mistakes we make as men so that we can identify the landmines and affirm the healthier patterns actually practiced by good men.
Suggestion: why don’t we stop shaking our heads at men and start exploring the powerful dynamics in these stories that are common to all men? Why not talk about the very real psychological, moral, and spiritual dynamics at the root of these lapses versus just “tabloiding” the symptoms for advertising bucks and social media buzz?
Okay, why not.
Torch or Baton?
How will we secure the next generation of young men?
We have all heard it.
One man passing the "baton" to another. A father passes a baton to a son, an outgoing CEO passes one to the incoming one, or a retiring athlete passes the baton to his younger successor. Nice idea but wrong metaphor when it comes to faith, mentoring, leading, and discipleship. Why wrong? Because from the first relays in ancient Greece to the world track and field championships of today runners who pass a baton stop running after handing it off. One runner completely powers off and shuts down while the new baton carrier turns the afterburners on and powers up.
That’s why I prefer torches to batons when I talk about generational impact. Torches transfer the flame while continuing to stay lit themselves to shine light and ignite fires elsewhere.
They are single by default, by circumstance, or by choice. They may have visions of marriage and family while others have totally given up. The rarest of all in the Body see their relational context as a gift. But regardless of perspective and desire, all these men face unique moral and spiritual struggles which require more, not less, character than their married friends. Strong beliefs are required to support stronger (but culturally disapproved) behaviors that preserve spiritual integrity. It’s ironic that the most influential man who ever walked the planet was unmarried and possessed a sense of self rooted in God and his purposes that transcended the broken male culture of his day. Jesus, as well as a host of other examples in the Bible provides the template for our conversations with and ministry to unmarried men. Here are the top three issues, examples and principles we should be addressing with this group of men God wants to use mightily.
Understanding the heart of a woman is an oxymoron.
Key word? Moron. That’s because only a moron would be arrogant enough to bloody their nose on the rock of the unthinkable. But I am not your average moron. I am a conflicted moron on a mission. The Yin in me says to the Yang “just give up already, accept emotional kindergarten.” But the Yang fights back and says, “the pay-off dude, think about the pay-off if you figure out what she wants!” The prospect of the pay-off wins again and the Yin taps out. But that’s another bone of contention: the pay-off. That certainly has changed over my 30-year dance in the shifting sands of relational intimacy. What once was the effortless and easily secured warm fuzzies of the dating years (complete with over-laughing and pretend listening) has morphed into the intentional, quasi-mature pursuit of communication and emotional intimacy. That last admission will cost me a 100 point debit off my “man card” but I have learned that the risking for my relationships reaps “phat” rewards.