If you were to google loneliness you would find loneliness among men, especially in the age of covid, to be a pubic health crisis. Men tend to live in isolation with their inner pain, while women more readily connect with other women. The lack of healthy male relationships is a subject not easily discussed in our culture. It leaves men alone to suffer in their shame, not knowing how to deal with their inner pain.
One counselor who worked with men gave the following five reasons why loneliness among men is a worsening epidemic that is “literally killing” men. 1) Men fear appearing weak, 2) Men don’t talk about their feelings, 3) Many aren’t comfortable being vulnerable, 4) Hypermasculine assertiveness, and 5) Few bonding opportunities. I want to address this last point.
In the church, men get mixed message as to what a man is suppose to be. Jesus can be portrayed along a continuum from being super sensitive and caring to being like the warrior portrayed in Revelation 19. In the age of the “toxic masculine,” men in the church, have learned to hid behind their protective emotional shields, afraid to express their confusion, sadness, anger and loneliness. Men are emotionally wounded by the gender wars and don’t know how to process their pain. The festering of the wounds, spills over into dysfunctional relationships with those who are closest to them, especially family.
In the church, there are men who have “forfeited their souls” to the feminist rant for the new masculine. They are shamed into being emasculated men, who are not able to express any genuine masculine strength, for fear of being called a bigot. Men are caught in the double bind of being shamed for being a man, while being told they are have not been responsible addressing male patriarchy.
Men needs intergenerational male communities of brothers and fathers where soul talk among men is normal conversation. Here men can be heard as they risk telling their stories of navigating life through the good, the bad, and the ugly. “Celebrate Recovery” (look it up on google) give good guidance: “Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and my life is unmanageable.”
Men can learn to “fight for each other’s hearts.” A good watch word would be Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else guard you heart, for it affects everything you do.” Alastair Roberts makes this observation regarding the gathering of men . “Male groups tend to broad and shallow: larger numbers of persons, but typically less intimate and closely bonded…Male groups have a greater tendency to socialize and bond around agency, ritual, action and competition…….We principally bond through sharing ideas, activities, arguments, and obsessions, not through sharing feelings, personal narrative or secrets.”
While the church needs to provide opportunities for men to grow spiritually through activities together, there is a real need to provide space for men to process their journey with other men. It will take time and practice to move beyond “agency, ritual, action and competition.” In the days to come, men will need to find and have brothers who stay with them in the battle.
If you are a man who is caught in the dark web of loneliness, feeling like a lost sheep, Jesus, the good shepherd, knows your need. Tell the Lord you honest need and begin to ask to Lord to direct you to a group. The big step is to reach out and make yourself available to a group of men. He knows your need and will provide the opportunity. But you will need to be vulnerable.