I came across this phrase, “The Leukemia of Masculinity” in a book I quoted a couple of blogs ag0, entitled “The True Measure of a Man” by Richard E. Simmons III. The phrase came from a talk giving by Malcolm Smith. Smith maintains that shame, “makes so many men determined to hide their fears and their faults. If we believe we do not have what it takes to be a man – that we are not adequate and we do not measure up – it invalidates our sense of manhood. Shame is what destroys men’s lives.” Men fear shame in part because it reminds many of us of the pain from events in our younger years, when we could not defend or justify ourselves. Shame reflects how we view ourselves as persons. That’s why we put up the armor of protection. As young boys we did the best to protect our sense of self.
So how do men learn to deal with shame as followers of Jesus? Here are at least three lessons I have learned over the years. First, I am learning to break through all the layers of protection that I developed over the years to protect my fragile,” homemake self.” In this work of putting on the armour, I created a false self that I projected as being “all together” while on the inside being very insecure, like a frightened little boy, who was reduced to hiding in the shadows of shame. Whenever I felt exposed I was horrified of others knowing who I was. But all along, I did not have the realization that this false self was not the true me. My true self”was “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). My authentic personhood is a gift of God. My worth is found in who God intended me to be – His beloved Son. Yes, still deeply flawed but loved.
Secondly, at risk to my fragile ego, I began to expose my “homemake self”, which was the “spiritual, niece guy” that I thought I was and wanted everybody to know and notice as a “professional holy man” (a Lutheran pastor). Beginning to reveal myself happened when I finally got the drift, in my late 40’s and early 50’s, that God really did love me in all my stinky mess. I did not have to prove myself before my heavenly Father. I came to realize that when I stood in the light of God’s presence I received love and mercy, not a message of condemnation. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Rom 8:1). The power to sin had been at work in me, compelling me to create a “homemake self” leading to spiritual death, that is, a lack of spiritual life and energy. Now I am learning to rely more and more on “the life-giving Spirit,” which give me spiritual vitality. My sinful patterns and practices no longer overwhelmed me, as I find grace to be honest about my true condition before God.
Thirdly, I am learning to stand, and I mean literally stand, in my right relatedness with Jesus. “God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:24 – The Message). Think about this posture as standing in a wide, open space with bright sunlight and the goodness of God’s creation all around you. As I visualize myself in such a space, I look up in faith into the face of the Lord and as I confess my shortcomings, I receive the Fatherly love coming to me through Jesus. As I am in this posture, I visualize the life of Jesus within me flowing up and out of my inner most being, bring illumination, cleansing and healing to my soul. Here I take my stand, against all the voices both from without, along within those that originate in my diseased attitudes and feelings about myself.