GAME PLAN: A Man’s Guide to Achieving Emotional Fitness
Men today no longer have to pretend to be GI Joe, the Marlboro Man or a superhero — nor do they have to perpetuate their fathers’ addiction to work, alcohol or emotional obscurity.
The spiritual journey of the male includes two major spiritual tasks: discovering what he is to be, and how to move into a deeper inner life with a sense of self and the world. The two essential questions in life for men are, how to live and why. It is as simple (and complex) as that. The temptation they face is to wallpaper the empty spaces of our lives with work, not providing the necessary balance among service, work, and an avocation. But the true male spiritual journey is to grow in grace, and not just in doing more things.
Male spirituality involves not just one compartment of life, but the deepest dimension of the person a man is made to be – his ultimate questions, hopes, fears, and loves. It gives him meaning in living by addressing life’s questions of self-worth and significance. It reveals the mysteries of living, the realization that life’s ultimate meaning cannot lie in speed, youth, consumerism, achievement, and physical beauty as defined by our culture. The male spiritual journey explores the downward, or inward, calling men to face their limits, and letting go of control. The journey takes them into their personal desert spaces, their alone times where they confront who they are, their true selves.
Beware of the man who tells you life is one joy after another with no desert times. He is fooling himself, and you. Digging deeper emotionally requires time alone in the desert of his spirit. Men don’t like to be lost; after all, men are problem solvers who never ask for directions. Male spirituality involves time in the desert, in the darkness and wilderness, from which he is reborn into something new and wonderful. They fear they will be insignificant when they leave behind the power, possessions, and prestige that drive them.
In the first part of life a man’s journey finds himself filled with ascent, being in control of the outward parts of his life. In the second half of life a man goes inward, willing to give up some control, digging deeper into himself. To get there, he must go through his broken-ness and wounded-ness.
Male spirituality is primarily a journey of acceptance of his own limits, realizing that no one can have it all; he realizes the limits of his power and exploring his pain. This journey takes men through the dark night of the soul of pain, to the light of trust. All men experience some pain through wounds in relationships, career setbacks, physical illness, and or deaths of friends and colleagues. What they do with that pain determines how they will live.
The desert is not just a place, but also a state of being, and when he feels most alone, a man faces the ultimate question of life: “Why am I here?” The dark night of the soul is not always a depressing experience. The real meaning of the term “dark night of the soul” may mean things are obscure, and we may not see or grasp what is happening. It is a sense of unknowing and mystery, and in those dark times we need to trust someone else to be our guide.
His answers come when men measure themselves by something other than performance, despite what others tell them. They will be incessantly restless until they turn all their wounded-ness into health, their deformity into beauty, and their embarrassment into laughter.
The universal spiritual truth is that no man’s life is just about him. There is a far greater story being played out. A man’s task in the inward journey is to discover and define his role in that intricate story.