I was going in for my routine a-bit-off-the-top-and-fade-the-sides haircut when I read a very interesting article. I’m not a huge fan of cult magazines like GQ, People and Cosmo, but when I’ve got a 15-minute wait, they’re great reads and I get an opportunity to check up on what culture is putting out for those curiously ravenous minds. One specific feature caught my eye. Its predictable title went something like, “Men and Bedroom Myths.” For those familiar with these types of writing, you almost know what’s coming — some Top 10 list of how you can be a better lover. Well, needless to say, there was a Top 10 list, but it wasn’t your typical slew of sleazy bedroom suggestions. In fact, the writer was actually giving men some pretty good advice. One description tagged men to a tee — “Men are fixated on their bodies and how they perform. They get this image of a ‘man’ from what the media and sweaty locker rooms feed them (paraphrased).”
When I read that statement, my heart resounded with a huge, “Yes!” I immediately knew this statement to be true because growing up throughout high school and even into my college years I was fed that very same image. But it is an incomplete and false picture of what a man is. Being a man is not all about how long you last in bed, how massive your penis is, how quick you can get your lover into the sack or even how many people you’ve slept with. Media and culture would love to convince you otherwise.
I caught a tragic episode of Friends the other night. Chandler and Joey were giving Ross a hard time because he’d only been with one woman. Their exact words were, “What a freak!” These are the descriptions mass media is pumping into the young male psyche. It’s no wonder the male adolescent mind is so conflicted as to how he views what “being a man” is all about.
[INSECURITIES … WELCOME TO EVERY MAN’S WORLD]
The bottom line behind men and their issues with performance is a big white lie that all are afraid to admit. Maybe you’re thinking about yours right now. As soon as you saw that word — insecurity — it surfaced in your mind. Every man has an area of himself that he’s afraid to expose for risk of being rejected. I don’t care if you’ve got washboard abs, rippling biceps, smooth skin and perfect hair, there’s something lying below the surface in all of us that is seeking validation. But it’s not just from women … it’s from men too. Unfortunately for a lot of men, most have either taken the approach that I described above (machismo and hyper-masculinity) or they go down that road of unhealthy masculine affection. The church has labeled it homosexuality, but it’s really a lot more than that. It’s something deeper in all of us — the need to be welcomed and embraced for who we are without being humiliated and devalued as a man.
Sadly, the Church doesn’t want to talk about a man’s insecurities. Hairy butts and tiny endowments aren’t choice conversations at your neighborhood flannel-and-biscuit Saturday morning men’s breakfast. Nobody wants to hear about 50-year-old John not being able to get it up with his wife the night before. That’s something he needs to “take to Jesus” or his family physician. Or how about Bill’s unattractive chest pimples — nope, too disgusting. And surely George’s hairy butt just doesn’t fit the bill for things that “normal,” sports-watching, mechanically-inclined, loud-farting “men” talk about. One may laugh, but these are serious scars that can haunt men well into their adult life.
I was plagued growing up as a young teen by an unsightly skin disease. Unfortunately, it was on a very personal part of my body. This led me into a life of avoiding gym showers and any other situation where I would be found out. Why? Because I was more afraid of rejection than I was of living my whole life in hiding. I picked posing over nakedness. I was too embarrassed to go to the doctor and too ashamed to approach my dad and tell him. Where was I to go? In my mind, if I told my college buddies, than I surely would be known as one of those “freaks.” Growing up, I was riddled with thoughts that a woman surely wouldn’t want to marry me, let alone make love to me. Iconsidered men but that turned me off too. I thought, If a woman wouldn’t accept me in bed, then why would a man? It’s funny where your mind goes to find acceptance. I later shared my inner war with Katie, the woman I now call my wife. But that still wasn’t enough to quench the inner fear of being rejected by another guy. It wasn’t until I met Lance, my father-in-law and best friend, that I really began to feel safe. Even with him I was terrified to share this insecurity that haunted me. When I finally told him, his response blew me away, “Jared, it’s no big deal. I’ve got my stuff too. Every man does; you’re not alone!”
[YOU’RE NOT ALONE]
Who defines the way you look at yourself as a man, physically? What images, words, phrases, faces, etc. come to mind when you think of being a man? Do you have a secret insecurity that no one knows about? Perhaps it’s time to come out of the shadows. Maybe your insecurity doesn’t manifest itself bodily. I have met a ton of men who are terrified to speak in front of a group, use a public urinal or even cry openly. It doesn’t matter, really. All guys have their “stuff.” But if we as men really want freedom from isolation, fear and addiction, we’ve got to risk getting “naked.” Jan Denise defines this process of raw honesty, “Getting naked means uncovering who you really are … Growing up we learned to cover our physical nakedness. We learned to measure our words and guard our emotions. We learned to worry about what people might think. We learned, in effect, to build a facade that made us feel safe” (Naked Relationships).
Simply, men, it’s time to get honest — it’s time to get naked with who we really are, in our weaknesses. It’s time to stop playing it safe. Most of the men I meet have been in hiding for far too long and it’s killing them from the inside. The good news is, for those willing to trek this path of nakedness, something far greater than confidence waits at the end.
[Jared Feria is the author of Over the Edge: Journeying to Recapture the Heart and Soul of a Man. Check out http://www.inhisfullness.com for what waits at the end.]