Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Do Men Need Community?

Do men need community?

by derekmaul

Men building community at a retreat I led in Virginia last year
Today I’m continuing to expand my thinking on the concept of “Life-charged community.” I’ve been exploring the idea that many men work hard to arrange their lives in such a way that their relationships never go far below the surface (we’re talking at church, at work, at home, with friends, and with their God). They work hard to avoid going anywhere near the deeper places where emotion and vulnerability and fear and intimacy remain carefully hidden away.
We could blame the culture we were raised in, I guess. But my peers and I are the baby-boom generation. We’re not kids any more! Now we are the people who are in a position to effect change.
So why would we continue to bow to the demands of the status quo? Unless, that is, we’ve discovered that we’re comfortable with “the way things are”?
  • Or maybe we’ve bought into the lie – often perpetuated by men’s ministry advocates – that “Real men don’t do vulnerable”… and that God would advocate for a reversion to male chauvinism in the church…!
  • Or maybe we’ve become fearful of change?
  • Or maybe all that ‘rage against the machine’ was nothing more than hot air?
  • Or maybe we own the machine now and we have too much invested in dysfunction to risk personal growth…?
  • Or maybe we’re scared of losing the tentative grip on control we’ve been clinging to all these years?
In working on my new book this morning I identified some elements that must be in place if we’re to build life-charged community. Here are a few:
  • Trust
  • Confidentiality
  • Honesty
  • A willingness to listen
  • The absence of judgment
  • Love
  • Commitment
  • Accessibility
  • Faithfulness…
Life-Charged Community in Colorado
I also addressed the LAME excuse many guys give that “I’m not a natural when it comes to ‘that kind of thing’….
Well, it turns out it doesn’t matter if we are “naturals” at friendship or if we’re actually better suited to retreating into our shell. Either way, the fact remains that all men – Christian or not – need the kinds of connections I’ve been writing about. Just because something requires more effort from some guys than others doesn’t negate the value of the principle in question! 
The guy who says, “I’m not any good at making friends” is no more – or less – in need of life-charged community than the guy who has – naturally – a dozen friends or more without even trying. We were created for relationship with God and we were created for relationship with other people; building community is absolutely necessary for any man who wants to engage his full potential.
Always learning something more about living the "Life-charged Life"
This is not a conversation about personal strength, or the ability to “tough it out”, or “man up”, or “suck it in”…. The man who distances himself from deep, open-hearted, loving relationships with other men is necessarily compromised in terms of “The Life-charged Life.”
OK, so I get a little pointed there. So be it. If we’re going to move beyond the dysfunction that has beset our society in so many ways, a little proactive community-building really isn’t that much to ask, is it?

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