Poor Man Pays Twice

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I was working on some wood floors a while back and my belt sander busted.  My buddy looked at the broken machine and said “Don’t be cheap. Poor man pays twice” and went back to work with his fancy yellow one.

Punk.

But I learned a lesson.

I think it applies to more than electric belt sanders. 

Somewhere along the way I picked up a bunch of quick fix cheap tools to meet some basic needs.

For example: porn was a cheap tool I kept buying to meet an intimacy need.  There are more, and I’m sure you have a bunch you can think of for yourself. 

Lately,  I’ve been investing in new and better tools.  Tools like the Feeling Wheel so I can attach the right word to the right feeling.   Vulnerability is a great tool for breaking shame.

There are a load of others that help like, rest, eating right, worship, calling a friend, adventure.  A good list to start on is page 22 of ManAlive: The Making of Men.  If you haven’t got the book I highly recommend it.   

After 3 years, I’ve got a decent sized tool box, and it feels pretty good.  Some of them definitely cost more than others, but it has been worth it.

Start getting some new tools and don’t be cheap, you aren’t a poor man. 

The Man I Always Wanted To Be

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As a boy, I longed for adventure.  I thought for sure I would be a man along the lines of Indiana Jones.   

ManAlive in a hammock.

I imagined myself traveling the world, starting a business, climbing mountains, making a ton of money. There were fantasies about teaching and giving interviews about my amazing adventures.

The man I wanted to be was decisive, took action, did things, laughed and loved and lived life large.   At no point did I imagine myself in my 40’s dealing with indecision, passivity, fear, rage and rejection.

I was not the man I wanted to be, but I could not pursue radical self-improvement by myself and nobody could really help.   Every time I tried to change or stop, I was left buried in shame, isolated, more aware of my problems and more rehearsed in failure.   Oh, I tried. The meetings, counseling, the prayers, the books, all seemed focused on not doing bad things, being Holy, and on actions to do when I was triggered, but by then it was too late.

Nothing prepared me to deal with the emotions I couldn’t seem to control and was barely aware that I had.

It was ManAlive (the Monday night group), the men in the room, and reading this book, that changed my life.  Through ManAlive, I picked up the skills I would practice and hone to build solid relationships with myself and with men and remove shame from my life.  Once that started, I was able to uncover the things that brought me life and go after them.

The man I am now, is a man who goes after life and relationship.  I’m taking action, making more and better decisions, laughing, loving, crying, feeling.  I am a man more fully alive than ever before, and you can be too.   

It’s been over three years now and what I have learned from Mark has brought me, my marriage, and my family back to life.

Be the man you’ve always wanted to be.  Get the book, read it and do it.

Thanks Mark, you are amazing. 

This Hope is for You

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For years I couldn’t dream. I couldn’t laugh.  I couldn’t cry and I could barely feel.  Life required so much from me, I didn’t know how to do it.  I was lost, hurting, and messing up.

In 2012, I described myself as a booster rocket.  I would expend all I had, burn up as I pushed my family up and away from all the crap I had grown up with.   I would launch them and fall back to earth, spent and wasted.   It had a noble ring to it and reeked of self pity. 

There was hope for them but not for me. 

During the fall of 2013, I heard Dave Stevenson speak. This man got up and shared deeply and passionately about his process, his shame and pain, but he spoke with a confidence and hope that stirred me.

Is it true.. how did he get there?   

Screw it!  If Dave Stevenson could do it, so could I.  Two weeks later I joined a group at ManAlive.

And….life actually got harder before it got better.  As I faced my issues and quit running from difficulty and pain, I was feeling more hurt than ever before.  It sucked.  I yelled at God. I pouted and went on long walks.  I did my homework. I fought with my wife.  I journaled a bunch trying to find words for my pain. 

The grind was not fun and part of me wanted to quit.  Was it worth it? 

I would not have continued without seeing men like Dave Stevenson, Eli Leedy, and others crushing it week after week.   Even their failures modeled a life wide open and alive.  Their stories were hope for me and still are.   Hope that this process was temporary and that I could actually win.   Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him.  Jesus had hope in the coming joy that allowed him to dig in and endure.

I started grabbing on to the hope that the guys shared in the room.  I could endure this present pain because I saw them push through into something more.  There was more here than not messing up.  I saw men starting their own companies.  Other fellows were getting pay raises and promotions because they were no longer passively plugging along in their jobs.  Relationships improved and even marriages restored.  I saw dudes going after big dreams and coming fully alive.  Who doesn’t want to ride a motorcycle across the country, or run with the bulls, or write a novel? 

I saw men do amazingly well in difficult times and it inspired me. 

Around my second year in group it dawned on me, I had some hope.  I was doing it.  I wasn’t coping or merely getting by; I was facing issues and doing what needed to be done. I was living… I was Alive! 

So here is my personal message to you.

I have so much hope for you.  You are in the right place.  Look at the lives changed, listen to their stories.  You can feel the hope in this room, in these blogs and podcasts.  Grab it.

This hope is for you. 

An Emotional Laxative

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I’m fine.  I don’t have time to cry, I’ll deal with it later. Suck it up.

This is what I was taught and what I thought was normal.  Guys don’t cry, they aren’t emotional.  That’s a moody woman thing. 

The reality is all these emotions kept coming, and I kept cramming them down and shutting them up. 

As I shoved them away, bit by bit, I lost the ability to cry, to feel, to articulate what I was feeling and connect on an emotional level with anybody around me. 

Unless it was sports, then I could be as emotional as I wanted, that was OK.  What was worse; exploding into a fit of rage.   

Basically, I was emotionally constipated and it was isolating me.

ManAlive taught me that the feelings are real, important, and a bigger part of my well being and life than I ever imagined. Emotions were driving many of my unwanted behaviors.   Not only that, but my inability to connect with myself inhibited my ability to connect with anybody and that was making things worse. 

Every week I got a chance to share in group. To focus on what I was feeling and to practice saying it. But I needed more.  Decades of emotions were not going to open up in a 5 minute share once a week.  It’s a good start, but I was ready and needed more. 

A friend of mine at work came across an exercise by Dr. Doug Weiss in his emotional fitness book that worked great and I wanted to share it.

It’s pretty simple.  You get a list of emotions, or a feeling wheel, and take three emotions each day.   Connect with the emotion, try to feel it.  How does your body respond? When was the first time you ever felt it? You then look your buddy straight in the eye, and tell him.  It can be funky at first but that’s the point.

Here is an example:

I feel frustrated when I don’t do well at work despite my efforts.  When I’m frustrated my chest and forehead get tight and my muscles tense up.  The first time I felt frustrated was in 3rd grade, we had just moved, and my new school had already started cursive, but my old school hadn’t.  I was put in a remedial class and I felt frustrated. 

I looked my friend in the eye, and did three of those in a row. It took several weeks

 as we worked through the list of emotions.  

Had the best cry of my life a few months after we started. 

There is something powerful in the sharing and connection.  But if you can’t share with a trusted friend, then journal it.  Seriously, do three a day.  Write it down just like I did above and work through all the emotions you can. 

Every little bit is good. 

You have to break up the years of constipation.   This exercise was a powerful emotional laxative for me.  Hope it helps. 

Buried treasure

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Men come to ManAlive and find hope and freedom through relationships.   Guys struggling with anything; Porn, Addiction, Anger, and all sorts of issues find that what they needed all along was deep meaningful connection.  Many of the root issues that have plagued their lives revolve around shame and isolation, the very opposite of connection.

On Monday nights, guys dig deep and expose old fears and become vulnerable to another, living breathing human being for the first time.  As they uncover shame, joy and hope springs forth.  But it’s hard work building real relationships and it often hurts.

Don’t let that hard work, don’t let the pain of getting free keep you from telling others. 

Sometimes telling people can be a final piece to the puzzle.  You are on a journey to a place where nothing remains hidden and locked away.  When you begin sharing the good news of unconditional love, love like Jesus has shown, in action, in your life, it destroys shame and opens connection. 

For a long time I didn’t want people to know, especially my wife’s friends, that I was going to ManAlive.  I was working on the shame from my past in group, but the shame of the present was holding me back from the people in my life.  I was ashamed of my past and I was ashamed of the cure.   I was ashamed of the way that Jesus and Holy Spirt were setting me free.  I wanted the amazing encounter with visitations, electricity, and the audible voice of God booming for all to hear.   Working through shame felt hard, harsh, and painful and not at all the way I wanted God to set me free.  

I understood the servant in Luke 19:21, the one who went and buried some money.  In the story,  there was a master who had a capable servant and gave him a sum of money, a bit of treasure, to invest.    Go read it for yourself,  but when the master came back looking for a return on his investment, the servant basically said “I know you are a harsh master and I was afraid, so I buried what you gave me.”   To round out the story, the master was not happy with the buried investment and took it all away from the fearful servant.  

Look, I get it, the process is difficult.  That servant was speaking the truth,  he was fearful and he didn’t want to be exposed to the pain.   There was no way I wanted to have more pain either.  But that was a passive response and reinforced all the old patterns that got me in trouble to begin with.  Burying the issue didn’t end well for the servant and it wont end well for you or me.   The freedom of this room is not meant to remain buried in the room.   2 hours in group is not enough to offset the 168 hours that make up the week.

It’s hard to get better if you spend more time isolating, hiding, and burying the shame than you do making connections. If you keep it buried, you risk losing it all.

You and I have a treasure, an investment, that can bring big returns for us and others.  

A treasure of relationships. The joy of being fully alive and present with people around you. It is wonderful being truly known and loved right here, right now by people who see your flaws and still choose to be with you.  This is a treasure that needs to be shared, it needs to be invested and given and sown.. but do not bury it.  By all means share with wisdom, and appropriately, just don’t bury the treasure and lose your investment.  

Solicitation

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Solicitation has a bad rap, but aside from meaning seeking the services of a prostitute or the signs that say, “No solicitors,” it means to ask for something.    Sometimes the only way we can get what we need is if we can ask for it directly.   The other day I needed encouragement.  Things are tough at work and the budget is tight and I was feeling stress.

Because of the skills I have learned at ManAlive, I was able to recognize some warning signs, triggers that can lead to poor choices.  Worry, fear, and foreboding thoughts started to dominate my words.   I stopped and prayed, asked Holy Spirit.  You know what I heard?  That’s right…Encouragement.

To get encouragement my old passive self had a few options.   I could choose to complain louder.  Maybe the people around me just don’t know I’m in a tight spot, maybe if I let them know all my pains and sorrows they can rekindle hope for me.  Such passivity needs to die, it tends to make many situations worse. 

I suppose I could seek encouragement through feeling powerful and successful by playing a video game.  Maybe shooting an 8 point buck on Cabella’s Big Game Hunter, or clearing the map on Halo would help.  Maybe I could feel successful by looking at some rich movie star naked.  But those are false options for sure. 

No, my encouragement needed to come through real, live relationships.  My first year at ManAlive helped me develop relational skills like honesty and vulnerability.  As I practiced, I would often over share details and pains with any and everybody.  But I’ve been able to get more efficient the longer I’ve been here.  Most people don’t need to know the intimate details, but if they are in close contact with me, they do need to know my feelings.

Matter of fact, as I get to fully know myself and can articulate my feelings and needs, I am able to ask for them directly.  What a satisfying moment when the men who know me, who have seen my struggles and my victories, speak directly at the issue and call me back to the man they see.

So it was pretty powerful for me the other day when I got scared.  I reached out to my guys and said, “Hey, I need some encouragement.”  They came back with “You got this,” “Remember last year when you crushed it,” and  “You are a great example of masculinity.” 

Maybe the word solicitation doesn’t work (too much baggage),  but being assertive and asking people for what you really need can make all the difference. 

The Right Tool

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A couple of weeks ago my daughter and I had to use a ratchet and a drill bit to finish her science project.  Somehow my drill charger got smashed and we had to improvise.  Even though we finished the project, it made the point. The right tool for the right job makes all the difference.

ManAlive has taught me a whole new set of tools. Things like  how to communicate what I need assertively.  I learned new tools to help me navigate my feelings so I can be known and build real relationships.   The last few years have been very good.    So it was a shock for me to catch myself slipping into an pattern and basically picking up an old rusty tool.

To keep this post short but relevant I’ll sum up.  In a time of high stress, I noticed myself withdrawing from loved ones.   I felt the familiar pattern of isolation. Basically, it was the old passive pout and sulk and hope for some sympathy tool.  You know, I’ll sit here quietly and if you really loved me you’ll ask me what’s wrong.  Passivity 101. 

But this time it no longer felt right or beneficial to isolate.  I was able to stop and make an assertive action toward connection.  With a few words, I was able meet a vital need in a time of stress and change the course of my day.  And not just for me, but the whole family.  That felt good.

There is something very satisfying about mastering a skill with the right tool.  It feels really good to have put in the time with my small group practicing the very things that bring life.  Confidence swelled up inside when I switched tools and avoided a life long pattern of isolation.

I encourage you to join a ManAlive small group and quit messing with the wrong tools. 

Holiday Guide #8:  Adventure

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Part of coming fully alive is being aware of your needs. A major need in guys that has been corrupted by porn is our need for adventure.  So carve out some adventure over the holiday season.  Go on a hike, go skiing, shooting, or polar bear diving in the local lake.  Find little bits of life and stoke the fires of adventure, it will help meet multiple needs.  Ask Holy Spirit for some adventure ideas and then invite a friend.   Use some of the down time between Christmas and New Years to stir up adventure.

Share some ideas in the comments.

Holiday Guide #7:  Share Your Story

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If you are ashamed of your problem, you will be ashamed of the cure.  Shame is not what you want to bring with you back home for the holidays.  Tell others that you are going to ManAlive or working on purity; don’t let shame keep you locked up.   Find a few people you can share intimately with.  Maybe not to everybody and don’t overshare too much, but definitely push the boundaries of what feels safe.

You sharing is also a prophesy of Jesus setting you free.  If you are part of ManAlive, you are not the same passive man hiding in shame that they once knew.  If you’ve been coming to small group, you have changed and our changing.  Even when it’s hard and you stumble you are still doing something bold.   Be proud of this. Be confident in the new you. Share to get you better and share to get them better.

Don’t bury the gift you’ve paid for week after week, share it.

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