“’The major crisis today is with men. When men are healed, the healing of women will naturally follow.’’ Written more than 35 years ago, the words by author Leanne Payne still ring true today. If anything, the need in 2020 is even greater: over July and August, MensLine Australia’s calls by men about their mental health increased by 95% (compared to the previous two months) men make up an average six out of every eight suicides every single day in Australia the number of males who die by suicide every year is nearly double the national road toll 75% of men don’t seek help for their mental or emotional distress. Over the last twenty or so years, the following insight has resonated with me both professionally and personally: most men and most boys have no real enough fathers who are able to guide them through the highs and lows of the masculine journey, and they are – most of us are – unfinished and unfathered men. Or boys. Or, as John Eldredge puts it, boys in men’s bodies. Thankfully, many trusted authors, counsellors and mentors continue to champion the healing and flourishing of blokes. To mark international men’s day today, we have compiled some of the best part of this wisdom. Our prayer is that these 5 insights will help you and the men in your world in the journey toward wholeness, trusting that the Father’s grace walks alongside every step of the way. Be a flame – or get close to one Most experts tell us it is the father (or father substitute) who affirms and blesses sons and daughters in their identity and personhood. Jesus Himself was affirmed by the Father before starting his earthly ministry (Matt 3:17). True masculinity is not a thing to be learned, but rather a quality to be tasted or experienced. The masculine within is called forth by the masculine without. In that way, it is commissioned to be, to grow, and to mature – like a flame that sparks a fire. Or put another way: because dad models and imparts courage, security, identity and blessing to me, I can grow up knowing who I am (and whose I am), why I am here, and where I am going. If you have been fortunate enough to have been loved into manhood by your earthly father, choose to be a flame and pass the blessing on to your sons and others who may not have been so lucky. And if you haven’t been affirmed in your identity, seek out safe, older men who can mentor and model the Father’s love to you. Have the courage to give up your false self The upshot of a man’s failure to be affirmed is that he will suffer from low self-esteem. I have seen this in countless young and not-so-young men I have counselled over the years. Men who are unable to fully accept themselves lose to one degree or another the power to act as father, husband and leader. In short, in at least some part of their personalities, they/we remain immature and live out of the heart of a guilty child under a law they can never measure up to; out of the self-centredness of an adolescent anxious about every inch of himself; or out of perfectionism and striving to prove worth over and over again. There is a better way. Whether your (false) identity is as a Don Juan; someone who bends the truth in order to prove yourself; or a passive bloke too fearful to speak and act the truth in love, you can choose to give up the defence and live out from your true self, where Christ dwells. Leanne Payne, explaining how a client conquered this, puts it this way: ‘’Richard was now ready to live from the Centre. He would no longer live absent from himself, walking alongside himself. He had experienced what we all may experience: God’s presence calling forth the true self out of the hell of the false self. In this resurrection, the true self – no longer repressed, fearful, or unsteady – shakes off the pseudo-selves with their myriad faces and comes boldly forward. Only then can we realise the freedom to live… from that place where His Spirit indwells ours and our will is one with His (John 17:21). Realise your heroic efforts will not work for long In his book ‘The Denial of Death’, Ernest Becker says that the heroic projects of men are mostly overcompensations for our fear of death, powerless and diminishment. Until we get comfortable with loss, and live in the creative tension of being both limited and limitless, we never find our truth or our power. Performance, ambition, and self-centredness in us blokes usually comes from a fear of failure. But the heroic project never works for long, and it always backfires into anger, depression and other forms of scapegoating or violence. It seems we have to come to the end of ourselves, usually through a major crisis, to give up our illusion of control and discover our real selves in God. I like how Richard Rohr expresses it: ‘’If anyone tells you you can be born again, reach spiritual maturity and wisdom, and does not first speak to you very honestly about dying, do not believe that person. There is no renewal in all of nature without a preceding loss”. At some point in your life journey, you and the men around you will be led to the edge of your private resources, and that breakdown will lead you into a larger life. Switchfoot sang about it in their song The beautiful letdown. It will be painful but it can also be beautiful – if you don’t fight it and lean into it, trusting that there is treasure on the other side of the struggle. Like Jacob, God will bless you if you don’t let Him go. Do the right thing with your wounds Spiritually, everything hinges on one final crucial question: ‘what will a man do with his wounds? Our wounds have a chance to become sacred wounds if we admit to having them and resist the tendency to transmit them to others. As Rick Warren has said it, your greatest life message and your most effective work and ministry will come out of your deepest hurts. The sooner you deal with this (or more accurately, allow God to deal with it) the sooner your destiny and vocation will become clearer. Be encouraged by the examples in Scripture: Abram was changed to Abraham, Saul became Paul, and Simon Peter. Your new identity and mission is on the other side of your inner breakthrough experience. Remember you are a warrior, a lover, a sage and a king The characters in male legend, myth and story invariable circle around four archetype images: warrior, lover, sage and king. These seem to be the four parts of every man’s soul. In the Gospels, Jesus often operated like a warrior, a sage, a lover or a king – and always in amazingly integrated form. You can see how his lover balances his warrior, his sage informs his king, his king tempers his warrior, and so on. Jesus walks firmly on a high-wire of male integrity. As blokes, we get into trouble when these ruling images are out of balance, misconstrued or invalidated. The task is to educate and affirm all four archetypes, and let them simmer and grow together to develop a full man. We need mature, transformed sages, lovers of life and beauty, and strong, non-violent warriors to produce truly big-picture men – or kings. It is – as we are – a life-long, work in progress. A final word of encouragement: remember that being chosen and being used by God are not the same as sanctity – that is absolutely clear in the Bible. It just makes it easier on us when they do coincide. So keep walking and growing, knowing He is pleased even with your stumbles. Share this Facebook Twitter Pinterest Where to get help 24/7 Helplines Lifeline: 13 11 14 Kids Helplines: 1800 551 800 Mensline: 1300 789 978 Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36 Headspace: 1800 650 890 Talk to your doctor and see a mental health professional. Visit CCAA to search for a Christian counsellor near you.