Getting Unstuck from Shame

It’s so important to find a few people that you can trust with your true self. Men, you need to find just a few men who will know you and protect your heart.

I had a profound experience of that when I trusted a teammate and talked to him about watching porn. I confided that I didn’t even understand why I did it. It was so freeing when he didn’t judge me.

I told him that it started when I blew a game in Houston a few nights before. I gave up a homer to lose the game. I joked that a Houston homer is a cheap homer. It counts, kind of, but it’s Houston. You only have to hit the ball 215 feet. You should only get half a homer if you hit a homer there!

It was just a joke. The guy hit the ball. I’m the one that lost the game.

After giving up the game, I went back to the hotel, mad at myself. I was lying there and I got bored. And I just did it. My wife’s beautiful and I love her so I couldn’t understand why I did it.

So there I was, sharing my shame and frustration with my teammate, and we talked all the way through an entire Cincinnati rain delay. I’m sure there were other guys that walked into the lounge while we were talking. I didn’t see them, but I’m pretty sure they did a U-turn when they heard this conversation!

But for me, to have someone to talk to who would listen to me and dialogue with me and help me work it through was unbelievable. In the course of that conversation, the amount of trust I had with that man was unbelievable. It was awesome. Why? Because I could reveal some of my weakness without shame. Without being scared. Without being judged.

Without someone telling me, “Oh man, you know, I’m going to pray for you.” Sometimes that feels like a brush-off. Not this time. This time, somebody listened.

For the first time, I felt that I didn’t have to act holier-than-thou. I was the chapel leader, but I didn’t have to put on an act that seemed appropriate to the position. I didn’t have to be that guy that writes books, talks about Jesus, and speaks in churches. For the first time, I felt like I could actually reveal that I was weak, and it was okay.

It freed me. That night, I experienced exactly what I had been learning, which is that you need to trust other people with you. If you do not trust somebody with who you really are, you will never mature. Not ever.

By maturity, I’m not talking about a 15-year-old boy becoming a man. I’m not talking about getting gray hair. I’m not talking about being 70 years old. 

I’m talking about maturing as a human being. I’m talking about our souls maturing. I’m talking about our spirits maturing because we trust somebody with our true selves.

If you don’t trust somebody, if you hide your weakness and shame, then you will not mature. If you have an area of weakness and are too afraid to tell somebody about it, that weakness will keep you immature.

It will get worse. It will hurt you. It will cause a lot of issues in your life. It can crush you.

The solution is trust. More on this next time.

The Birth of Trust

Last time I started telling a story about a rain delay in Cincinnati. I told a teammate that I had watched some porn the night before. He had just spoken forcefully and with wisdom about the dangers and damages of leaving magazines like Maxim around. So I felt like I could trust him. And I really needed to be able to trust someone. I needed to get it off my chest.

I had recently been learning a lot of concepts about what it means to hide in shame and be afraid to reveal myself to people. We get afraid because we think we are going to be judged. That’s why I was afraid to trust anyone with my shameful secret.

I was afraid to tell my wife. I had told her before, and she had handled it really well, but I was still afraid. What if the day came when she didn’t handle it well? I was worried about that so I was afraid to tell her again. I was nervous, and I didn’t want to hide anymore.

One of the things I was learning is that you need to find somebody you can trust. You need to be able to reveal who you really are, and you need people in your life for that. A man needs to be known by a few men. We don’t need to be known by everybody, but we’ve got to be known by a few.

Maybe you’ve heard about men’s retreats. These men’s groups are all about understanding what it means to be known by a few. I felt like I wanted that. I needed it.

So after what he said about the magazine, I took the risk. I told him, “Frankly, I don’t know you. You just seem like you understand. I think you get it. I’m going to take a chance on trusting you. I’m going to throw it out there and see what happens.”

So I just came out and told him that I’d watched porn the night before.

He sat there, and at first, he looked like he honestly didn’t know what to do. But he did. He knew exactly what to do. He talked to me. He helped me. He let me trust him, and I learned how good it feels to have someone you can trust.

Basically, I trusted someone with a personal failure, and he didn’t judge me for it. He helped me. He made me feel protected.

I found out how it feels to reveal who I truly am, and to be truly known. This is so important. All men need a few men like this. All people do. We have to be able to protect each other.

I’ll continue this story next time.

A Confession in Cincinnati

I want to tell you a story.

I think it was 2015. I was sitting in the clubhouse in Cincinnati because the game was in a rain delay. There’s rain in Cincinnati, right? There’s always rain in Cincinnati during the baseball season. It is the worst. With that much rain, you’d think they would build a domed stadium. You’d think they might say, “We’re probably going to experience rain delays 50% of the time, so let’s build a dome.”

Well, they don’t do that, so players spend a lot of time sitting around the clubhouse. You’d think that if rain delays are such a predictable thing, they would at least provide players with things to do. They could make it more comfortable by creating opportunities for guys on the team to hang out and do things.

They don’t do that, so being stuck inside the clubhouse during a rain delay is really miserable.

There’s a little area in the back of the Cincinnati clubhouse with food, a television, and a couple of arcade games. There’s candy and junk food and a couch or two. It isn’t big enough to fit the whole team, so we can’t all go back there together.

One day, I was bored. We didn’t know what was going on with the weather. So I went back there and sat down to watch television. One of my teammates was already there. We sat there watching something aimless like golf, or maybe another baseball game. Whatever it was, we sat there just watching for awhile. Then he threw a Maxim magazine at me.

He said, “Man, I’m tired of this garbage. It’s everywhere we go. It’s so hard to ignore it. It’s so hard to not be around it. It’s so hard to not look at it. Everywhere we go, man! And I know people say, ‘Just don’t look at it. It’s your choice to have self-control and all that.’ Well, what about us? We don’t really have choices. Here we are in the clubhouse and it’s right there.”

He continued, “Some people don’t understand that the pictures featured on the covers of magazines like Maxim trick our minds. Those pictures aren’t just on the covers, too. They’re all over those magazines. When we see them, those pictures get thoughts and concepts going in our minds whether we want them to or not.”

He said, “People don’t understand that the second you see an image, you can look away. But you dwell on it whether you know it or not. Some men don’t choose to understand this. Some men just don’t want to understand. But you’ve seen that image, and all of a sudden its effects can start unraveling, say, later that evening. It frustrates me. Do you know what I’m saying?”

I looked at him and said, “Yeah. Yeah, I’m kind of tired of it too.”

We went back to watching the television. Then I looked over at him and said, “I watched porn last night.”

He looked at me. He said, “What? Are we seriously going to do this right now? During the rain delay?”

And I told him, “I don’t know. I just know that I’ve got to get it off my chest.” After what he’d said, I felt like I could trust him.

I’ll continue this story next time. See you Thursday.

A Story Behind Every Face

God builds relationships of trust with us, and in those relationships, He heals us. He teaches how to parent our children the same way. How about if we do it with each other?

In case you don’t know the story, the Bible tells us that one day, Jesus rested by a well after walking all day. He was in Samaria, and lots of people in Jesus’s time had a pretty low opinion of Samaritans.

So when a Samaritan woman came to the well, she was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. “How is it that you’re talking to me?” she asked Him. And Jesus told her that He was going to give her living water. He said,

“Everyone who drinks this [well] water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4:13–14

Think about that day. Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman and told her all about her life. “You’ve had five husbands,” He said. “Now you’re living with a man you barely know. You have an issue with your self-esteem! Believe in who you are, and know that I am God.”

I can imagine what she thought. “Man, this guy has told me everything I’ve ever done, and He still loves me.”

That’s right! He loved her. He sat there with her at a well, and asked for water, and then told her, “Drink the water I give you and you’ll never thirst again.”

I think most of us hear about a woman being married five times, and we can’t help but judge. We also speculate! It’s pretty natural to do it. I mean, who has five failed marriages? There must be some kind of mess there!

But that’s not what Jesus did. He helped her. He said, “I know your pain. Five marriages adds up to five large wounds. That is causing you to live with a man whose name you don’t even really know. And he doesn’t know you. You’re just living with him. You’re trying to figure out some sort of security. And now you’ve got women talking behind your back on your way to the well, because they think you’re the town whore.

“You’ve got all these condemnations coming at you, but man, I just want to give you living water. I love you. I created you! I love everything about you.”

He looked at her and said, “I will give you living water and you will never thirst again. That’s what I will give you, because that’s what you need.” There was no judgment there. He just let her know.

What is the lesson here? Well, how should Christians help sinners? “Sinners” includes pretty much everyone, including ourselves. How should we relate? Should we box people on the ears with our Bibles?

Here’s an idea. How about loving on them? Isn’t love better than judgment?

How about trying to figure out why they are not living the way they do? Maybe, like the Samaritan woman, they are struggling with wounds of their own.

When you understand that, it will keep you from judging. When you <emtruly seek to understand the drama of a person’s life, and then love on them just as we see Jesus do, you won’t judge. You’ll figure out how to help them.

You’ll help them get that living water, the water that quenches their thirst.

The church needs to do a whole lot more of this. It’s changing, but we need to do more, because there’s always a drama unfolding. There’s a drama behind every face. Why not look at somebody and really see them? Why not ask them what’s going on? The answer will probably surprise you. It will probably reveal an opportunity to love on them and help them.

The point is to create relationships and provide help. When one of my sons is acting out, my initial impulse is to get angry with him. But I don’t. Instead I try to figure out why he is acting out. What lies behind his behavior? How does he feel? What story does he want to tell? What is hurting him? If I can fix that hurt, then the acting out stops.

That’s what Jesus did. He did it with the woman at the well. He did it with the prostitute. He did it with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He didn’t judge any of them. He even said, “I’m not going to condemn you.”

Think about that. Jesus was the only one that had the authority to condemn people, but He didn’t.

That’s why people came to Him.

When we can learn to do that, people will come to us.

New Wineskins

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.” Mark 2:22

I want to parent my sons the way God parents me because God is the ultimate parent. I want to reflect everything He does as my Father into my children’s lives, as their father. I’m just a man, and I will make mistakes, but God is perfect and loves us perfectly. So I can always look to Him in order to understand how to love my children the best way that I possibly can.

You cannot put new wine into old wineskins, because the old ones will break. We have new wine now, so we must use new wineskins. Jesus gave us a new way of understanding what it means to be in the kingdom of God. It means grace, peace, and mercy. He said, “I’m paying the price for all of you. Now you are forgiven. So don’t continue to punish yourselves! I paid a heavy price to protect you from punishment.”

So I hang with my sons and build relationships of trust with them because that’s what God does with me as my Father. God forgives me. He knows I’m not perfect, so He doesn’t punish me when I mess up. That wouldn’t make any sense!

Instead He says, “Look, I know you’re going to mess up. In fact, you’re probably going to have your hand slapped from time to time. Life is like that. And even if you get a lot of breaks in life, you’re still going to feel some kind of sting when you mess up. It could come from the law, like getting a speeding ticket, or from society, when you break one of those many unspoken social rules. You will. Everybody does. I am not going to condemn you. The crucifixion took care of that.”

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:50-51

The curtain ripped to show us that there is a new process here. In this new process, God says, “You’re my precious child. You’re in my family! And in my family, everyone is forgiven. When you mess up, I’m going to love on you. I’m also going to teach you. Trust me. I’ll train you up. I’ll make sure you know what’s right. And I’m going to tell you to go and sin no more.

“But I’m not going to punish you. That’s not how it works. I’m going to forgive you and love on you.”

That’s why I raise my sons with no condemnation. I don’t condemn them because condemnation creates fear, and I don’t want them to fear me. I want them to look at me and love me, knowing that I loved them first. It’s not easy. I don’t always do it right. I mess it up! Absolutely!

God says perfect love casts out fear, and God is perfect love. Therefore, where there is God, there is no fear. There is no fright. We aren’t scared when we are with God. We might feel a reverential fear, because God is the almighty creator after all. But there is no fear in the sense of being scared in His presence. We have no reason to fear that He is going to strike us down when we mess up.

We don’t have to fear, and neither should our children.

Mad At Myself

Wounds can be healed in a trusting relationship. Last time, I wrote about building trust by recognizing and respecting the different sensibilities of our children. I am building a relationship of trust with my sons by understanding them as individuals. They each have their own way of thinking and feeling, and I am committed to paying attention and protecting them.

When you are able to do that, then you will know how to speak to them. I have found that being soft-spoken, gentle, and firm works best for all my children. (This is actually a good tone to take with everyone!)

If we were perfected in God’s kingdom, we would always get this right. But we’re far from perfect. We’re here on earth, in our flawed and sinful flesh. We’re going to get it wrong a lot.

My biggest frustration is that I get angry when I mess up. I have to be very clear with my sons about this. Otherwise, they take my anger the wrong way. They think it’s directed at them. I have to be proactive and tell them, “Look, I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself. I need to get you to understand that some things are wrong and I don’t want you to do them. I also have to keep you from doing things that might get you hurt. I have to protect you and your heart, but I don’t always know how to talk to you so that you will understand. That frustrates me, and I get mad at myself.”

It’s my duty to teach my children. It’s so important to me that they grow into the awesome people and leaders that they already are. Part of this is helping them understand the difference between what to do and what not to do.

The crucial concept here is understanding. My goal is to give them understanding. Teaching my sons how to behave is also about teaching them to trust me. I don’t want fear. I don’t want them to go around scared to do things because they’re afraid of being punished. If all they have is fear, then their behavior doesn’t come from trust. They’re just scared.

When scared children get old enough that they don’t have to fear their parents anymore, then they’re going to get in a lot of trouble. That’s why we need understanding. I have to get through to them in such a way that they will understand what’s right and wrong, and why. I need to be sure that I’ve taught them the difference between what’s safe and what’s dangerous.

But in my flesh, I don’t always know how to speak to my children in a way that is appropriate to the situation. When I don’t know what to do, I sometimes resort to what I heard when I was their age. I don’t always like to see that in myself, so I get mad at myself. That’s when I have to make sure to tell them, “Listen, I’m frustrated with me. I’m trying to protect you, and I don’t know why I can’t get through to you. I know I seem angry right now son, but I’m just reacting to myself. I am not mad at you!”

Honesty like this can have miraculous results. It can start a conversation. He’s not scared anymore, and I can say, “What you’ve been doing is wrong, but let’s sit down and talk about it. Tell me what you’re feeling right now. Why are you doing this?” Since I shared my feelings with him and clarified my anger, he trusts me. So he shares his feelings. That makes everything easier for both of us.

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

Soft-Spoken and Filled With Love

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

Are we aware of the tone of voice we use when we speak to our families? Do we understand the feelings it causes in them?

I haven’t always been aware of this, and I regret it. I didn’t know about the effects of tone, because it doesn’t really affect me. You can pretty much use any tone you want with me and it won’t bother me. You can be mad at me using a pleasant tone, and you can be mad at me using a harsh tone. I’m probably going to respond the same way.

For me, the words you use are important. Not just the words, but the respect you use when you approach me. Respect is very important to me. You can shout or be soft-spoken, and I’ll be okay with it as long as you treat me with respect. But if you are disrespectfully angry with me, I’m going to put my foot down. Even if you use the nicest, most gentle voice ever, if you disrespect me in that voice, I’m going to double down.

Since my issue is with respect, not tone, I had to learn how important tone can be to others.

My wife is the one who brought this to my attention, especially once we had kids. She tried to get me to see that the tone of my voice is a big deal. At first I fought with her about it because I found it frustrating. I couldn’t get it, since I don’t get affected in the same way.

Then I began to understand. I began to understand that the tone I use when I talk to my children is very important. It’s important to my wife, too. I was determined to learn how each one of them gets affected and to take that into account. They’re different people, and they respond in different ways.

My tone of voice affects my oldest child the most. If I use a strong tone with him, it scares him. He can’t listen because his brain is going a million miles an hour. He’s actually scared, so he’s literally not listening. That means we’re not connecting.

My middle son is more like me. He can hear me if I take a tone of voice that is serious or emphatic. It doesn’t hurt his feelings. My youngest is kind of in between, but more on the sensitive side.

I want to do the best I can to love them, so I decided to keep my tone of voice level and kind. I even do this with my middle one, although he can handle a sharper tone. I avoid using a harsh tone. I try to stay calm. I focus on listening, and not reacting.

I really work hard on this. I don’t always do it right. In fact, I mess it up weekly. But it’s important. I said last time that wounds can be healed. I truly believe this, but first, there has to be trust. Taking care of the feelings of my family is an important start.

More on this next time. See you Saturday.