Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Language of Boys or of Men

The Language of Boys or of Men

Rejection is a word I learned to fear over the years.  I am a people pleaser, and to be rejected used to be next to death for me, and was a problem most of my life

I often felt like I never fit in. I remember two boys at school who I thought were my friends.  After a few days of the new-found friendship however, they told me to leave them alone.  I didn’t understand why.  And as a kid, I was devastated.  When this type of thing happened at various times over the years, I reasoned they had a problem and that I just needed to find others.  But deep down I knew I was different from the other boys.  In time, I learned to distance myself from boys in general.  My relationships with other boys waned even though I deeply longed to find some good male friends!  Unfortunately, I over-analyzed the situation and determined that I was going to be better off without good male companions. 

The problem was that I was not learning how to be around boys, and I needed that in my life.  I didn’t learn to speak what I perceived to be ‘their language’.  I’ll call this an ‘emotional language’.  It’s the unspoken way to be what I believed (note the past tense)  a boy should be.  Call it hormones, nature, or instinct, it’s something that a person understands - sometimes without even knowing it.  I missed out on what I thought so many boys were able to learn naturally - how to be a boy; how to speak the ‘emotional language’ of boys.  

As I analyze my life I have to question what it is that I really missed out on?  I’m going to be VERY stereotypical here on what boys are like.  However, these are basic things that I felt boys knew that the boy me didn’t have a comfort level for.  I emphasize that these WERE my perceptions as a child and young adult: 

  1. The language of sports
  2. The language of cars and basic mechanical things
  3. The language of fighting
  4. The language of mathematics

I wasn’t drawn to the same kinds of things that I believed other boys my age were traditionally drawn to.  I liked music and fine art.  I was not adventurously looking for ways to break my bones.  While boys would go into the forest to conquer nature, I was out in the forest observing the change in season, and noting the differences in the plants from day to day.  I liked to watch animals - not hunt them.  While the other boys would be off playing with sticks and pretending to kill each other, I would watch from a distance. I am not gifted athletically.  I tried, but usually failed.  This led to further rejection.  While the boys at church were playing basketball, I was that boy who left everyone and played the piano alone so I would avoid that rejection. 

And I was afraid of boys much the way I imagine boys will often be afraid of a girl.  If I was attracted to a boy, or later in my life to a man, I was afraid of being hurt by the boy or man I liked.  I believed I would ultimately be rejected.  It wasn’t just a rejection of friendship.  It was the rejection of my attraction. 

So when it came to other boys, and later, men, when I would start to have a good, friendly relationship with another man, I always questioned that relationship.  I analyzed it to the point that I rejected it before I could be rejected.  I learned to push others away.  It was easier to be the rejector rather than the rejected. Consequently, I had many acquaintances but few to no close male friends. 

As I got older I realized that if my desire was to be around, and have healthy relationships with other men, I needed to learn how to speak the language of men.  What I found out is the language of boys versus men can be very different.  While there are similarities, a man has hopefully broadened his horizons.  Life experiences teach him about more than just his own interests.  The language of boys that I yearned to learn as a boy was simply not the ‘emotional language’ all men speak.  

Human language and speech is varied and beautiful.  The language of human emotion is likewise varied and beautiful.  I learned that ‘boy language’ is as varied as there are interests.  You just need to find people that speak the same language.  

Some men grow up and speak the same ‘emotional language’ they did as boys.  Some could argue that this is a problem.  I personally have no issue with that.  They were comfortable in that ‘emotional language’ during their youth and they are comfortable with it now.  I have learned that I can be friendly with them, but I may never have a fluency level in their ‘emotional language’ to be really close to them.  That’s alright.  They won’t have the same level of fluency in my language perhaps to feel close to me.  But we can coexist with mutual respect. 

Some men are able to flawlessly merge the language of boy and man and somehow bask in the joy of both.  I admit that I do harbor a tinge of jealousy for those who can magically balance the inner boy with that of the man.  I’ll call that jealousy, respect. 

I feel that I matured to discover my own male emotional languages later on in life.  I learned that there are other men who enjoy music, art, who are introverted overthinkers, and/or who enjoy being in nature and observing what’s around them.  I learned that there are people who love to be athletic in the same way I do.  I learned that there are people who enjoy doing many other things I enjoy doing. 

I also discovered that I can learn to speak another ‘emotional language’.   Out of necessity, I needed to be somewhat skilled in the language of basic mathematics.  I will never be able to converse on a fluent level with a doctor or math, but I can do some wicked estimation and come up with some great calculations on things like budgets and projected expenditures.  I found that my analytical side was suited for these things.  It was just a matter of opening myself up to it. 

I learned the language of athleticism.  But just as with real language, there are dialects of a language.  While I may never learn the dialect of football or baseball, I do love to watch a good basketball game.  And while I may never be a great basketball player, I enjoy the March Madness bracket!  I learned other athletic dialects as well.  They just had to be on my terms.  I learned the love of running, hiking, and generally being physically fit.  I will never listen to sports radio and follow every stat for every game.  I don’t need to.  There are other men who speak my ‘emotional dialect’ of the ‘language of athleticism’ that has nothing to do with football or sports radio.  I just needed to find them. 

Out of necessity I learned to be somewhat handy.  When you have a house, you either have to learn to do the work, or pay someone to do it.  I learned to do the work I could.  There are plenty of other men who are in my shoes - additional common ground. 

I probably won’t ever learn the language of fighting in the sense of physical fights between boys on the playground.  However, I learned the language of manly fighting in the sense that I learned to never give up when it counts.  I learned to work hard for what I have.  I learned to struggle through difficulties and come out smiling.  

I have also learned that through mutual experiences and struggles, a common language can be built, even if the two initially don’t appear to speak the same language.  Groups of men that go out together to serve others or who experience life-changing events may grow bonds that will last. I hear the stories of men who served together in the armed forces during combat who grow a bond like that of brothers.   In other words, they create a new ‘emotional language’ that binds them. 

As I find other men with whom I share common ‘emotional languages’, I am able to build true bonds of friendship and deep meaningful relationships on a level that I wanted as a youth.  I have also learned that while these men may share some of the ‘emotional languages’ I do, they may also speak others that I don’t.  This is a good thing.  That only helps to enrich me if I let it. And hopefully I am able to enrich their lives.  But that bond of a common language helps to build the needed friendship initially.  

Because I can have a strong foundation of good male friendships, when I am rejected by others, the pain is not as great.  I move forward knowing that the rejection isn’t personal.  It could simply be that I don’t relate to them or speak the same ‘emotional language’.  After all, maybe I have unintentionally rejected others who I believed didn’t share the same ‘emotional language’ I did.  


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Monday, May 25, 2015

Overcoming My Perfect, Normal Self

I'll introduce myself as Jim.  I have become friends with Brad and have started writing some of my thoughts and feelings down.  In sharing my writings with Chef Brad, he's invited me to contribute to his blog.  Here are my thoughts from this week:

Too many times those of us who consider ourselves to be spiritual men, and who experience same sex attraction (SSA), or say we are gay, focus on the ideal person we think we should be - be that physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually.  I know in my experience I have obsessed over being more physically attractive, or more active, or that I do everything perfectly.  I have pined to be someone else so many times in my life.  

While I think everyone probably goes through this to some extent, I can speak for myself that I feel I have gone through these scenarios more often than not to an unhealthy extent!  And in speaking to men in similar circumstances, I don’t feel this is uncommon. For myself, much of that was brought on by the fact that I was trying to ‘overcome’ my attractions, and felt that I had to be ‘perfect’ in order to be ‘normal’. 

There are three issues here and they are all in quotations in the paragraph above: ‘Overcome’, ‘Perfect’, and ‘Normal’.  Let me start by giving the overused quote of the century (I love hyperbole), ‘Normal is a setting on my washing machine’.  Perfect, in the modern English sense of the word, is unattainable.  And to overcome something, you must have something ‘wrong’ to overcome.    I’d like to explore these three concepts. 


I’ll start with ‘Overcome’.  While I cannot speak for everyone, I am a pretty good authority on myself.  I was three or four when I started to know I was attracted to men.  I can’t remember a time I wasn’t.  I also can’t remember a time that I was ever attracted to women.  I don’t come from a background where people would think there would be a ‘reason’ for me to be gay. I didn’t look at pornography at all through my youth or even as a young adult.  It wasn’t available and I didn’t feel drawn to it.  I wasn’t abused or mistreated.  I never had a sexual experience until I married my wife (Yes, I am married - that is another paper).  I am simply a gay man.  It’s that simple.  Say what you will, I feel I was born that way.  And it’s a part of who I am.  What, then, is there to ‘overcome’?  

I believe the biggest thing I need to overcome is the sense of shame and desperation I felt for decades before finally coming to terms and being honest with myself.  I don’t need to overcome the attractions.  I would never tell some man who has always been attracted to women that he needs to overcome that attraction because it’s perverse.  To me it’s unnatural to be attracted to women, the same way it’s unnatural for him to be attracted to men.  Our attractions are the exact same thing - attraction, plain and simple - , just focused on different genders.  But for some reason, society has said that the attraction in and of itself is something that should be overcome; that it is shameful.  Because of that, too many people have lost hope and fallen away.  Some have forsaken family and friends and others have, in desperation, taken their lives.  I feel much of this heartache is done to ‘overcome’ something that, in the case of many like myself, could never change.  

I know that my attractions are not going to change.  They are what they are. However, I can determine what I will do with my attractions, and I can overcome the temptations to go beyond the bounds of my marriage.  However, the attractions are there.  I have learned that while I need to overcome temptation, the attractions are not to be overcome.  

I should rejoice in the fact that because of these attractions, I am better able to empathize and sympathize with my fellow humans.  Because of my own inner struggles over the years, I see things in a more open and loving light.  My understanding of the whole world is broader because my attractions made me think beyond just myself.  They helped me to grow into a better person than I could have been without them.  I have learned the true meaning of sacrifice.  I have learned the true meaning of kindness, understanding, forgiveness, and love because of my attractions.  Is that to say those who don’t experience what I do can’t have the same understandings?  No!  Of course they can, but they have to go about it a little differently than I’ve had to. 

In the past, too many times I felt I needed to overcome the attractions.  I focused on the wrong part of what it was that I needed to overcome.  I feel we need to teach our brothers that overcoming is not to overcome what I believe God has given us.  It is to use what we are given to make the world better!  It is the world, after all, that we are to overcome.  I invite myself to find out why I was given this amazing opportunity to experience life in a different way than so many others!  It’s not something to overcome!  It’s something to embrace and understand. 


I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the scripture found in the New Testament book of St. Matthew 5:48, that reads, ‘Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’ is misunderstood at best and mistranslated at worst.  I think too many people misinterpret the scripture and don’t understand the true meaning of it.   I know I didn’t.  All my youth was wracked with torment and guilt for not being able to be ‘perfect’.  

I idealized that perfection meant that I would get straight ‘A+’, would look like a model, would be good at everything I tried to do, was perfectly gracious and kind to everyone no matter how much I didn’t like them, and generally had everything in complete order.  In other words, I should have been made out of plastic and my name needed to be ‘Ken’.  No offense to those who are actually named Ken by the way…. 

No one, and I mean NO ONE can or should live up to those expectations.  I however, felt that in order to ‘overcome’ my attractions, I needed to be perfect.  I somehow had the distorted sense that if I could only do everything perfectly, God would somehow take it all away.  Of course I know better now.  I know that isn’t God’s plan or his way.  But I didn’t understand that for a very long time. 

Let’s look at the word ‘Perfect’.  Over the past years, at church, I have heard the word perfect translated as ‘whole’.  The scripture would read, ‘Be ye therefore whole...’.  That is nice, but means little without further thought and research.  

As I looked up this specific scripture, I ran across an interesting reference that I would like to bring up here.  It is found at:

This reference indicates the word in Greek actually means ‘Love’.  Love as God would love, without partiality or justification.  In other words, love unconditionally.  Wow!  It may be easier to be perfect than to love unconditionally.  We may say we love unconditionally, but do we?  I know I don’t.  I judge.  I don’t have complete compassion. I don’t help everyone in need.  Would I help an old lady trying to cross the street alone if I could help her? Yes!  Of course I would help her.  And society expects me to.  It would be a soul-less person who didn’t help her!   But how about the crazy homeless guy without teeth, who smells, is yelling at everyone, and might try to rob me?  I would most certainly think twice, or even fifteen times about doing that.  

When we read it in our modern terms as ‘be ye perfect’, the scripture is very self-centered.  But reading it in the terms that I believe it was meant to be read - love without prejudice - that turns it upside down!  That is the opposite of worrying about one’s self.  The scripture is very unselfish when you put it into that perspective.  When you love - truly love - unconditionally, you don’t think of yourself at all.  You aren’t concerned with your problems.  You don’t feel down because you aren’t ‘perfect’.  

When we love unconditionally, we feel compassion for the homeless man.  We desire to help him as much as we would help the old woman who is trying to cross the street.  God loves us all.  He knows our beauty.  He knows us better than we know ourselves, because we are His.  I’m not saying that we all go out and help the homeless man - that’s up to you.  You could be putting yourself in danger.  Prudence is needed in today’s world (yet another paper).  I am just using this as an example.  But it does make me stop to think about what I am thinking when I pass up the opportunity to help and from whom I keep my distance. 

Once we can love others without concern for ourselves, then we have found a place where we can be closer to ‘whole’ in my opinion.  We stop thinking about ourselves and do what we know will make the world a better place.    

I challenge myself to stop worrying about being what the world sees as ‘perfect’.  I am not going to be a Ken doll nor do I think God wants me to be.  That doesn’t stop me from wanting to look my best and be the best I can be.  The difference is that I do it for higher reasons: health and longevity, etc., and not for vain reasons.  I challenge myself to do what I can to love others to the best of my abilities, and the way I imagine God would. 


All my life I wanted, and worked to be ‘normal’.  I consider many people ‘normal’.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  The world needs all kinds. Those perceived as normal and the eccentric.   But if we looked into the lives of the ‘normal’, they are far from boring and they are no where near normal.  No one is ‘normal’.  And I have learned that outward appearance has little to do with what is inside. 

Everyone is unique.  Everyone has so much to offer the world.   I however, don’t want to live my life under the radar - or as ‘normal’ - any longer. I spent too many years trying to do everything NOT to be noticed; to be ‘normal’.   I want to experience life as the person I am.  I don’t feel God wants us to hide our true character.  

I know someone who had a great saying that I feel fits this situation perfectly.  ‘No matter how much you try to hide it, the real you will always come out’.  Ain’t it the truth?!  I am not saying we go out and do crazy things that could jeopardize our lives or the safety of others to make up for never doing crazy things as a kid. I am not saying I want to go out and yell from the rooftops to everyone about every ounce of my business.    I am actually a very private person - that’s just my nature.  I am not going to be the kind of person going out with rainbow banners, marching in a parade just because I need to ‘come out’.  That would not be authentic to my personality.  I am not against those who need that in their lives.  I just need and want to live my life authentically.  I cannot be the person I am supposed to be if part of me is hiding in a dark corner of my soul.  

Over the last three years, I have worked on brightening up that dark corner and letting the true me shine forth.   As I have done so, the old ‘normal’ me has started to vanish. Sometimes the true me is not very pretty.  Other times it’s marvelous.  In the end, the most important thing is that it’s me without any apologies 

I have done things I never thought I could do.  I have made friends with men on a level I never had before, and never thought I could.  And guess what?  I am happier and more fulfilled because of it.  I have felt grief and loss more deeply than I ever did before.  This might sound like a bad thing, but I had lived my life guarding myself from feelings in order to maintain a facade to keep people thinking I was ‘normal’.  Now I feel.  I never understood or felt like I loved anyone or was able to be loved.  Now I know the joy of love on multiple levels and enjoy the knowledge that I am loved.  

I argue that ‘normal’ is unauthentic.  At least my idea of what normal is.  None of us is normal.  

We each have a light inside that shines differently from everyone around us.  Together the mosaic of light from each individual creates an amazing and beautiful picture.  My light was dim for so long.  My part of that picture lacked it’s true beauty. I hope I can continue to find what it means to be authentic to myself: That I never stop growing into the person God, not the world, wants me to be.  I am a beautiful work in progress.  I am not perfect, but I hope to love without bounds - this includes loving myself.  I no longer desire to overcome my attractions.  Now I want to overcome my weaknesses.  I no longer feel a need to be normal.  I want my ‘abnormal’ light to shine as a positive beacon. 


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bromance.. What is a Bromance

Bromance is the big buzz word today.  It's the new friendship word.  It's also a word that is hugely misunderstood.  Bromance is often thought of as a gay word.  An acceptable word for being gay.  But it is not about being gay or having a sexual relationship with another man.  It is all about building positive healthy friendships.  Here are a couple of definitions that I have found.  One is from Wikapidia and the other is from Urban Dictionary.  

This is the definition according to Wikapidia 

bromance is a close, emotionally intense, non-sexual bond between two (or more) men. It is an exceptionally tight affectionalhomosocial male bonding relationship that exceeds that of usual friendship, that is distinguished by a particularly high level of emotional intimacy. 

Urban Dictionary  Bromance -noun 
1. A non-sexual relationship between two men that are unusually close.
2. The act of wooing a fellow male friend for the purpose of becoming closer.
3. Going to unusual lengths in an attempt to become closer with another male friend. -
 Also know as Man Crush:
Bromances are also called "man crushes" because of the level of affection the guys feel for each other. It is an intimate personal non-sexual relationship between men.  
  I have found that in today's world men are more than ever before seeking friendships. Not just friendship, but meaningful intimate relationships with other men.  Men crave and need to have tight, close relationships that exceed normal friendships. 

    Is it possible for men to have Bromances - a non-sexual, close relationship with another man?  It is possible and highly recommended.  Men need other men. 

    I started a group called JADE over a year ago. JADE is a group that meets monthly and was created to teach men how to have effective, healthy relationships with other men.    I have learned a lot about men and their needs since starting this group.  The number one thing I have found is that men need other men, and want close relationships with them.  Often times we think that only men that experience SGA or SSA want or need other men in their lives.  I have found that most men desire close meaningful relationships with other men.  There is an in-born need to have those types of friendships in our lives.  When needs are filled by having these close healthy relationships, men are better adjusted and happier. 

     Men need intimate, close relationships, now more then ever.  Life is tough and men need emotional friendships to lift them through the tough times.  There is just something about having the support of another man on the Journey.  Men think alike and understand each other.  Close, intimate relationships between two men can offer uplifting strength to overcome the challenges faced in today's world.  Men were, and are still meant to be in close-knit relationships that offer more than just a casual friendship.  

     I have learned from all the men I have interviewed and talked with over the past couple years that men who take the time to take down the walls; to let other men into the private workings of their hearts and minds, enjoy a life that is more balanced and content.  
I have found that men who experience SSA or SGA benefit from developing close intimate relationships with other men.  The strong desires to act out on those desires is greatly diminished, or often it even leaves.  When men are able to develop and enjoy meaningful intimate friendships life just gets better.  

     That just proves to me what I believe in my heart to be true.   We need each other and we are designed to be close.  When we deny that eternal need to bond with our brothers, we deny the greatest blessings in our lives.  I for one love and enjoy the wonderful, meaningful friendships that I have developed over the years.  I have learned when I meet a man and feel a connection to him, and act on those feelings, the end result is always  meaningful life-blessing friendships.  

      It does take courage in today's world to admit you want a bromance in your life.  It takes courage to admit you might have a man crush.  Does that mean you are gay? It doesn't have to.  It means you are following the God-given desire to enjoy closer, more meaningful relationships with your eternal brothers.  I for one enjoy great Bormances in my life  and I do have an occasional man crush.  The benefit is I have many wonderful friends that bless my life in ways you cannot understand until YOU experience a Bromance of your own.   

Have a great one.
Become a member,(on the side panel) and recieve notice when we post a new blog entry. You can also respond, comment or ask for informations about our JADE group by using the link on the top of the side panel.  Thank you.