By: Richard E. Simmons III
Here is what I hear from men all the time: They struggle with feelings of 1)
insecurity, 2) inadequacy, 3) isolation, 4) loneliness, and 5) fear washed in
anxiety. Why? They have the wrong set of dreams—all wrong—and they don’t know
who they are.
It is heartbreaking to see men waste their entire lives trying to convince other
people that they are someone they are not. This is why men’s souls do not grow
mighty in spirit and courage. They spend their existence covering up and living
in fear they will one day be discovered as a fraud. There is a voice inside
them that keeps telling them that in spite of all the ornaments they collect in
life, they are still not OK. The results are a lifelong tension with guilt,
shame, and anxiety. Jerry Leachman, Chaplain of the Washington Redskins
Irrespective of how talented, attractive, intelligent, or wealthy you may be
life is difficult and full of struggles and pain. So many people live silently
with broken dreams and broken lives.
Of all the suicides in the United States, 80 percent are committed by men.
There is one question we men are always asking ourselves. It often seems to be
the central question that must finally be answered before we will make certain
decisions or take a definitive course of action. It is a question, I believe,
that haunts many a man’s life: What will people think about me?
Men so often define themselves by what they do, who they know, or what they
own. And when they do so, they unwittingly set themselves up for a great
confusion and failure in their personal lives, particularly when a major
economic storm arises.
When we equate our worth as human beings with our individual performances, we
put our identities at grave risk. Any type of perceived failure from the
perspective of an ego built on such a shaky foundation can easily lead us to
conclude that our lives are not worth very much.
Many men are no longer concerned with lives of excellence. Instead, no matter
how much a man accomplishes, he does not believe he is successful unless others
know about it. We now regard success as achievement plus proper recognition of
our achievement. The recognition is what makes us feel worthwhile and that we
measure up as men. Christopher Lasch, author of The Culture of Narcissism, has
perhaps said it best: [Men] would rather be envied for their material success
than respected for their character.
Many a man’s first question when making decisions is usually, How does it affect
me in the eyes of others? Their second question. What will they think of me
and will I win their approval?
Always looking to impress, egos easily become swollen with attention and the
need to be noticef.
When all is said and done, we must accept that we have a radically unstable,
temporal foundation on which we have anchored our identity and that something is
fundamentally wrong with this approach to life.
What would happen if we let the person who determines our worth be God?
Recognizing that God is the supreme and ultimate reality who stands behind all
of life is crucial for all of us.
A person gets his identity in life based on how the most important person in his
life sees him.
What do you think would happen to a person’s life if Jesus Christ were the most
important person in that person’s life? What if Jesus Christ was the audience
we sought to please most? It would truly transform our lives because Jesus
understands we are each of incredible value. We are of infinite worth to Him.
He loves us with an everlasting love.
I truly believe most men are not driven to succeed; on the contrary, they are
driven not to fail.
Fear and shame are a primary cause of depression in men during times of
trouble. Too few men know how to share with others their fears, the pain in
their lives, and their struggles, particularly if it makes them look weak or
like a failure. So men naturally clam up and silently carry the load on their
backs. In the process they withdraw from others and live very lonely, isolated
This withdrawal, of course, has a significant impact on our relationships with
other men because what we really fear is how our failure will appear in the eyes
of our peers and especially those we consider our friends. This explains why we
always try to maintain the appearance that our lives are flourishing and that we
really have it together but have no lifelong deep relationships. If all I can
offer you is a superficial image of my true self, why should I expect to end up
with anything but superficial relationships that have no real depth? Fear of
failure and our inability to deal with that fear create shallow personal
The fear of failure also causes individuals to play it safe in life. We find
ourselves avoiding reasonable risks that we should probably take. Not wanting
to look bad in the eyes of others, our judgment becomes critically impaired, and
we find ourselves not pursuing viable opportunities—even when failure is a
Some of life’s most sacred truths can be learned only as we walk through our
individual storms in life. We all have them. Yet all we ever seem to want is
relief and comfort. We demand instant solutions, but what we fail to recognize
is that although God can solve all of our problems, instant solutions are not
important to Him. What is important to Him is how we respond to our struggles.
I find that so many men instinctively respond to their negative circumstances
not only with fear but also with anger and bitterness. “Why me?” they ask.
“This is not fair. I don’t deserve this!”
Caught up in the process of cursing the realities of life, we most often
discover that the pain actually continues to increase.
Often humans are presented with rare opportunities to develop and grow only
through hardship and trial.
We can be certain that there is purpose in our painful circumstances, whenever
and however they occur. And when we know and recognize that there is meaning
behind what we are experiencing, it will transform our pain and will enable us
to relinquish our fear.
The great lesson of human history is that people are always looking for
something else, anything else, to give them significance and security. For so
many men in the world of business and commerce, God is not an option.
Jesus, on two separate occasions, said, “The eye is the lamp of the body.” He
is referring to our perception of reality. He is referring to our perception of
reality. He is revealing that if your perception of reality is routed in the
truth, your life will be full of light—and you will be a healthy and dynamic
man—because you will know who you are and where you are going. You will know
what has true value in life.
What too many good men fail to realize is that this approach to life is utter
foolishness. The ball field, the bedroom, and the wallet are merely outward
experiences that fail to translate into permanent inner fulfillment and
contentment. Furthermore, as time goes by, the ball field, the bedroom, and the
wallet are never able to convince us in our innermost being that we truly
measure up as men.
Character, wisdom, and love make up the essence of what it means to be an
When we think of manhood and masculinity, we should recognize that character,
wisdom, and our ability to love others are at the heart of being a man.
What is Jesus saying when He refers to being rich toward God or finding the true
riches of life? What in this life has God identified as having such true
value? In one sense, I think we have already identified them.
* A man’s character: A good name is more desirable than great wealth (Proverbs 22:1).
* The gaining of wisdom: More valuable than silver and gold; nothing you
desire compares with it (Proverbs 3:13-18).
* The quality of our relationships: Nothing is of greater value than our
relationships; they are truly priceless (1 John 4:7).
I believe at times we all find ourselves subject to the pull of comparison, the
yearning for admiration and fame. After all, these are the measurements of
worldly success. Arrogance and pride, however, unlike true and humble
contentment for a job well done in the service of others, lead us down a
slippery and destructive path as we try to impress others. They often cause us
to inflate and embellish our successes and accomplishments in the process.
Philosopher Blaise Pascal, in his famous work the Pensees, explains the
corrosive power of pride and how it leads men to conceal themselves from others:
It is the nature of self-esteem and of the human self to love only oneself and
to consider oneself alone. But what can a man do? He wants to be great and
finds that he is small; he wants to be happy and finds that he is unhappy; he
wants to be perfect and finds that he is riddled with imperfections; he wants to
be the object of men’s affection and esteem and sees that his faults deserve
only their dislike and contempt. The embarrassing position in which he finds
himself produces in him the most unjust and criminal passion that can possibly
be imagined; he conceives a mortal hatred of the truth which brings him down to
earth and convinces him of his faults. He would like to be able to annihilate
it, and, not being able to destroy it in himself, he destroys it in the minds of
other people. That is to say, he concentrates all his efforts on concealing his
faults both from others and from himself, and cannot stand being made to see
them or their being seen by other people.
Have you ever thought about how much different your life would be if you did not
fear and worry about what others thought of you, if you never had to impress
If we cannot be transparent with ourselves and also cannot be transparent with
others, then who are we?
* All of us, without God’s help, live lives of illusion. We spend almost all
of our lives trying to prove to other people and ourselves that we are something
other than what we really are.
Dr. Hans Selye, who was the true pioneer in discovering the impact of emotions
on health, at the end of his life concluded from all his years of research, that
a heart of gratitude is the single most nourishing attitude for a person’s good
health and well-being.
Humility comes powerfully into our lives when God becomes the audience we
perform for. When this happens, human opinion becomes less and less important
The real problem for us is that being content in the present is difficult. Very
few of us are content with who we are, where we are, or what we have in this
Of course, one of the main reasons we are so discontent with our lives is
because we are always comparing ourselves with others. We measure how well we
are doing in comparison with others. We make mistakes and we feel inferior; we
experience success and we feel superior. As we have seen, our emotions and our
confidence moves with the market and flows with the opinion of others.
Helen Keller, a woman born deaf and blind, knew and understood that the only
thing in life worse than being blind was not to have a vision for your life.
A vision for life truly changes a man and his response to the world around him;
it changes him dramatically.
Viktor Frankl, a noted Jewish psychiatrist, survived the Nazi death camps during
World War II. Frankl was puzzled by the fact that some of his fellow prisoners
wasted away and died, while others remained strong and survived. He looked at a
number of different factors but finally concluded that the single most
significant factor was their sense of a vision for their lives. Those who
survived had a strong motivating conviction that they still had something
significant to do with their lives. Frankl concluded that it was the power of
this vision that kept them going.