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Excerpt from "Game Plan: A Man’s Guide to Achieving Emotional Fitness"

The Male Spiritual Journey

by Alan Philip Lyme, LCSW, David J. Powell, PhD and Stephen R. Andrew, LCSW, LADC


The spiritual journey of the male includes two major spiritual tasks: discovering what he is to be and moving into a deeper inner life, with a sense of self and the world. The two essential questions in life for men are how to live and why. It is as simple (and complex) as that. The temptation is to wallpaper the empty spaces of our lives with work, not providing the necessary balance among service, work, and avocation. But the true male spiritual journey is to grow in grace, not just in doing more things.

Male spirituality involves not just one compartment of life, but the deepest dimension of the person a man is made to be—his ultimate questions, hopes, fears, and loves. It gives him meaning in living by addressing life’s questions of self-worth and significance. It reveals the mysteries of living, the realization that life’s ultimate meaning cannot lie in speed, youth, consumerism, achievement, and physical beauty as defined by our culture.

The male spiritual journey explores the downward, or inward, calling men to face their limits and wounds, the essential journey of letting go of control. The journey takes them into their desert spaces, the alone times where they confront who they are, their true selves.

Be careful of the man who tells you life is one joy after another with no desert times. He is fooling himself. Digging deeper requires time alone in the desert of his spirit and periods of feeling lost. Men don’t like to be lost; after all, men are problem solvers who never ask for directions. Male spirituality involves time in the desert, the darkness, the wilderness, from which he is reborn into something new and wonderful.

Men recoil from the idea of going downward and inward, for they fear descent and decline. They fear they will be insignificant when they leave behind the power, possessions, and prestige that drive them.

In the first part of a man’s journey he finds himself filled with ascent, being in control of the outward parts of his life. In the second half of life a man goes inward, giving up his efforts to control, digging deeper to new sources of refreshment. To get there, he must go through his brokenness and woundedness.

Male spirituality is primarily a journey of acceptance of his own limits, realizing that no one can have it all; of seeing the limits of his power and exploring the language and contours of his pain. The journey takes men through the dark night of the soul of pain to the light of trust. All men experience some pain through wounds in relationships, career setbacks, physical illness, and deaths of friends and colleagues. What they do with that pain determines how they will live.

The desert is not just a place, but also a state of being. Most of a man’s daily life is filled with blasts of the boring and ordinary. Yet, in the deserted, abandoned part of his day, when he feels most alone, a man faces the ultimate question of life: “Why am I here?” It is in the desert that men can begin to answer that question.

Further, the dark night of the soul is not always a dread-filled and depressing experience. The real meaning of the term “dark night of the soul” is that things may be obscure. We cannot see or grasp what is happening. It is a sense of unknowing, of mystery. In those dark times we need to trust someone else to be our guide.

Spirituality based on brokenness demands rethinking what it means to be a man. A man is not solely his faults, his body’s diseases, or his role (being a father, husband, son, or employee). The fact is that each man is much more than these. Who he is is unchangeable, that which does not get lost when age, disease, or circumstances change. Finding out who he is will lead him to the lessons he needs to learn, the work he needs to do. It will lead him to his purpose.

The answers come when men measure themselves by something other than performance, despite what others tell them. They will be incessantly restless until they turn all their woundedness into health, their deformity into beauty, and their embarrassment into laughter.

Male spirituality is always about letting go of a false sense of independence. As youths, men fought for their independence. Dependence meant anxiety, fear, illness, failing, infirmity, and the risk of exploitation. For younger men, dependence meant inferiority. “Stand on your own two feet. Act like a man. Do it yourself. Don’t bother with anybody else; you do not need anyone.” Through most of their young lives men sought to manage their finances, their households, their careers. To be a man was to be self-sufficient.

Yet they were never fully independent. Men live in a world that is connected to everything that has lived, lives now, and will live. They never were in complete control, despite all of their efforts.

The universal spiritual truth is that no man’s life is just about him. There is a far greater story being played out. A man’s task in the inward journey is to discover and define his role in that intricate story.

Alan Philip Lyme, LCSW, David J. Powell, PhD and Stephen R. Andrew, LCSW, LADC, CGP are recognized speakers and trainers who regularly present on the topics of men’s issues, motivational interviewing, addiction/recovery, and personal growth.

Published by Central Recovery press


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