Battling Cultural Expectations: The Challenge of Vulnerability for Men in Society

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August 29th 2023

#274: Battling Cultural Expectations: The Challenge of Vulnerability for Men in Society

Are you hiding parts of yourself out of fear or shame, most notably in relation to sexual sins and insecurities? 

You’re not alone.

We’ll venture back to the Garden of Eden, exploring the original concept of being ‘naked and unashamed’, and how our perception of vulnerability has been distorted since sin became part of our world.

This episode serves as a sanctuary to inspect our fears, acknowledging that it’s normal to feel endangered as we expose our truest selves, and how experiences of shame often amplify this apprehension.

Trusting in societal norms that equate strength with solitude can lead us astray. In fact, we challenge the misconception that the ‘better’ you are, the less you need others.

✋ If you enjoyed this episode of Becoming Whole, please head over to Apple Podcasts, leave a rating, write a review, and subscribe.

Instead, we promote interdependence and community, asserting that the healthiest, most attractive, and godly among us are those integrated individuals who are not afraid to reveal their true selves to reliable friends or spouses.

For those wrestling with sexual integrity and recovery from unwanted sexual behavior, this discussion highlights the importance of unearthing the parts of ourselves we’ve often buried. 

Join us, as we confront the falsehood that has kept us prisoners and embrace the liberation of being wholly known and loved.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever struggled with opening up about personal things? If so, what made it difficult for you?
  2. How do you think the concept of being “naked and unashamed” applies to opening up about personal struggles?
  3. What role do you think past experiences of shame and judgment play in our fear of opening up?
  4. Do you agree with the idea that men are often taught that vulnerability is not masculine? Why or why not?
  5. How does society’s emphasis on independence and self-sufficiency impact our willingness to be vulnerable?
Transcription: Battling Cultural Expectations: The Challenge of Vulnerability for Men in Society

Josh Glaser [00:00:00]:

You. Hey, everybody. Welcome back. See if you can relate with this. You know that there is stuff inside that you’re keeping to yourself that is intimidating to you. The idea of sharing it with you feels shameful, feel insecure about it. Maybe something that happened to you, maybe it’s something that you’re doing. Certainly in the realm of sexuality, things that have happened to us that just feel kind of cringey or things we did in our past that we just feel like, man, does anybody ever need to know that really things that we’re doing today just hard to open up? I think, for guys, emotions are hard to open up.

Josh Glaser [00:00:41]:

It’s hard for guys to express vulnerable things to each other. I think that’s true for some women, too. Can you relate with that at all today? I want to respond in this podcast to a question from a listener. He writes this. He said, I’m not sure I’ll call him a, I’m not sure if you’ve already talked about this, but I think it would be a good idea to talk about how men find it difficult to open up about personal things such as our sexual sins, insecurities, pains, and why. I personally think part of it is because we tend to worry about how we’ll be perceived. I also think it would be great to talk about overcoming the fear of opening up. And a you’re not alone.

Josh Glaser [00:01:17]:

There are myriad of men and many, many women as well who have that fear. I’d like to start by saying that it actually, I think, goes back to the Garden of Eden when we were created. I mean, you hear the cry of our hearts back in the beginning is to be, as Genesis Two talks about it, naked and unashamed. I don’t even mean physically naked. Certainly that was the case in Genesis Two. But that idea of, like, there’s nothing hidden. Everything about me is exposed. Everything about me is exposed.

Josh Glaser [00:01:49]:

Now, when I hear the word exposed, and even when I say that sentence, everything about me is exposed, I can’t say that in this life, in this fallen world I’m living in, without some sense of fear, some sense of it kind of shakes me. I don’t want everything about me exposed. But for Adam and Eve, everything about them was exposed. Their bodies were fully exposed. Their hearts were exposed. Their thoughts were exposed. And yet it wasn’t a shameful thing. They were without shame.

Josh Glaser [00:02:18]:

It’s hard for us to even fathom that. But I’d suggest to you, I think scripture teaches us that that’s exactly what we were made for. We were made to be completely exposed and to not be ashamed. And not because we’re dumb, not because we’re ignorant of what people think of us, but because when people look at us, they see us as good, as good. All that’s exposed, they go, that is good. They are made in the image of God, and they are good. When sin entered the picture in Genesis three, the first thing that Adam and Eve do is they hide themselves, they cover themselves. It is now what had been a blessing to them to be naked and unashamed, to be completely exposed is now a threat to them.

Josh Glaser [00:03:02]:

It’s a danger to them. The eyes of the other person, seeing their exposed self has gone from something that they wanted and longed for and appreciated and valued to something that is actually dangerous for them. They feel threatened by it. I don’t want Adam to see me completely exposed. I don’t want Eve to see me completely exposed. And we’ve lived with that ever since. And so A, when you write that it’s difficult for men, and I’d suggest men and women to open up, this goes back to the fundamental reality of living in a fallen world. Now, add to that add to that that experientially.

Josh Glaser [00:03:37]:

It’s not just kind of in our bones to feel that because of the fall and because of the entrance of sin. Add to that the reality that we have literally experienced in this life, times where we have been exposed and we were shamed for what people saw. I’ve talked to people who went to a pastor and shared the sin they were struggling with, and the pastor literally sent them out of their office. I remember talking to a young woman who shared that she was struggling with pornography. And she shared that with a church leader who told her that girls don’t struggle with pornography. And I’ve certainly talked to people who, when they were children, something about them was exposed, either physically or emotionally, relationally. And the people around them took advantage of that and either abused them, mocked them, teased them, or shared that with other people and exploited what they heard. Those kinds of experiences, and I’m guessing A, that you have your own.

Josh Glaser [00:04:39]:

I certainly have my own. Those kinds of experiences further teach us that it’s not safe to open up. Now, here I do want to talk about men for a little bit. Maybe this is just because I know about men more. But I do think that men in our culture are often taught that it’s not good to be vulnerable, that it’s not manly to be vulnerable, that to express your weakness to other people actually makes you less of a man. Toughen up, bite your tongue, stuff it down. That’s what men do. We don’t feel we don’t need to connect deeply.

Josh Glaser [00:05:14]:

We don’t need to be emotional. As a matter of fact, it’s not manly to be so. And I think those messages have been changing in our culture, but I think they’re still there. They’re still there. Now here’s, I think, one of the pieces that I want to just kind of untangle for us because I think for men especially, but again, this is true for women too, in our culture, that we have this idea that we should be able to go it alone. To be exposed, to be vulnerable, to have other people see or hear what’s happening inside of us is, in essence, to say, I need other people. I want and need other people to see me, to help me with these parts of my life, to honor these parts of my life, to bless these parts of my life, to nourish these parts of my life. That’s to be to be vulnerable is to be needy, in the best sense of the word.

Josh Glaser [00:06:00]:

To be needy. And that’s the way God created us. Adam and Eve saw themselves that way even before the fall. They needed each other. It was not good for man to be alone. It’s not good for a woman to be alone. We actually are made to be interdependent. This is a part of how we bear God’s image.

Josh Glaser [00:06:16]:

Because he is not a singularity. He is a trinity. He is three in one. And he has made us to be people of community too, who need others. The world we live in suggests that the better you are, the less you need others. So you don’t need to share your emotions because you can take care of them on your own. You don’t need to ask for help. You should be able to take care of this by yourself.

Josh Glaser [00:06:41]:

The problem with that is that if you follow that trajectory, what it leads us to is the better you are, the more mature you are, the stronger you are, the more attractive you are, the more alone you are. You follow that. If it’s true that the better you are, the stronger, the more spiritually mature, the closer to God, whatever, all those things. If growing to be a better person means you need people less, then the best of us are the most alone. And that’s not a Godly trajectory. That’s a lie from the pit of hell. In truth, the Godliest among us, the best of us, are people who are well integrated, who open up and who have safe people that they share with, who have good friendships, that are trustworthy. If they’re married, they have a relationship with their spouse where they can be completely themselves, naked and unashamed, faults and all, good, bad and ugly.

Josh Glaser [00:07:41]:

And they know that they are loved and lovable. That’s the trajectory that we’re on. Now, one more note about this. Because specifically for regeneration, those who are in recovery from unwanted sexual behaviors, from sexual sins, those who are pursuing sexual integrity need to know this as well. That instinct, that knee jerk reaction in us that believes that we can’t be known and loved, that we’ve got to hide parts of ourselves, especially the weakest, ugliest parts, that part of us actually drives our unwanted sexual behavior, that actually drives sexual addiction. The things that we hide drive, fuel our neuroses. The things that we hide, that we believe we have to keep hidden those actually thrust us into unhealthiness. Those thrust us into sin.

Josh Glaser [00:08:30]:

That’s us making an allegiance with sin, saying, darkness, you’re where I need to be. This part of me needs to stay in the dark. And when we have a part of us that we say needs to stay in the dark, we open that part of us to darkness and dark things. Sin, the enemy, the flesh, on and on and on. So if we want to heal and become sexually whole people people of sexual integrity, people of sexual character, people who can be married and have integrity in our marital relationship, people who are friends and have good integrity and character in our friendships, then in order to not move towards neuroses and unhealth, then we need to bring the hardest parts of us into the light. Just in closing, I’d suggest if you’re struggling with that, if there’s a specific area in your life, you think, man, I can never tell anybody this, I want to encourage you with two things. One, know that the Lord wants to help you with this. He already knows it, and he loves you completely.

Josh Glaser [00:09:26]:

And so even if somebody else rejects you, he will not reject you. And begin asking Him, lord, who in my life can I share this with? Who in my life can I share this with? And as you develop a friendship with that person or a mentorship relationship with that person, begin just sharing bits of your story and see if they’re trustworthy, see if they’re a safe person. And just incidentally, if somebody’s sharing little bits of their story with you, show yourself to be a trustworthy person by keeping confidence, by affirming that you still care about them, even if you don’t completely understand what they’re going through. And as you gain trust with somebody, pray for the courage to share, to open up about those things that are hardest and darkest in you. Letting those parts come into the light and experience the grace and love of Jesus is where real healing comes. And that is what you were made for. Going back to the garden. Lord, would you give us the courage and the strength to open our lives, especially the parts, Lord, that we feel most as shamed about, that we might be healed and made whole and fully embraced in your community and experiencing your love? I pray this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Josh Glaser [00:10:35]:

Amen.

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By Josh Glaser

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