Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dynamics of a Support Group (Part 1)

This two-part series is a followup from our teaching last Sunday about the nature of support groups. This article basically provides us an overview of the dynamics common to most support groups whether it's an SSA support group, an Alcoholics Anonymous-type support group, or any other type for that matter. A good support group is very helpful because struggling with SSA all by yourself is tough. Having to reconcile your SSA issues with your religious convictions is even tougher if you don't get any spiritual support from a community that understands your struggles.

I want to thank Bro. Rollie for explaining to us in detail the 12 Steps and 5 Goals of Courage as well as other relevant topics that go with it. In particular, I was reminded about the Serenity Prayer - the serenity to accept the things I cannot change - including other people's misbehavior. I felt the need to let go of things or events that don't measure up to my set expectations, which often causes me to lose my sense of peace and to become frustrated. Another important thing that I learned is to be cautious of "support group dependency" as this tends to limit my interaction only to guys with SSA and neglect to reach out to the world of "real men". Interacting with "real men" in a healthy nonsexual manner is vital in the process of healing and growth.

Most people who choose to change their same-sex attraction find support groups to be very helpful. A support group should be a safe and confidential place where you can come to know that you are not the only one with same-sex attraction. No one will say, "You’re dealing with what?" It is a place to find encouragement from others who are working to resolve the same problems you are, and that helps reduce your feelings of being alone, different, and isolated. This section discusses the purpose of support groups and tells you what to look for in choosing one. It then discusses how to support each other in a group and the need for spirituality and safety. Finally, it explains how specialized support groups, such as sports programs, can be helpful.

Joe Dallas writes that the function of a support group is to "provide a safe, godly environment where people can openly discuss their same-sex attraction struggles; learn from the experiences of others who’ve gone through similar struggles; be accountable to a group of Christians who are genuinely concerned; and know they have friends who are regularly praying for them, available to them, and rooting for them." (Dallas, 1991, pp. 262–63)

A support group is about helping others. In the beginning, you attend to help yourself, but you soon discover that you find the help you need when you extend help to others. When you begin to care more about their needs than your own, you find yourself healed in the process.

Support groups emphasize dialogue as a way of learning to openly and clearly deal with issues that are at the root of feelings of same-sex attraction. As you listen to each other, perhaps for the first time you will listen to yourself. The typical newcomer sits and listens, and about half way through the discussion realizes he has finally found people who think and feel like he does. When he recognizes that he is safe and can trust the group, he begins to open up and the healing process of sharing begins. He discovers that even when others know all about him, they still accept him. Once the fear of rejection is gone, he finds that he has the courage to relate to others in the group and eventually to men outside the group. Support groups can help you by providing:

1. A safe environment where you can face your problems.
2. Feedback, insight, and practical ideas from others who have experienced the same things you experience.
3. A place to begin to build healthy relationships with others of your gender.
4. Interpersonal experiences in validation, love, and friendship.
5. Direction, vision, goals, and encouragement to continue when it is difficult.
6. Accountability for your actions.
7. Positive experiences to offset the effects of negative peer pressure.
8. Reduction of your sense of isolation.
9. Understanding, empathy, and acceptance from others.
10. Encouragement to continue through the lengthy process.

A Support Group Alone Is Not Enough
A support group will not solve all your problems; it has no magical "cure" for same-sex attraction. Participating in a support group is one of the many things you may need to do. Some men get a false sense of security by participating in a support group and when it doesn’t solve all their problems they may feel frustrated and lose hope that change is possible.

A support group in moderation can be valuable for support and understanding, but in excess, it can prolong and heighten your old identity. The support group should never take the place of the church, your circle of friends, or a normal social life; it is only a short-term supplement.

While your relationships with others in the group will be very fulfilling, they will not be all you need. The support group can be unhealthy if its members only interact with the other members of the group. In a sense, it can become a nonsexual gay community. If you live from meeting to meeting because it is your only social interaction, you need to actively pursue relationships with individuals outside the group at work, in your neighborhood, and in other groups. It is when you experience the love and acceptance of others of your gender who do not have same-sex attraction that you really start to recognize your true worth. Those friendships will be the most rewarding and healing.

In addition to a support group, many men need individual and group therapy. Sometimes support groups can actually do more harm than good if the person is not also seeing a therapist individually to help him correctly process the things he experiences and feels so they can contribute to his growth. If you have addictions, you may also need the help of a twelve-step program like Homosexuals Anonymous or Sexaholics Anonymous.

Choosing A Support Group
There are helpful groups of many kinds that seek to fortify those struggling to withdraw from drug addiction or to overcome other issues. However, there are also groups that do the opposite by justifying immoral conduct and binding the chains of addiction ever tighter. Some organizations exist to give support and love, but do not seek to help the person find ways to overcome homosexual behavior. These organizations do more harm than good because they help the person justify his behavior. Research carefully any group before you join it to be sure it will fortify you in the right way.

Before you choose a support group, get a copy of their written literature and read the group’s mission statement. (If they don’t have one, they likely have not defined their purpose well enough for it to be a healthy environment.) Does the group function according to the written statements? Do the values and beliefs of the group match yours? Does the group inspire respect for the individual and promote personal growth? Does the group have written policies to protect participants in their vulnerabilities and provide a safe environment? Does the program support abstinence of sexual behavior outside of marriage? This kind of sobriety can be attained through sharing experience, strength, and hope at group meetings. The group is on dangerous ground if it seeks to justify any homosexual behavior.

Joining A Support Group
The first step in joining a support group is to make the phone call to the group leader. He will generally want to talk with you before you attend a group meeting to determine your sincerity and readiness to participate with the group. He will explain to you the format and rules of safety and confidentiality that are critical to the success of the group. When you first attend a support group, you will likely go through the following stages:

Fear and anticipation. You may have a number of fears and concerns as you attend your first meeting. Will the other men accept me? Will I be able to open up to them? Will I be attracted to someone there? These are legitimate fears that are common to nearly everyone.

Sense of relief. Although your first meeting can be frightening, you will soon find that it is easy to make friends because people are there to lend support. Most people report an enormous sense of relief to have found a group who also struggle with attractions and whose values and beliefs match theirs.

Curiosity and sharing. The next phase is one of learning all the new information that is available. You will become aware of many books with good ideas about the causes of your problems and their potential solutions. You will also have the chance to exchange ideas with others in the group and hear what has helped them to be successful.

Boundary testing. As you mature emotionally through your experience in the group, you will find yourself testing the boundaries to determine what is appropriate.

Disillusionment. After the initial excitement wears off, you may become disillusioned as you realize that the support group in itself will not solve all your problems and there is a lot of hard work ahead of you. This is the phase where some drop out of the group in search of an easier answer.

Hard work. This is the phase where you settle in and do all the work.

Termination. Some people make the mistake of leaving a support group before they are ready and others remain much longer than is healthy. You may need the help of your therapist to determine when the time is right for you. If you are able to see your issues objectively, you will know when it is time to move out of the group. Be aware that sometimes group members panic when someone else is "graduating" and they may try to hold the person back for their needs and not for his. If you know it is time for you to move on, do it.

Open And Closed Group Formats
An open group is one where you can attend the group meetings whenever you like, as long as you agree to abide by the group’s rules. A closed group is one where the participants are identified and each makes a commitment to attend all meetings. Closed groups are more stable because people are not always entering and leaving. Because of this continuity, the participants are more dedicated and accountable to each other and they can make more progress.

Confidentiality and Anonymity
Many people who have same-sex attractions have chosen not to disclose such to others outside the group and could be deeply hurt by the release of information about their situation. In some cases, even spouses may not be aware of their participation in the group. Rules of confidentiality ensure privacy for individuals in the group. It is a safeguard of special significance to those who may hesitate to participate in an organization if they have any reason to believe that their same-sex attraction could be revealed to others.

In addition to protecting the identities of fellow participants, it is vital to keep confidential what is said in the group. A helpful phrase to remember is: "What we say here stays here." Outside the meetings, don’t mention the people you saw or repeat the things you heard. One careless slip of the tongue overheard by someone else could have a devastating effect on a fellow participant. While this principle may be clear in theory, putting it into practice may not always be easy. The following general guidelines may be helpful:

1. Keep identities anonymous. Most groups have guidelines about using only first names and last initials.

2. Membership lists. Lists of names, telephone numbers, and addresses should be kept only when absolutely necessary. If you keep lists of members, guard them with strict care.

3. Return addresses on mailings. Most organizations associated with same-sex attraction do not include the name of the organization in the return address of mailings.

4. Telephone messages. When leaving messages, be careful not to identify the individual with any group or meeting or to inadvertently divulge information that may be revealing. Assume that the person who receives the message knows nothing about the individual’s involvement with any group. Be aware that some people pretend to know more than they actually do to get information from you, sometimes unintentionally (out of curiosity) and sometimes willfully (out of spite). Either case can be damaging. Since others may have access to the individual’s voice mail or e-mail, leave only the information you would give to a stranger.

The Place of Spirituality in Group Meetings

For many people, spirituality can be a great motivator to keep one's behavior in check and continue to work at the issues underlying same-sex attraction. If this is your motivation, it is critical that you make spirituality a key ingredient in your support group program. You can strengthen each another by sharing testimonies, praying for each other, and encouraging each other to be righteous. There are many encouraging stories from groups about spiritual experiences that have had a profound influence on their growth and recovery. If your group is not having similar experiences, evaluate your activities and plan for ways to invite the Spirit into all you do.

One evening at our support group meeting, two women came by invitation. One was previously married to a man with same-sex attraction and wanted to understand him better and know what to do to support him. The other had a brother who died the previous week of AIDS and she wanted to find a measure of peace about his death. They were both anxious to learn and understand, and part way through the meeting one of them began to cry because the Spirit was so strong. She said she was overwhelmed by being in a group of faithful men who believed they could overcome their problems and were trying desperately to do so.

to be continued...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Pope: Charity Is The Best Strategy [weblink]

2. As Year for Priests Begins, Pope Prepares to Close Pauline Year [weblink]

3. Gay Rights Hinder UK Adoption Agency [weblink]

4. Arthur Goldberg of JONAH to Speak at AFTAH July 17 - Says 'Gay Marriage' is Bad Science, Bad Politics [weblink]

5. Chicago School to March in Pride Parade [weblink]

6. Porn to Purity: Christian Couple Shares Their Battle with Sin in New Ministry [weblink]

7. Mega Analysis of Over 100 Years of Research Shows Treatment for Unwanted Homosexuality Beneficial [weblink]

8. NY Bishop Tells Politician: Same-Sex "Marriage" Stance is "Non-negotiable" for Practicing Catholic [weblink]

9. Pro-Life Democrats Unite to Protect Unborn Children in Healthcare Restructuring [weblink]

10. Catholic Actress Farrah Fawcett Dies [weblink]

11. Movie Continues to Save Lives [weblink]

Quote for the week:

"Don't say you have a chaste mind if you have unchaste eyes, because an unchaste eye is the messenger of an unchaste heart." - St. Augustine

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Reveal the Dark Side of the Gay Movement?

by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D.

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news
about a group that has suffered discrimination.

Statistics tell us that gay sex is often tied to substance abuse, promiscuity and unsafe sex practices. A significant minority of gay men also participate in sadomasochism, public sex in bathhouses and group sex.

Many people, both gay and straight, become curious about this "dark side of life" and briefly dabble in it. Soon, however, they come to reject such things as degrading, destructive of their integrity as human beings, and "not who I am." Why, then, do such things maintain an enduring foothold in the gay community?

This phenomenon is not restricted to a fringe of the gay subculture. Even Andrew Sullivan--a Catholic and well-known conservative in the gay movement--defends "the beauty and mystery and spirituality of sex, even anonymous sex" in his book Love Undetectable.

And in a speech to a gathering of college students, the Rev. Mel White was also reported by Pastoral Care Ministries Newsletter (Spring 2000) to have said that he does not "struggle" with pornography, but uses it. The reverend is the leader of Soulforce, a gay group that pickets Protestant denominational meetings to push for the blessing of same-sex unions.

Writers Gabriel Rotello (author of Sexual Ecology) and Michelangelo Signorile (Life Outside) are both conservatives in the sense that they have spoken out strongly about the dangers of irresponsible sex and sexually transmitted diseases, and have taken rancorous criticism from the gay community's more radical faction.

Yet when Signorile speaks of the "rauchy, impersonal atmosphere" of sex in public parks and bathrooms, he is careful to note that he, himself, would never judge it:

"There's nothing morally wrong with this--and I say that as someone who has certainly had my share of hot public sex, beginning when I was a teenager and well into my adulthood." (1)

Similarly, Gabriel Rotello says he has been maligned for his role as a so-called "moralistic crusader" against unsafe sex. Yet he explains:

"Let me simply say that I have no moral objection to promiscuity, provided it doesn't lead to massive epidemics of fatal diseases. I enjoyed the '70's, I didn't think there was anything morally wrong with the lifestyle of the baths. I believe that for many people, promiscuity can be meaningful, liberating and fun." (2)

Taking a Closer Look

When NARTH's literature describes the dark side of the gay movement, this is not done for the purpose of moralizing or gay bashing. Our primary purpose is to identify and understand a psychological pattern.

Mainstream psychologists are usually too conflicted (or simply uninformed) to acknowledge any pattern or assign any significance to this sexual radicalism.

Indeed, much of the language of psychologists has been purged of evaluative judgment that could explain the meaning and significance of a particular behavior. A 1975 Dictionary of Psychology states that "fetishism, homosexuality, exhibitionism, sadism and masochism are the most common types of perversion." Now, 25 years later, the word "perversion" is never used for any of those conditions; they are known as "deviations" or "variations."

Emotional Deficits Become Sexual Fixations

But because homosexuality is deficit-based, the dark side of gay life--characterized by sexual addictions and fixations--keeps stubbornly emerging, in spite of public-relations efforts to submerge it.

Culture Facts, an online publication of Family Research Council, recently reported on a street fair that illustrates this paradox. The fair was sponsored in part by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)--two very prominent groups committed to mainstreaming and normalizing homosexuality.

Yet that event featured public whippings, body piercing, public sex, sado-masochism, and public nakedness by parade marchers. Fair booths sold bumper stickers that said, "God masturbates," and "I Worship Satan," and merchants peddled studded dog collars and leather whips (not for their dogs). On the sidelines of the public fair, a man dressed as a Catholic nun was strapped to a cross with his buttocks exposed, and onlookers were invited to whip him for a two-dollar donation.

How long can psychologists be in denial about the significance of the dark side, and ignore what it implies about the homosexual condition?

And there's a matter of even greater concern. How long will psychologists eagerly throw open the door to gay life for every sexually confused teenager?


(1) "Nostalgia Trip," by Michaelangelo Signorile, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Spring 1998, Volume Five, No. 2, p. 27.

(2) "This is Sexual Ecology," by Gabriel Rotello, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Spring 1998, Volume Five, No. 2, p. 24.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Change Is Possible

This news article from Zenit that came out last week deserves frontpage exposure in this blog. Joseph Nicolosi, an American clinical psychologist, founder and director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic and a past president of National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), speaks about the possibility of change from unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA). His statement is based upon his clinical studies and years of professional experience working and handling cases of men with SSA. He definitively debunks the "born gay, born that way" theory that many pro-gay activists obstinately embrace in order to advance their agenda. Towards the end of the article, Dr. Nicolosi has a "special message" to the clergy and the Courage ministry. Special thanks goes to our spiritual director, Fr. Dan, who forwarded this article to me.

Change Is Possible for Gays, Says Psychologist

APA Admits Homosexuality Also Due to Environmental Factors

By Genevieve Pollock

ENCINO, California, JUNE 15, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A Catholic psychologist who specializes in reparative therapy with homosexuals says it's possible for those with same-sex attractions to change, despite agenda-driven ideologies that state the opposite.

Joseph Nicolosi, founder and director of the Thomas Aquinas Psychological Clinic in Encino, spoke with ZENIT about his experience as a clinical psychologist and the former president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

NARTH, a "scientific, non-religious and non-political" organization, recently put out an article about the little known revision of the American Psychological Association's (APA) statement on homosexuality, which was highlighted last month in a WorldNetDaily article titled "Gay Gene Claim Suddenly Vanishes."

Nicolosi explained that NARTH has been actively working on a research project compiling scientific data to dispute the APA's claim on homosexuality, targeting three unscientific assumptions that form the basis of their policy.

He stated that these erroneous assumptions are: "Psychotherapy does not change homosexuality, trying to change the homosexual person will harm him, and there is no greater pathology in homosexual persons than in heterosexual persons."

The psychologist asserted that the "APA is not governed by scientists, but by political interests."

"There has been no new data to justify their policies," he added, "but they tend to give in to social and political pressure," and thus "NARTH has been putting pressure on them to scientifically back up their stance on the biological nature of homosexuality."

Now, Nicolosi reported, the APA has "diminished its position saying homosexuality is biologically determined." They have dropped the specific reference to a hypothetical "gay gene," he affirmed.

In other words, he said, they are beginning to recognize that homosexuality is also due to environmental factors, not just biological elements.

"In fact," he stated, "I and many of my colleagues at NARTH believe it is more environmental than biological."

Nicolosi noted that "the most important scientific information" gives "much more evidence for environmental causes of homosexuality than for biological."


The most essential point however, the psychologist affirmed, "is that change is possible, that men and women can come out of homosexuality."

"This idea of 'once gay, always gay' is a political position, not a scientific position," he added.

The therapist affirmed that he has seen this in his own private practice, and that it is also substantiated in a body of scientific research.

Nicolosi, also the author of "Healing Homosexuality: Case Stories of Reparative Therapy" and "A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality," asserted that many people have already adopted the erroneous assumptions put forth by the APA.

There is a need to assist and minister to men and women "who are looking for help to come out of homosexuality," he said, "because so many times they are just told 'Well, you're born this way,' pointing to the APA and saying 'because they said it.'"

He expressed the hope that as the APA recognizes the efficacy of therapy with homosexual persons, more psychologists will be encouraged to be involved in this type of treatment.

"Within our profession," the psychologist explained, "we trump politics with science." In other words, if we challenge the APA with scientific data, it "has to override any political or special interest forces."

The therapist emphasized the need for all people to share this message with homosexual persons that "you don't have to be gay."


If you know a homosexual person, he said, "encourage that person, educate him, give that person information, take the opportunity to let him know that choice is possible."

"They need to believe it," he added.

Nicolosi explained: "It is a very hard therapy. First of all, it is hard in itself because you have to dig deep into emotional issues. Homosexuality is not about sexual issues, but emotional. There are the emotional underpinnings that have to be addressed."

"Then not only are you having to deal with those emotional underpinnings that are challenging on an individual level, but you have the other battle of a culture that is saying to you, 'You're homophobic; you're naïve; you're not facing reality; you're just a guilt-ridden Christian, get with it.

"You're fighting a culture that is not supporting you, plus you have your own individual battle. So it's a two-front war."

"With the AIDS epidemic, this could be about life and death here," he asserted. "We're not talking about something insignificant."

The psychologist underlined the need to "inform and educate young people."

He explained: "So when a 15-year-old boy goes to a priest and says, 'Father I have these feelings, I have these temptations,' that priest should say, 'you have a choice; if you don't want to be gay there are things that you can do.'"

"The boy should not to be told, 'God made you this way,'" Nicolosi said.

Scientific data

He continued: "This is not about going after an oppressed minority. It's not about pointing out pathology for the sake of pointing out pathology.

"This is telling young people, look, if you go down this road, you are likely to have a higher level of depression, anxiety, failed relationships, sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol abuse than people who live their lives heterosexually. You will get involved in more, to be polite, esoteric exotic sexual practices. It goes on and on and on.

"And that's just science, simply a comparison of two groups."

The therapist added, "This notion that you are going to fall in love with a man and live happily ever after is Hollywood. The reality is that it's a hard lifestyle."

Nicolosi, also a national speaker on the topic, urged the development of more Catholic programs, noting that other faiths have already been putting forth a "vital ministry helping people coming out of homosexuality."

"Our doctrine is clear," he said, "and even if we have a weaker ministry, our doctrine on homosexuality is more brilliant than anything the Protestant denominations can come up with."

The psychologist specifically referenced a 1986 document signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he became Pope, addressed to the Catholic bishops "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons."

In the letter, the cardinal, at that time prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, outlined the moral underpinnings and practical considerations of the pastoral care of "those whose suffering can only be intensified by error and lightened by truth."

In this light, Nicolosi underlined the importance of helping homosexual persons who want to change, because "if you are Christian, you have to believe that you are intended for the opposite sex" and that "sexual complementarity is part of the natural law."

This is something that "should be evident to everyone," as "our Christian anthropology," he stated, and yet "it is amazing" how many people are confused about this.

"They actually believe, or want to believe, either for personal reasons or political reasons, that God created two kinds of people: homosexuals and heterosexuals," Nicolosi noted.

"It is seeping into the consciousness without critical evaluation," he cautioned, the resignation that "God just made them that way."


The psychologist appealed to priests to not be intimidated to teach about homosexuality from the pulpit, noting that he has met many Catholics who are "discouraged that there is no resource for them."

"We have Courage as the only orthodox Catholic ministry, and it's underfunded, underrepresented, and essentially pushed to the side," he stated.

He reported that "Courage is only represented in 10% of the parishes in this country" and thus many "men and women who want to come out of homosexuality" are left without resources on a local level, making it "very tough for them."

Nicolosi suggested that if a priest is working with a homosexual person and is uncertain about how to help, to refer him to a reparative therapist, "who really knows about this particular kind of treatment."

"Not to just any generic psychotherapist," he added, "but to a therapist who has training in sexual re-orientation change."

Indeed there is much work to be done. The secular world is freely embracing homosexuality as an acceptable and "alternative" lifestyle of a modern society. We need spiritual leaders (priests and pastors) and youth leaders who are willing to devote their time and energy in this ministry. How about a Courage chapter in every major city in the country? Well, let's all pray and work for it to materialize.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Pope's Letter on Year for Priests [weblink]

2. Pope: There's an Answer to Empty Confessionals [weblink]

3. Miss California Pageant Officials Required Carrie Prejean to Attend Pro 'Gay Marriage' Event [weblink]

4. Same-Sex "Marriage" Suffers Plunge in Popularity: Poll [weblink]

5. Gay Pride Rome: Reflections on Cultural Suicidal Tendencies [weblink]

6. Why The State Must Oppose Same-Sex "Marriage": Professor [weblink]

7. Weakland's Way [weblink]

8. AFTAH to Protest Obama Speech in Chicago, Says President Has No Mandate to Push Radical Homosexual Agenda [weblink]

9. Dads Matter - A Lot [weblink]

10. Obama: Fathers Are 'Irreplaceable' [weblink]

Happy Father's Day!

Quote for the week:

"You can't go through life quitting everything. If you're going to achieve anything, you've got to stick with something." ~From the television show Family Matters

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Healing a Man's Father Wound

I can very much relate with this article from an unknown author that I am posting in time for Father's Day. It pains me to realize that for much of my adolescent years my father was not there - emotionally. I began to feel this absence when I entered school, and from that day forward his presence that was there when I was very young and which I was not fully aware faded into obscurity. There are so many things I do not know about my father and there are so many things we do not have in common. I'm grateful somehow for all the sacrifices that he endured for us, but deep inside of me there is still a little child crying and begging for the love of a father. I wish to remind all fathers out there that you are the head of the family, and that your duty as a father goes beyond procreation, protection, and provision. You need to be a model of integrity, courage, and strength to your sons and gentleness and compassion to your daughters because their image of who God is will depend heavily on you.

t is a peculiarly twentieth-century story, and is almost too awful to tell," writes Frederick Buechner, "about a boy of twelve or thirteen who, in a fit of crazy anger and depression, got hold of a gun somewhere and fired it at his father, who died not right away but soon afterward.

"When the authorities asked the boy why he had done it, he said that it was because he could not stand his father, because his father demanded too much of him, because he hated his father. And then later on, after he had been placed in a house of detention, a guard was walking down the corridor late one night when he heard sounds from the boy's room, and he stopped to listen. The words he heard the boy sobbing out in the dark were, 'I want my father, I want my father.'"1

"How incredibly sad," we say, but how many of us have killed or turned away from the only source that can meet the deepest longing of our heart? "Not me," I say, but every time I look for love in any wrong place, I do that.

For example, I looked for love in the things I did, like making beautiful things including a dream home. Then I majored in words and wrote books and poems. I learned to move a crowd to tears, make them laugh hilariously and inspire them to reach for noble goals. I got lots of approval but none of these things ever made me feel loved.

"No mother or any other woman
can ever make a boy or
a man love himself as a man."

Perhaps most delusive of all is how I looked to the opposite sex to try to make me feel loved and to affirm my masculinity. It started with my mother because, being my primary caretaker, she was all I had to look to when I was a child. Next I fell madly in love with my second grade school teacher, looking for love from her. That didn't work either.

Unfortunately, no mother or any other woman can ever make a boy or a man love himself as a man. An attractive woman might make him feel terrific for a time but she still can't make him feel loved or that he is a man no matter how attractive she might be. A man may even be intoxicated with passion when he meets a beautiful woman and may want to marry her. If he does, he may be in for a rude awakening. Not because of her but because of him. When his passion subsides he'll be faced with the pain and reality of his own loneliness and emptiness.

And then to avoid facing his pain, he'll look to another performance, climb another mountain, or seek another beautiful woman...and another...to prove to himself that he is a man. Or he'll deaden the pain through alcohol, drugs or addictive behaviors and eventually ruin his health, get cancer, die of a heart attack, never get close to the ones he loves, or ruin those relationships. That is, he'll keep acting out until he faces why he looks in the wrong places for the love he never received as a child.

Ask a hundred men how many felt close to and affirmed by their father and you will see about three or four hands raised. Herein lies the secret of so much of our relational and emotional distress and the answer to our recovery. The father wound that injured our masculine soul is because we never felt loved by our fathers. And that wound desperately needs to be healed.
Only a father (or a surrogate or substitute father) can affirm a man's masculinity and make him feel that he's a man. Neither fame nor fortune nor all the women in the world can ever do this for him. Only a father's love can.

But what if our father was absent, as was mine? He was physically present but not emotionally. He was uninvolved in my life, which I perceived as rejection, and then I in turn rejected him. I "killed" my father too. Not literally, of course, but as far as I was concerned he was dead to me. In doing this I shot myself in the heart. And everywhere I've went for years I searched for the love I never found from my father.

So where's the answer?

First, I need to acknowledge the fact that I had or have a father wound and need healing. As long as I deny this I can never be healed.

Second, I need to get in touch with my pain, express my deep anger and sob out my well of buried grief over the loss of the father's love I never had. Counseling with a male (a straight one is better I guess) counselor, participating in a psychodrama (role play) group, prayer for inner healing, and having a couple of soul brothers with whom I can share openly and honestly has helped bring much healing.

I can only be loved--and healed--
to the degree that I am known.

Third, I need to continue to build healthy relationships with healthy men. No woman could ever affirm my masculinity or teach me to love myself as a man. Only men can meet my unmet father need.

As long as a man depends on a woman to make him feel good about himself, he is still emotionally tied to his mother's apron strings. All a woman can ever do is confirm what a man already feels about himself. That is, if he rejects himself as a man, he will likely be attracted to a rejecting woman. Or if he loves and accepts himself as a man, he will be attracted to a loving and accepting woman who will confirm what he feels about himself.

Fourth, to be affirmed by men—who become father substitutes—I need to find men I can trust and let them know me as I truly am—warts and all. Every one of us has a dark side. I need to take the risk and share my dark side to these men I trust—men who will know me fully and accept me as I am. It is through their love and acceptance that I learn to love and accept myself. But as long as I keep my dark side hidden, I will never feel fully loved. I can only be loved—and healed—to the degree that I am known. This may be scary but there is no other way.

Fifth, because I am a spiritual being, the bottom line to feeling fully loved is to feel God the Father's love at the very core of my being. Herein lies the deepest healing of the masculine soul. Thus I need to come to God through his Son, Jesus Christ, confess all my dark side to him, ask for his forgiveness, and accept him as Lord of my life.

I then can learn to feel closer to God and experience his love as I get closer to healthy, accepting men and feel their love. As God said, "If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us."2

NOTE: I need to realize that so many women also have a deep father wound. Only when we men are healed are we able to appropriately affirm women so they, too, can be healed of their father wound.

1. Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat, P. 65.
2. 1 John 4:12.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Father Wound

This article provides us with a concise and meaningful introduction about father wounding that is all too common among men with SSA and also to some extent women. The author also describes the role that a "typical father" plays in a typical family setting, and how assuming this traditional role may have negative effects on the emotional well-being of their children.

by Jeff Eckert

Jack is a 42-year-old who entered my office for counseling after his wife discovered his long history of Internet pornography, and trips to local massage parlors. As I began to explore his history in an attempt to understand the deeper issues involved, I was struck by one of Jack’s statements: “My father always provided for us and was home every night after work. But even though he was there, he was never really present.” Thus begins an exploration of the question: What is the father wound?

Andrew Comiskey, in his book on sexual and relational healing entitled "Strength in Weakness" writes, “Though the Father intended for us to be roused and sharpened by our fathers, we find more often than not that our fathers were silent and distant, more shadow than substance in our lives.” This kind of a “shadow” presence is not what our heavenly Father intended for our relationships with our earthly fathers. Unfortunately, few fathers follow the injunction of Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Like Jack, then, many men grew up with fathers who returned home after work, but were never really active as sharpening agents in the lives of their sons. These fathers provided for their sons’ material needs, but they were strangely absent when the time came to satisfy the needs of the heart, such as intimacy and connection. Fathers like this may have been available to coach their sons’ baseball teams or supervise yard work. However, they were less likely to model intimacy in relationships, or to be an active presence when their sons were dealing with the pain of rejection by peers. In his soul, every man craves deep, intimate connections with other men, but men are often left without the tools for creating these loving, nurturing relationships. A big reason for this has to do with the primary role fathers typically play in families. Rather than nurturing their sons or developing intimacy with them, fathers often spend the majority of their time enforcing the rules. Patrick Morley, in his classic book "Man in the Mirror" states, “Mothers love and stroke their children. Angry fathers handle the discipline.”

While this statement may seem unfair to fathers, it is a fair assessment of the father’s role in many families. Not only do fathers interact with their boys in a primarily disciplinary role, but boys are taught to absorb that discipline with a stiff upper lip. Boys learn the lesson very early on that they are not to display any sense of vulnerability. When life gets tough, negative feelings are to be stuffed and internalized. This stoic, unemotional approach to life is often accompanied by a seemingly unreachable set of expectations from fathers. Countless men enter my counseling office with stories of fathers they could not please: “All my life I have felt as if I just couldn’t cut it in my father’s eyes. It always seemed like the bar was raised just above my reach.” Some of the deepest wounds lie in these feelings of inadequacy, which can then poison other relationships and make true intimacy difficult. Men that grew up with fathers they were unable to please often carry around a suffocating belief system: “I can never cut it. And if I’m not cutting it, then why would others want to be around me?”

Another reason men may feel inadequate is because their fathers did not support or affirm them as they moved into manhood. Jack Balswick, in his book "Men at the Crossroads" writes, “Tragically, many young men are growing up without a father who will affirm their leap into manhood…Often the voices they do hear are distortions of true manhood.” Because so many boys do not have a father affirming their “leap into manhood,” that transition is often filled with feelings of fear, anger and frustration, instead of confidence and security. Lonely and discouraged, boys become isolated and alienated men. In this isolated state, men continue to desire closeness and connection, but they often have no concept of how to achieve it. It is because of this quandary that many men seek out sexual fantasy in an attempt to find some sense of intimacy. Many men feel a void in their lives, often created by the wounds of the past, and some men attempt to fill that void with illicit sexuality. Men’s desire for intimacy and connection is real, powerful, and appropriate. But when men try to satisfy that desire in the form of sexual fantasies and acts, they find merely approximations or shadows of true relationship and connection.

However, a healing balm for men's wounds, including their father wound, can be found. By obtaining a biblical understanding of what a father truly is, and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, men can begin to experience healing. More healing can occur through accountability and community with other Christian brothers. As Jack began developing relationships with others who were truly present, and experiencing relationship with a heavenly Father who is always present, his need to escape into the world of sexual fantasy was diminished. Sharing our wounds with fellow sojourners in the journey can provide immeasurable healing. It is in coming out of our own woundedness and brokenness that we can most clearly see the essential nature of relationship with Christ and others.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Pope Warns Secularism Can Infest Church [weblink]

2. Lawyer Says Men-Women Relations Need Healing [weblink]

3. NASA Goes 'Completely Off-Mission' With LGBT Pride Month, Critic Charges [weblink]

4. Dominican Lawmakers Reject Legalization of Same-Sex 'Marriage' [weblink]

5. Vermont Kids Discover 'Gendertopia' [weblink]

6. Chastity Bono, Transsexuality and the Church [weblink]

7. 'Gay' Leader Kevin Jennings Says Dream Is to 'Promote Homosexuality' in Schools [weblink]

8. Indian Government: Sex Education "Has Absolutely No Place" in Our Schools - It "Promotes Promiscuity" [weblink]

9. US Catholic Scholars Oppose Removal of Feeding Tubes for PVS Patients [weblink]

10. Nightline: Faith-based Movies Rise Above Hollywood Heavyweights [weblink]

11. Ultimate Fighting's Ugliness [weblink]

12. Thank You, Father [weblink]

Quote for the week:

"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards." -- Unknown

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is Internet Porn Just A Harmless Pasttime?

Beginning today, I am going to post articles dealing with internet pornography. I am fully aware that countless men (and also women) struggle with this addiction including myself. Thankfully, I have found an online psycho-education and training program that aims to equip people with valuable information about the scientific nature of porn not available anywhere else. The Candeo program is designed to help the porn addict on three fronts - prevention, social awareness, and healing. Hopefully, I would be able to share too my personal struggles with porn in the coming weeks. For now, let us begin to tackle this issue by first gaining an understanding of how porn affects us.

by Mark Kastleman

Those who produce Internet pornography and many of those who indulge in it would have us believe that it’s a harmless pastime; the “prudes” and “zealots” are blowing the issue all out of proportion. They make statements such as these:

  • “Porn is a harmless outlet, an amusement, a way to let off the steam of natural impulses.”
  • “What people view in the privacy of their own homes or offices doesn’t hurt anyone and is no one’s business.”
  • “Boys will be boys.”
  • “Pornography is a choice. If you don’t like it, then don’t look at it.”

Such attitudes couldn’t be further from the truth. Pornography claims its victims without regard to age, gender, race or religion. No one is immune; all are at risk. In its insidious wake lie the tractable innocent and the eager participant alike, side by side. With the unlimited distribution potential and capability of the Internet, pornography’s casualty list grows longer with each passing day.

On reading the forgoing dialogue, some readers may think, “Mark, aren’t you overreacting just a bit? How can the viewing of Internet pornography in the privacy of people’s own homes or offices be causing that many problems? Isn’t this just a harmless pastime, a healthy sexual outlet?”

In addition to the direct and well-documented link between porn use and rape, incest, molestation and pedophilia, like a thief in the night, Internet porn is also subtly, quietly, almost unnoticeably robbing individuals, couples and families of the things they hold most precious: time, energy, creativity, healthy marriage relationships, family love, respect, morality, decency, integrity, patience, harmony, success, happiness, fulfillment, spirituality–and the list goes on.

Silent Alarms

Silent alarms are going off all around us as a result of the effects of pornography on us, on our children, and on society as a whole. But few are responding to these alarms. Why? Because too many are allowing their attention to be diverted by the much louder alarms being set off by the pornographers themselves.

Censorship! First Amendment Rights! Freedom! scream these “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” all the while quietly collecting their enormous profits. Pornographers deliberately trigger these alarms just like the bank robber who sends a decoy to rob the teller while he empties the main vault and waltzes out the back door!

The tragedy is that while much of America is buying into and being distracted by these alleged “assaults” on our constitutional rights, the pornographers are robbing millions of their freedom by addicting them to porn. Along the way they are stealing the most precious treasure we have: the future legacy of goodness and decency that we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

The waves of pornography pouring freely from the Internet have developed into destructive shockwaves. Their aftershock rumblings will wreak havoc at a level and intensity of destruction never before experienced in the history of mankind.

Literally tens of millions of people have been victimized by pornography, including those who partake of this highly addictive drug and the myriad lives they negatively impact as a result. Pornography destroys marriages and families, increases overall crime rates, hammers corporate productivity, spreads sexually transmitted diseases, and the list goes on and on.

A common argument in favor of pornography is that it is simply entertainment and negatively affects only a few people. “The Ted Bundys of the world are sick and rare,” cries the pro-porn camp. “For the rest of us, porn is no different than any other hobby.”

Pornography is the “Great Thief” of Human Potential

It has been said: The saddest words of tongue and pen are these–What might have been. One of the greatest tragedies of pornography is that fact that it robs an individual of his great potential–all that he might have been, done and contributed to family and society. Pornography is a purely selfish hobby; it gives nothing to anyone but the viewer and the porn producer. In that way it is not at all like other hobbies, such as painting, writing, playing a musical instrument, woodworking or gardening, which give something of value to others and make the hobbyist a more generous, well-rounded person.

There Are Two Seas

Writer Bruce Barton inspires us with a powerful and appropriate metaphor:

One is fresh and fish abound in it. Splashes of green adorn its landscape. Trees spread their branches over it and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its life-giving waters. Along its shores children play, as children played when He was there. He loved it. He could look across its silver surface as He spoke His parables.

And on a rolling plain, not far away, He fed five thousand people in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. The River Jordan forms this Sea with sparkling waters from the hills. It laughs in the sunshine, and men build their houses near it, and birds their nests, and every kind of life is happier because it is there.

The River Jordan flows on south into another Sea. Here there is no splash of fish, no fluttering leaf, no song of birds, no laughter of little children. Travelers do not pass, unless on urgent business which might take them there. The air hangs heavy above its waters, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink of it.

What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor Seas? Not the River Jordan, it empties the same good water into both. Not the soil in which they lie, nor the country round about. The Sea of Galilee receives and gives but does not keep the Jordan water to itself. For every drop which flows into it, another drop flows out. The receiving and the giving go on, day after day, in equal measure. The other Sea hoards its income jealously. Every drop it gets, it keeps. The Sea of Galilee gives and lives. The other Sea gives nothing. It is named “The Dead Sea”.

So it is with those who immerse themselves in the “me-first/pleasure/climax-centered” world of Internet pornography. They keep everything for themselves. Like the selfish sea, they can become truly dead in their desires and capacities to love, lift and serve those around them. It is the grossly exaggerated self-centered and narcissistic nature of pornography use that produces so many victims. The great tragedy of pornography is that it isolates the user and disrupts and eventually destroys his most important relationships: Creator, self, spouse, children, extended family and friends.

Let’s Focus on Solutions!

With all of my pontificating about the true motives of pornographers and the victims in their wake, let me be clear about my motives. I am not attempting to chastise or create more shame if you struggle with pornography, nor do I want to resurrect painful memories if you are a victim, rather I want to raise your level of awareness and commitment to protecting your family and all those you care about from this awful epidemic. And most especially, if you or someone you care about is currently caught in the trap of pornography addiction, there is a way out. Taking the first steps onto the path of freedom is as simple as visiting the Candeo recovery training website at www.candeocan.com.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Call To Be Chaste

The Light of Jesus Community is inviting everyone to their Light of Jesus Community Singles Night - Magmahal. Maghintay. Manindigan. - The Call to Chastity of Single Men and Women on June 11, 2009, Thursday. Registration starts at 6 p.m. at Starmall Trade Hall, EDSA corner Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City. (Trade Hall is on the second floor near the Foodcourt.)


The speaker is

Bro. Xavier Padilla of CFC-FFL

Head of Kids for Life International, Ex-Single

Happily Married, Loving Husband and Father

To all single men and women, let's commit ourselves to purity and chastity even if the world tells us it's outdated, outmoded, baduy, old-fashioned, and irrelevant! Kindly extend this invitation to your single brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, friends, officemates, neighbors, and acquaintances. God bless.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

News & Commentaries

1. Faith Takes Feeling, Says Benedict XVI [weblink]

2. Priests Urged To Open Their Hearts Wide [weblink]

3. Obama Speaks To Muslims [weblink]

4. Is Islam A Religion of Peace? [weblink]

5. Obama: USA Transgender Pride [weblink]

6. New Hampshire Legalizes 'Gay Marriage' With Religious Protections [weblink]

7. White House "Comfortable" With Anti-Catholic Homosexual Activist On Faith Counsel [weblink]

8. Dick Cheney Is A Great Man, But He Is Wrong On 'Gay Marriage' [weblink]

9. New York Catholic Bishops Strongly Oppose Legalized Same-Sex 'Marriage' [weblink]

10. Commentary: Let's Get Our Facts Straight About Tiller and Anti-Abortion Violence [weblink]

Happy Trinity Sunday!

Quote for the week:

"Hurt leads to bitterness, bitterness to anger, travel too far that road and the way is lost." - Terry Brooks

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Letter from an Atenean Student

Last week, I received an e-mail from an Atenean student who is doing a thesis on the phenomenon of Catholic blogging. The Courage Philippines blog was chosen as one of the participants in his study and I want to share with you his letter and my answers to his questionnaire.

Dear Blogger,

Good Day!

I am Miguel Ramirez, a student of MA Communication in the Ateneo de Manila University, and an alumnus of Don Bosco Canlubang. Currently, I am doing a paper on the phenomenon of Catholic Blogging, and its legitimacy and effectiveness for “online” catechesis. With your permission, I hope I can include your enriching blog as one of those which I will be citing in this paper.

It has been implied in this study that spirituality has slowly penetrated the vast internet community. With this, a “general evangelization” is assumed to be already taking place online.

However, as Catholics, the Catechism holds great importance in propagating our faith, and it seems that a culture of neglect has been given to these important tenets. As citizens of a highly online world, it is our concern to inculturate the Catechism to reach more and more readers around the world, specifically through blogging as a tool. But the question is: How effective and legitimate is blogging in propagating the truths of the Catechism?

Here are ten (10) questions which I beg you would take time out to reflect and answer. Please feel free to leave your comments at the bottom. Thank you!

1. Blog name.

Courage Philippines (www.couragephilippines.blogspot.com)

2. Around what date/year did you start this blog?

I started this blog February of this year.

3. How often do you update your blog?

I update our blog weekly and because we are all busy people, I make use of a blogger feature wherein I can schedule blog postings ahead of time.

4. What is the purpose/mission of your blog?

The primary purpose of the Courage blog is to propagate awareness of the Catholic Church’s teaching homosexuality. But in our blog, it’s not all about SSA (same-sex attraction). You will also find links to numerous Catholic websites and to topics such as human sexuality, chastity, and psychospiritual sources because we believe in the total development of the human person.

5. Describe your ideal target audience.

Our ideal target audience is a person struggling with SSA, who might be into the gay lifestyle or just confused about his sexual identity. We as a support group aims to give spiritual support and guidance to these people. Our blog has something for everyone and is not just confined to persons with SSA. We have a “goldmine” of resources in our blog that you can use to enrich your emotional, psychological, and spiritual life and we strive to keep the blog up to date.

6. Do you consider your blog Catechetical in nature, yes or no?

Partly yes and partly no.

a. Have you posted/shared/discussed articles from the Catechism? If you have, please insert a link to a sample of these posts.

Yes. Here is the link: http://couragephilippines.blogspot.com/2009/03/pastoral-care-of-homosexual-persons.html I must add though that if you will scroll down the sidebar, you will find direct links to catechetical materials. This is so in order to make it always visible and just a click away to our blog readers. You can find this under the sections of Faith Matters, Sacraments, and Homosexuality and the Catholic Church.

b. What are your sources as regards this Catechetical information?

Online texts of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and some Catholic websites.

c. If your blog does not contain articles/posts from the Catechism, what do you think is your blog’s unique means of spreading the Catholic faith?

Apart from catechetical sources, my numerous links to other Catholic websites and my live EWTN TV and Radio feeds. Now, that’s 24/7 round-the-clock authentic Catholic evangelization online!

7. From general comments and feedbacks, describe the readers of your blog. (Gender, age, social class, educational attainment, occupation, etc.)

I do not have a solid reference for this but most of my readers I guess are fellow bloggers like myself – stay at home moms, students, professionals, OFWs, foreigners, and generally people from all walks of life. If you will notice on my sidebar near the bottom of the page, you can see the exact numbers of people visiting my blog and their nationalities. I have had visitors from all over the world spread across six continents with the majority coming from the Philippines of course, followed by the US, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Great Britain, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Norway, and even from Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar.

8. Modesty aside, what do you think has been the most uplifting feedback given by a reader to your blog? (Please give the comment) Who was this person: a family member, personal friend, online friend, an anonymous reader, etc.?

Since I started blogging here, I received quite a number of very good comments (and not so good ones too). You can visit this link to read their reviews: www.linkreferral.com/reviewlist.pl?reviewee=226530&category=social&subcategory=general&startrow=0 So far, the most uplifting comment I have received came from an anonymous reader: “Love your blog. I have many friends who struggle with the issues you presented on your blog. I will definitely tell them about your blog and encourage them to visit you. It's so inspiring and has a lot of interesting content on there. Good work and good luck.”

9. Do you think that Catholic blogs are a legitimate and effective source of Catechism in today’s technologically savvy society? Why? Why not?

Yes. I have visited other Catholic blogs whose contents range from purely orthodox matters to inspirational and gospel-centered ones. Some blogs tackle day-to-day issues affecting the Church, etc. These blogs are a legitimate source of catechetical instructions as well as information on current events and issues affecting the life of the Church. Catechesis is a joint responsibility of both the priests and the laity, but unfortunately many of us are lacking in catechetical instructions. One great thing about online catechesis is that people can access them “on demand”. Unlike books which you keep tucked away once you finish reading, a blog is updated on a regular basis hence you can follow it continuously (provided it is regularly updated), thereby getting new information every time you visit it. There is always something new to learn and discuss.

10. What factors do you think contribute to the effectiveness of a Catholic Blog in propagating the Catechism? I can enumerate three factors.

(1) Catholic blogs not only present the catechism per se, but provides a venue for discussion and interaction. The reader can post comments and questions about a certain topic which generates a discussion of ideas and interaction between the blogger and blog readers.

(2) A Catholic blog, like any other blog, can be easily accessed by anyone anywhere as long as there is internet connection and this is where Catholic blogs gain an edge over traditional print media such as books. In our highly technological age, internet use has become the primary means of obtaining information and Catholic bloggers utilize this advantage to reach out to more people wherever they are in the world.

(3) Catholic blogs are not limited to the printed word. They can utilize and incorporate multimedia channels like videos, podcasts, audio files, and live TV and radio feeds. These media can be integrated in a blog just like mine and can be very effective as well.

Your Comments:

Hi Migs,

Thanks for including our blog in your thesis. I hope my answers have answered most of your queries about Catholic blogging. If you know people who struggle with SSA, kindly refer them to our blog.

I wish you well in your studies. God bless you.

Please email the questionnaire to _____ on or before May 25, 2009, Monday. Sorry if this came in such a short notice.

Thank you very much for your time and effort! God will bless you a hundredfold!

Sincerely yours,
Miguel F. Ramirez

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Emotional Longing in Men

In this article, Alan Medinger discusses the emotional issues that men with SSA face and the steps we can take to remedy them. It is in acknowledging our emotional needs where healing begins to take place and leads us a step farther in our personal growth.

We have long recognized that the homosexual drive is not, at its root, sexual. The drive gains its direction and power from certain things inside a person, in many cases unmet needs or fears. Not always, but most often, in men it is an unmet need or a deficit, and in women, it is a fear.

This article will deal solely with male homosexuality because I am going to discuss an unmet need that comes out of a deficit in a boy’s relationship with his father. To be clear, women dealing with same-sex attraction (SSA) can have father deficits too, and so true healing for them may at some point require them to see men as protectors (a fatherly role). But the dynamics of these father deficits are quite different, so I will focus on men with SSA.

The two most frequently seen nonsexual – that is nonerotic – roots of male homosexuality are 1) a longing for manhood (one’s own), and 2) a longing to connect with manhood (someone else’s). In most boys, their own manhood develops in the normal process of growing up; identification with the father, inclusion in the world of boys, and finally reaching outside of themselves to one who is “other,” to a woman.

In most boys the connection with someone else’s manhood is taken care of through early experiences with a loving and affirming father. With most SSA men, however, this connection was not made. Then, as often happens when a legitimate need is not met, the longing for it grows stronger and stronger. It becomes a craving for those things that early connection with the father should bring – security and affirmation. And, as is characteristic of males, the longing becomes sexualized. At first, the boy may imagine his needs being met in a physical way (like a strong man befriending him or a brave man rescuing him), but eventually, the pictures develop sexual overtones. The craving for an intense connection with a man becomes a desire for a sexual relationship with a man.

What I am talking about here is not just identifying a psychological need, but accessing a deep emotional longing. These longings of the heart must be addressed because true and deep healing can only come as we uncover the pain of the past and experience where it remains present with us today. Using a specific example, this is what I will address in this article.

The Place of the Symbolic

Symbols are tremendously important here. If we can’t understand the presence and power of symbols, there is much we don’t understand about life. This is particularly true with respect to human sexuality. In what follows I am going to deal with one specific symbol that is significant to many SSA men. If readers cannot identify with the symbol addressed here, perhaps another one could be substituted.

What are the symbols of manhood? The most obvious one would be male genitals, but there are many others: physical strength, height, a deep voice, a hairy body. There is one, however, that people who have not dealt with same-sex attractions might never guess, but it is one that I run into over and over again. A man in our ministry tells me, “I fell into masturbation last night after I started surfing the TV looking for chests”. Another says, “I'm not really after sex. If I could only lay my head on some strong man’s chest…” The men in our groups complain about how difficult it is when spring arrives and construction workers start taking off their shirts.

This may seem strange to some, but when you think about it, a man’s chest is a logical symbol of manhood. The symbols of manhood are those characteristics of men that make them different from women. A man’s size, muscles, hairy body – and chest – all distinguish him from women. And the chest, in more than just a physical or figurative way, is at the center of a man. In our culture, the core of a man is his heart – located in his chest. Typically, the chest is big, thick, and solid; it often connotes strength.

An old command to military recruits was “chin up, shoulders back, chest out.” This up-front chest declared manhood.

It can greatly help the man struggling with SSA, or those trying to help him, to recognize, not just the sexual attraction that draws him, but also the deep emotional longing – the ache – that lies at the root of his attraction to men. The longing for intimacy is why he might picture being satisfied by laying his head on or touching the bare chest of a man.

I think that this kind of longing for intimacy is natural in a little boy, and usually it is met in the normal physical contacts of a father and son. My son demonstrated this quite clearly. When he was first able to crawl out of his crib, sometimes on Saturday mornings, when my wife and I were sleeping in, he would come get in our bed. He would unbutton my pajama top, then pull his little pajama top up, and lay on my chest, bare skin to bare skin. Steve grew up with quite a healthy male identity, and this expressed his little boy’s desire to connect with his father.

Now picture the adult man with a deep unmet need for the security and affirmation that could come from a father; what could seem more comforting than imagining his face resting on the strong, warm chest of a man, the man’s strong arms wrapped around him?

Filling the Empty Place

For the adult SSA man, however, filling the empty place in his heart through such contact today is probably not possible. First, if physically intimate male contacts were healing, then all active homosexual men would outgrow their homosexuality and be healed. To the contrary, these longings of men in the gay life continue or get worse. Even in a Christian setting, if one were to find a man who had the heart to minister to the SSA man in a physical way such as this – which is extremely unlikely – the struggler could perpetuate his self-image of being a little boy. Still, healing from homosexuality requires that we address the aching heart. Unfortunately, it is likely that for most, the ache will never go away totally, but there are actions we can do to diminish it. Here are some suggestions:

1. Grieve the loss – with Jesus. Fully acknowledge the pain of never having experienced the loving physical intimacy of a father. Let the pain of that reality come to the surface. Bring it to the Lord; talk to Him about it. Let Him minister to you in the loss.

2. Let Jesus minister to you physically. I have become convinced that no mere man can fill the deep needs that are in the man who has spent years longing for a certain type of male love and intimacy. The void is too great. But there is One who can meet these needs. In my early years as a Christian, Jesus would allow me to be intimate with Him in my quiet times in ways that clearly filled the empty places in me. I could imagine that He was my older friend or brother, and after a long day of hiking, we could sit down by a rock and I would rest my head on His chest. I worried that this would turn erotic, but I sensed Him saying, “Don’t worry about it if it does,” and it never did. As He met the deep needs and filled the empty places, the longing diminished, and after a time, my need for male relationships became as healthy and normal as anyone’s. I am not sure that the Lord will work this way in every SSA man’s heart, but do grieve the loss, go to Him, and He will minister to you in some way.

3. Desexualize the need. Hopefully, reading this article has already started the process. Ask the Lord to help you identify the specific longings that might be driving you – security, male intimacy, being valued by a man, physical touch, whatever – and whenever such needs are felt, say to yourself and the Lord, “It really isn’t sex I want; what I really want is…(whatever needs you have identified). Ask the Lord to meet that need at that moment. Over time the link between the felt need and sexual desire will diminish.

4. Repent of any idolatry. If a man’s chest, or any part of a man’s body has become so important to you that you think you may be falling into idolatry, repent of the specific sin of idolatry, and every time you find yourself going there again, picture yourself smashing the idol and turning to the one true God.

5. Accept the fact that the need may never be fully met in this life. However, when acknowledging this, put the problem in the perspective of your total life. Seek to avoid self-pity and seek to develop a grateful heart. Every man goes through life missing out on some things. But for the believer, God has given each of us so much.

6. Become a father. I says this a bit facetiously – of course fatherhood is not possible or practical for every man – but for those men who have started to receive from the Father, those who have begun to really experience some significant healing and growth in the area of their own manhood, when these men become fathers, there is a way in which, as they pour out love and intimacy to their little sons or daughters, God pours into them the same thing. When that happens, our sense of our self moves further from that of a needy little boy to that of a life-giving man.

7. Watch healthy fathers. If fatherhood isn’t realistic for you, let me suggest something else. Tom and his wife and young son and daughter are often a few rows in front of me in church. Tom and his children are very physical. The kids are constantly snuggling up to Tom or touching his face. He puts his arms around them or strokes their heads – all in a very natural and unobtrusive way. Whenever I see this, my heart warms, and I feel joy for this family.

Witnessing such an interaction will likely stir up longings in you, and when the feelings arise, go to the Lord with your longings, seeking to lay them down before Him. With your eyes turned from yourself, start praising God for the blessings that these children are receiving. This is not to say you should stuff the ache you feel, but as you bless God for what these children are receiving that you did not receive, you may find a new freedom to receive the intimate love of your heavenly Father.

God does not leave any of us alone in our pain. He has promised to be father to the fatherless. Let Him do that. Let Him start to fill the empty places in you.