Home > culture, Leadership, Men's Issues > Anger, pain and men

Anger, pain and men

December 21, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

I have tried to be honest about my journey with depression over the past few years.   But, as I have written in other places, beneath a lot (but certainly not all) depression lies anger.  And being honest about my own anger has not been nearly as easy to admit and discuss with people.   Not that I should be talking about it with everybody.

Indeed my personal journey with depression (sounds kind of strange–like depression has been my friend) has often been intertwined with anger.  By being willing to talk about my own struggles with depression, others have been willing to admit their own depression and talk about it a little.  It gives me no joy that there are so many men out there fighting the dark cloud but it is encouraging to know that this battle is not one anyone needs to fight alone.  And it does bring me joy when my friends begin to get help to climb out of the despairing pit.

I suppose that normally anger seems to come before depression.  And according to David Benner, anger comes out of an experience of pain or an experience of loss.  So, the real challenge is for men to talk not just about our depression and anger but also about our pain and losses.  And that is where it gets tough doesn’t it?

What got me going on this topic is an article that my dear wife sent me,  an article by Anthony Bradley in World Magazine titled,  “Do Men Hurt?” Bradley writes,

Sadly, for many men, pain is often dismissed, ignored, or confused with sin. Many men do sinful things not out of a rebellious spirit but to self-medicate real pain. We all find ways to deal with pain, and sometimes it opens the door for sin.

Reminds me of a post I made about a book I real last year by Terrence Real,
I don’t want to talk about it,

One reason so many men face depression is that they do not face or deal well with the pain in their lives–often leading to addictive behavior to cover up the pain.

Pretty sensitive areas to discuss in a small group, eh?  The problem is that for too many of us, there is no safe place,  not even the church!  Not that I am down on the church–don’t misunderstand me.  Its just that the church seems to rarely be the place it could be.  For more on that, read Larry Crabb’s excellent book, The Safest Place on Earth. Here is more from Bradley on this topic.

Many churches do not provide safe space for men to confess being in need of healing (Luke 4, Isaiah 61) due to the hands many men have been dealt, sins committed against them in the past or present, their own addictions, confusions, passivity, anger, and so on. As a result, we have churches full of unhealed and wounded men who often medicate their pain in secret or take it out on their wives, children, friends, and co-workers. The dysfunctional cycle of self-medication creates even more generational sin and pain.

Anyway, I am finding this post to be a healthy challenge for me to think about my own openness–how much am I willing to share about my pain with others? What am I hiding?  And, how am I doing in creating safe places for men who need to talk about their pain?  I know it means that I have to think about ME less, make myself more available to build relationships of trust.  Likely, it means that less may very well be more in the long run.  And as Bradley exhorts in his article, all of us need to remember that it is only relationship with the Triune God that can bring the healing that we need.

Want to end this post on a positive note and so here is a vision that Bradley gives worth praying towards.  Again, the link to his entire article.

I look forward to the day in ministry contexts where I hear stories of men growing up in churches who were able to get help early because it was a normal way the church loved their men.

  1. December 21, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    there’s a lot of shame tied up with depression. One feels broken, damaged, a defective product. In a society of all smiles, it’s hard to acknowledge that that is not the feeling you have inside.

    for me, it was episodic for many years. I didn’t recognise the root source until much later. It was a spiritual ailment for me. A lack of meaning in the world as it is commonly presented to us.

    I see that there is anger in the depressive state. But I believe that to be a symptom. Treating that can lead one astray.

    Talking about it? Not sure. Like all mental ailments, depression goes under a very sly mask. Honest answers are rarely given to very simple questions.

    it’s an elusive state, and could do with much more research. I found the book ‘Noonday Demon’ to be an excellent introduction to the main threads of the depressive state.

    best wishes.

    • December 21, 2008 at 9:34 pm

      Yep, thats a good book–not sure I ever finished it. Reals book is specifically on depression in men and that is why I liked it so much. Only other one I know of on the topic is an out of print book by Archibald Hart. Not sure if anger is symptom or result–but nevertheless a thread that runs thru depression–esp for men I think. Can’t really treat the anger tho without getting to the pain behind the anger–that is where it is tough. Esp for those of us who have not allowed ourselves to feel that pain. Agreed that talking about it is not easy and most don’t have the capacity nor the interest to go there. But, hopefully, in the body of Christ, there are some who care.

  2. Charlie
    December 22, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    What would this help to men look like within the local church? Would it be programmed? Small group? Intentional relationships?

    Is our failure primarily a personal one (I don’t want to enter into anyone’s pain and problems) or institutional (the church is not organizing herself to actually care for one another)? Maybe all the above.

    • December 22, 2008 at 8:22 pm

      It seems that it is a broader issue than the culture of any one local church. However, perhaps this is one way that the church is to be counter cultural. Is there a culture cultivated in our local church that encourages men to connect on a deeper level? Begins with a transparency and openness by the leaders along with a willingness to invest staff, time and resources to connect with guys where they are. I would imagine that the pace of most of our lives does not lend itself to the kind of time needed to invest in relationships in which others would feel safe to express their pain. For some, a small group might work but others will need to talk in a one on one. Others, may need professional help–not always easy and affordable to find. Good thoughts, thanks Charlie.

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