Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 24, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Men’s life support: an idea whose time has come for area men

By Pastor Bill Baldwin, Evangelical United Church of Christ, Lester Prairie

We’ve all heard of someone being on life support, an extreme emergency measure to keep someone from dying when something very serious has happened to them. We think of intensive care, breathing tubes, monitors, and worried family.

Men, in general, are long overdue for some life support of a different kind.

Women have known for multiple generations the power of friendships, of sharing thoughts and feelings, joys and burdens, of working together. Women have known that life is healthier and more fun when you have sustaining connections to uphold you in good times and tough times.

Men are ever so slowly starting to realize that the phrase “no man is an island” is really true. We all live in communities and need friends and friendships to keep ourselves sane and healthy.

Until now, the closest men ever got, usually, was living together in military barracks. Men have been taught that other men are competition, not potential friends. Men have been taught that the way to resolve conflict is to fight or kill, instead of talking about what is really going on.

Men, how would you like to be part of pioneering the habit of men getting together just to support one another and share from the heart about what is going on in life?

Too tough and macho, you say? Then, how come you are so lonely, isolated, frustrated, and angry? How come you don’t have more than a friend or two, if that? How come you rely so much on the women in your life for all your emotional needs?

Even if you are tough and macho, are you having fun yet? Men need a place to talk things over every bit as much as women, and the more we do, the healthier we’ll be.

Henry David Thoreau was quoted as saying that most men live lives of quiet desperation. I think it would be much more fun to live lives of exciting inspiration.

The idea I have for a men’s life support group is a simple one: creating a space where men could gather and talk about their lives for 90 minutes a week in a safe, caring environment. No expectations, no therapy, no 12 steps, no agenda, other than being there to support each other.

Oh, there might be just enough structure and format to get things going each week, and we would operate under the promise of confidentiality for those who came, but other than that, the week’s discussion would be wide open.

So what could we possibly talk about? Well, I’m sure none of you guys have challenges with marriages, relationships, children, work, wondering if life means anything, stress, war, what it means to be a man in today’s world, or any problems with anger or frustration; but if you did, Men’s Life Support would be a great place to talk about it.

I don’t know about you, but I have all kinds of things in my life that could use a safe place to process them. Some guys might come every week and some once a month, but knowing there is a place to sort things out could be a real comfort to the men in our area, I would think.

The one rule that would be front and center at the groups is that all sharing is about our personal feelings and not about hashing and re-hashing what is wrong with others. The groups would focus on becoming more self-responsible and less blaming of others for our problems.

The simple idea of being able to name what it is we want and need, and then finding ways to obtain it has been elusive to men. We have, in many ways, become far too dependent on the women in our lives to take care of our emotional lives, and women have started to say that “enough is enough” of placing the burden for a man’s happiness on a woman’s shoulders.

All I’m trying to figure out right now is if any guys out there may be interested in getting together to talk on a regular basis. Is the idea of having a men’s support group one that sounds appealing to anyone, or am I the only guy who feels a need to connect?

If even a handful of guys showed an interest, I think it would be worth getting together to see what we could get going. If you are interested, either call me on my cell phone at (952) 994-4029 or at work at (320) 395-2320. Whenever two or more are gathered around a cause, you have a support group, so it doesn’t take many to get started.

I have a vision of a time when men really feel great about being men again. I see a time when guys find ways to do work they feel good about and also feel great about their family relationships. And I see a time when men supporting each other is every bit as common and ordinary as the way women have done for centuries.

Perhaps the time has come when the bravest man is not one who will fight and kill, but one who has the courage to look inside and face his own final frontier; himself.

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