Today I was thinking about this guy to the right...(Jim) and I'm so proud of the man he is. And that got me thinking...what makes him the REAL man that he is? I view him as "the man's man"...the "man-liest" of them all! So what is it that makes me see this sexy guy I get the honor of calling my husband, as a REAL man?
Here's my top 10 list.
A REAL man is INTROSPECTIVE. Early on in recovery, Jim learned the art of looking inward. He began asking himself, "Who am I?" What is true masculinity as defined by God? And he answered this by choosing to study the life and teachings of Jesus. After all, who better teacher, right? Jim began reading the 4 books of the Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and he read them over, and over, and over...and over again. He would excitedly nudge me in bed at night and say, "Can I read you this passage? It's SO GOOD!" As we began discussing what and how Jesus lived His life, we began viewing masculinity much differently than what is taught by today's standards. No doubt, many today, if they lived at the same time of Jesus, would label Jesus as "soft", "whipped" or a "pushover". Jesus' life was the epitome of gentleness and humility. These traits-which many today would view as weak-is what drew large crowds to Him. And it is also these very traits that made others HATE Him. Loathe Him. Disregard Him. Talk badly about Him. In other words, as Jim began to process the result of living a life of gentleness and humility, he accepted that some would be attracted to it, and some would be repulsed by it. But their reaction was not dependent upon how Jim saw himself through the eyes of Jesus. So, he resolved: I will life a life (modeled by Jesus, Himself) of gentleness and humility.
A REAL man is a led by the Holy Spirit. After Jim resolved to life a life modeled by Jesus, he surrendered his will and his need for control. This was a very important part of his transformative process, because he was no longer trying to "white knuckle" his recovery process, and made space for the supernatural work to reside. As this "letting go" took place, so did letting go of his addictive nature-like his sense of entitlement and self-righteous outlook on life. Just like in Jericho, the walls began to crumble and he was exposed. This vulnerable posture allowed me in for the first time, and it was so incredibly scary yet profound. But it was also absolutely necessary for the REAL man to show up.
A REAL man is VULNERABLE. I find it incredibly strange that our society views a man's vulnerability as weakness. Maybe I'm the "odd woman out", but seeing a man be vulnerable elevates his masculinity in my mind. I find it incredibly attractive, and observing Jim learn how to do this has been like a magnet to my soul. It takes a man of COURAGE and BOLDNESS to remove the "emotional mask" and let others see his weaknesses. Jim has exhibited incredible STRENGTH to be fully known, and that is masculine. Vulnerability is a reciprocal part of our marriage now, something brand new and implemented just in the past couple of years, after safety was established and a good amount of trust had been built. To be fully known by another human being, and yet still fully loved, has been the kind of relationship we have never known by any other earthly relationship until now. It is the most beautiful expression of the Gospel story...to be fully and know and fully loved... grace.
A REAL man is SECURE. It takes a SECURE kind of man to encourage and stand behind his wife publishing a book on betrayal because of his addiction! It takes a secure kind of man to applaud his wife's accomplishments rather than feel threatened by them! It takes a secure kind of man to feel 100% comfortable supporting his wife's career or pursuits, and even more secure if he's flaunting his imaginary "No. 1" foam finger cheering her on! A REAL man is so confident and secure in who he is that he is never threatened by his wife's accomplishments or goals. He's living life BESIDE her, PARTNERING with her, and is completely comfortable however that role looks, even if not "conventional" in today's standards. Jim is this kind of secure, and that is a major turn on! (and for the record, I support him in the same way!)
A REAL man is PROGRESSIVE. This means that Jim has done and is still doing the UN-doing of what a patriarchal system and legalistic teachings have damaged. He is deconstructing (I mean that in a positive way) the how's and why's he has viewed woman as objects for so many years. As he has UNdone these harmful teachings and messages, he has come to realize that women are not around for his own self-gratification and objectification. He also sees how he viewed them as dangerous and contributed to his lust problem, and this was a false narrative and while not the cause of his addiction, did play a role in it. He studied how women mattered and were even prioritized in the life and ministry of Jesus, and that they, as full human beings with mind/body/soul, have incredible intellect and value in the world and the church. He approaches our marriage in a spirit of equality-where both partners are coming together in a spirit of giving and receiving. This balance of power has greatly contributed to the health and vitality of our relationship. Our emotional intimacy has deepened significantly because of the "first 5" mentioned above.
A REAL man is ACCOUNTABLE. Jim has surrounded himself with tools to hold him accountable. He meets with 8 other men every week, all of whom keep him accountable to his recovery growth. He has multiple boundaries in place and goes above and beyond to ensure my emotional safety is not compromised. One of ways he maintains accountability is not being active on social media, which is why I get to have the honor to publicly esteem him! Jim has not once broken an accountability boundary, which we set up early on in the recovery process. We came up with his accountability protocol together, each of us contributing to what was needed to move forward. His commitment to accountability reveals he has become a man of true INTEGRITY. Nothing says, "real man" better than a man of integrity.
A REAL man shows love through ACTS OF SACRIFICIAL LOVE. Jim speaks it, but then he follows up his words with ACTION. The addiction taught Jim to only love himself through a spirit of entitlement. Now Jim loves himself through a spirit of grace. Through the lens of grace, Jim views himself as the REAL man of God. Through grace, Jim learned that true love is not a demand, it's an invitation. And because Jim loves himself though HUMILITY and not entitlement, he has learned how to love others as he loves himself. So, in that love, he can pour out sacrificial love just as Jesus poured out sacrificial love though washing the disciples feet and dying on the cross. By doing so, he isn't loving others by being a doormat nor is he demanding people to appreciate his so-called "love in action". He is intentionally setting aside his own fleshly desires and putting others needs above himself, exemplifying Jesus. With entitlement love, you can do "loving" things for others, but you end up feeling resentment. Used. Frustrated. Tired. With sacrificial love, you feel joy, honored, worth and purpose. Jim is living out this true love in action. He still gets tired, because well, he has a teenage daughter, a middle school son, and a wife who wrote a book about betrayal trauma!
A REAL man exhibits EMPATHY & EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE. This is the ability to perceive how another person might feel. It is approaching difference of opinions with natural curiosity instead of righteous condemnation. It is letting go of having to "be right", and not see issues as black/white. A real man learns to love the color gray. He can meet in the middle and look at things from different perspectives. And above all, he honors his wife's pain. He allows her space to be angry at him and grieve. He doesn't ever minimize his betrayal nor her feelings. Jim has perfected some of this, and is still growing in other areas, but he's moving in the right direction, and that makes me fall madly in love with him! Having empathy and emotional intelligence gives Jim the ability to think before reacting, gain greater self-awareness (and awareness opens the gate for growth), and practice empathy towards others. This part of Jim captivates me!
A REAL man makes LIVING AMENDS. Living amends is different than making amends. It means living a completely new, sober lifestyle, and being committed to that lifestyle for both yourself and for those you’ve harmed in the past. Living amends also means creating real changes through true and honest behaviors and actions, as well as following an emotionally sober path. Living amends literally means amending the way you live. This means there is not relapse after relapse, the cycles of dysfunction cease, and you follow up and follow through. Jim is a completely new man, which makes him a REAL man.
A REAL man RESPECTS BOUNDARIES. Jim knows where he begins and where he ends. He gives room for my autonomy and respects my personal boundaries. He respects my right to my own values, even if they differ from his. This is because he has already established his SECURITY in his own masculinity and as a man. He honors the boundaries I've set up in order to feel emotionally safe. He doesn't view my boundaries as punishment, but as protection and in a spirit of sacrificial love, he makes sure to abide by them. He doesn't use my boundaries as an agent to weaponize them against me. He is respectful, understanding, and kind.
BONUS: A REAL man shows all the fruits of the spirit! Jim is LOVE-in-action, Jim has JOY (he has learned how to not take life so seriously), Jim has PEACE (because he is living a life of honestly and transparency), Jim has PATIENCE (because he chooses to make living amends), Jim is KIND (because Jesus has completely changed his heart from entitlement to selflessness), Jim is GOOD (because he has learned how to see the best in others and not assume the worst/play victim), Jim is GENTLE (because his heart is tender and teachable), Jim is FAITHFUL (he is committed to his sobriety, his faith, and his family), Jim practices SELF-CONTROL (by maintaining his accountability and tapping into the True Vine of Jesus!)