June’s speaker is the Reverend Dr. Shane Green, senior minister at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ga. Shane will be speaking about men’s need for validation from certain important figures in their lives and the wrong turns they often take when they don’t receive it—along with how we can better know ourselves and each other through self-reflection and Christ’s love. “Until people really love themselves and become comfortable with who they are, they’re always going to be ‘posing’ or presenting to others what they think will be the most lovable. We live in a society that runs off this projection of what we think others want us to be,” he says. “I hope that people come away from this with a sense that it’s OK if there are things about them that are broken or in need of being whole.”
Restoration & Man’s Identity
Welcome & Speaker Introduction
I’d like to welcome you to Pursuing Restoration, a series of live web events, sponsored by The Redeemed, featuring insights and advice from some of the region’s most dynamic speakers, each from diverse backgrounds and experiences, offering wisdom and insights into life’s challenges and how we can recover and heal from the problems we may encounter.
Dr. Shane Green, Senior Minister at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus, Georgia, will be speaking about men’s need for validation from certain important figures in their lives and the wrong turns they take when often they don’t receive it. He will also be talking about how we can better know ourselves and each other through self-reflection and Christ’s love.
Why Do We Need Restoration?
Maybe it’s proper to begin at why we need restoration in the first place. And that revolves around certain levels of validations. Today we will specifically talk about validation from a man’s perspective.
The Important Aspects of Validation
Validation is something that every male needs to receive in their life, beginning early on in their development. There are three aspects of validation that are necessary:
- What is done or said as the act of validation
- Who is giving that validation
- When the validation is being given (stage of life)
Early on, children are wonderful observers but not the best interpreters. Young people are not born with a sense of self-awareness. In young people, this is something that is acquired or learned, similar to maturity. Hearing validation from the right people will create that self-awareness and having someone to validate you by saying things like “I recognize this about you,” and “I see something in you that you’re growing into a fine man or a fine adult” is necessary.
These words of validation need to also be accompanied with actions…and they need to be consistent. Those validations have to happen at certain times, and those times are dependent upon each family or each relationship. There are times in our society that make this easier, when someone’s 16, when someone’s 18, and when someone’s 21. But there are also times that are not necessarily related to age but life events like a graduation or a wedding day.
There needs to be unique times of validation that are tied to individual families and relationships in order for them to successfully carry over from one generation to the next. When someone else recognizes and validates your actions, it begins to create a sense of identity that leads to wholeness and restoration.
As stated earlier, these validations need to come from certain people. While someone within the family setting is important, this individual is not limited to just family. However, this person relates to the individual, it needs to be a person of influence; a person who that younger man deems to be important.
We need certain validations, at certain times, and from certain people.
Absence of Validation Outcomes
When a son or young man does not receive those types of validation, they normally revert to one of two outcomes and they are classical in nature.
One rebels against what their life is like in order to seek fulfillment and wholeness from external things. There are classical things inside our society that we can use to fill the void that exists because of not receiving these validations.
This is often embraced by men who didn’t receive that necessary validation and adopt a style of living that displays someone or something that they think should do or be out of obligation instead of identity. This overtime can lead to displacement in who they are as a person and eventual destruction in their life.
One of my favorite theologians of the wrote this about rebellion and conformity…
“We have the choice of two identities, the external mask that we present, the external mask that we think is real, and then the hidden inner person, who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth.”
– Thomas Merton
When we lack the validations, we needed and craved early on in life, it leads in us identity voids, and we seek to fill those voids through either rebellion or conformity. What we are doing is creating projections of ourselves that we think is what the world wants to see or will value, but it’s ultimately not our real self.
The Good News
The good news is that we are not destined to be stuck in this identity void forever; people can change. However, the degree to which an individual was lacking that needed validation is directly related to their path to restoration – how long it could take and potentially how painful it may become.
The good news is this: we can change and there is restoration for all of us. This is where faith can be very effective, influential and most helpful because in our relationship with God we have the ability for our nature to change. Thomas Merton wrote that:
“The secret of my full identity, my real identity, is hidden in Him, and He, God alone can make me who I am, or rather who I will be when at last I fully begin to be in Him. But unless I desire this identity and work to find it with Him and in Him, that work will never be done.”
This work of God has the ability to change our nature and inside the church we use two theological terms to describe that:
- Justification – an objective act or work of God; where God changes our status and deems us to be worthy and holy, even when we don’t think we are. Justification is objective and instantaneous.
- Sanctification – this is something we do WITH God through living into a nature that God has already deemed. And when we are in God, we have this ability for our nature to change.
How does this change happen?
Step 1: Honesty
The first step on the journey of a changed nature is honesty. Honesty is often painful, especially when we have to put our finger on those areas where we’ve either acted out in rebellion or we have adopted a level of conformity that displays a false projection of our true self.
“The first step toward finding God who is truth is to discover the truth about myself, and if I have been in error, then this first step to truth is the discovery of my error. We stumble and fall constantly, even when we are the most enlightened. And when we are in spiritual darkness, and this is key, even when we are in spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen. We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not ultimately at peace with God.”
Honesty has the wonderful ability to shine light on things that are dark, on things that are hidden, and on the difference between who we portray we are versus who we really are. When we talk of nature change, we are talking about the idea of restoration…and the first step towards restoration has to begin with honesty.
The Prodigal Son
One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15. To give you a thumbnail sketch of the story, it’s about a father that has two sons, and the younger son approaches his father asking for his inheritance and runs off to a “foreign land.”
He begins to live his life, acting out the projection of what he believes he wants to be seen by as by the world – the rebel. Over the course of time, he comes to a point where that facade no longer brings him fulfillment and returns back to his father…not as a son, but with the intent of being a slave or servant. The moment he steps foot at home, the father immediately receives him in and restores him into full sonship. But the story doesn’t stop there.
There’s another part of the story that is of equal importance to note – the older son. This son has been living the life of conformity, staying committed to his family business and farm. When he receives word of a celebration (unaware that it’s for his brother’s return), he asked “What’s going on?”
Once told of his brother’s return and restoration, the older son is immediately irate. Because of this, the older son doesn’t go to the party, which in that time would have been offensive to the father and entire community. Yet, the father leaves the party to find his older son only to be raked over the coals by this son as he and talks about all the things he has done for the family, and specifically defines himself by saying, “I’ve always worked for you, I’ve never done anything wrong, I’ve always done what everybody has asked of me.” And yet on the inside, what he’s presented to the world is nowhere near his real sense of self.
What we find in the story is that the younger son, in his level of honesty, is able to put his finger on his action and say, “This is who I am, this is what I’ve done,” no longer hiding from the truth. What’s unfortunate is that we don’t know what happens to the older son, but what we see that at the end of the story, this older son has not yet reached this level of honesty.
Restoration Through Honesty
No level of restoration can be achieved without first reaching a level of honesty with yourself.
There is no level of restoration or wholeness without first a level of honesty. CS Lewis said that:
“God whispers to us in our pleasures and He speaks to us in our conscience, but He shouts to us in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
When we are willing to be honest, brutally honest with who we are, we are able to see that projection we’ve presented to the world is vastly different than who we really are on the inside. Honesty has the ability to bring everything to surface…and that is where our path and journey towards restoration begins.
Step 2: Repentance
The next step in the journey towards restoration is the idea of renouncing old ways, otherwise known as repentance. While many refer to actions when they think of repentance, it’s actually more of a disposition of the heart.
We must, in a sense, die to the image we’ve presented to the world, either through rebellion or conformity, in order to open ourselves up for restoration. It’s a journey that begins with honesty that then leads to renouncing or turning from what we used to be and becoming the person we really are. And this must be a disposition of the heart, because authentic living is learning to live from the inside out, not the outside in.
Step 3: Develop a New Pattern
The third and final step in the journey of restoration is to develop a new pattern, one that will replace old patterns that no longer match who we really are. This is where things like discipline or accountability can become effective. One of my hopes for The Redeemed is that this would be a safe place for people as they seek restoration and work to embrace new patterns in their life. There is hope for us all. There is a journey that we can all travel that will lead us to restoration – for our souls and our identity.
- How does validation from women figure into a man’s journey? How is the validation from a father, grandfather, coach different from a mother, grandmother, teacher?
- “I’m glad you spent some time talking about the good son in the Prodigal Son story, because he got the short trip whenever we talked about that story in Bible School. I feel like he’s someone a lot of men in their middle age can relate to, someone who worked hard and followed all the rules, but doesn’t feel like it got him anywhere.”
We live by what we think we should do and the product that we create and try to balance with who we are. There are things we can learn from the older son in bridging the gap between what we project to the world and who we really are. Over time the older son becomes very bitter (latter part of Luke 15). If you read the language, you can hear the bitterness and anger.
When we have that sense of anger or resentment…those are wonderful indicators of our own life. Anger, bitterness and resentment are all key indicators for us to ask ourselves WHY – why do feel this way? It’s not the best question to ask another person because it puts the person in defense. Asking that question exposes there is a disconnect between who we are portraying to the world and who we actually are. There is a wealth of knowledge in that passage about the older son and I believe is more applicable to men today than the younger son.
- You focused a lot on anger and resentment and when I think about men in their middle ages, many come to a place where they start to realize they are truly unhappy. As a result, they end up blowing things up and hurting a lot of people in the process. Can you talk a little bit about how people can reconcile with what they’ve done without creating a level of damage that impacts other people?
When we talk about reconciliation and mean it in terms of a relationship (with another person), reconciliation requires both parties to work together. Multiple parties must work together towards a common goal. We need to know that there are limits in that form of reconciliation.
The other level of reconciliation is completely in control in the individual. This is a first-person action, and it starts with honesty. When there is pain, there is a tendency inside of us to justify, deny or to blame shift. Reconciling choices that have been made to our own sense of self can be extremely valuable. Light shining on what has happened, as painful as it is, is the first step to help.
At the same time, there can then be forgiveness. We can reconcile with ourselves. But we cannot first reach forgiveness without being honest. It’s typically easier to forgive others more than it is to forgive ourselves. There is something wonderful about the work of God – the ability of what God can do with our past experience. It’s not that they ever go away. Forgive and forget is illogical. What we are after is a level of forgiveness for ourselves that we are very aware of what has happened, but instead allow the work of God through the Spirit to take that event and remove the venom from it.
When we are able to see what we project to the world and who we are and that mask is lifted, that is when this level of forgiveness can happen, and reconciliation is possible from the inside out. It starts with honesty and inviting God into the pain and the process, and God through the Spirit helps us to forgive ourselves, and from that we can begin a new pattern and amends.
If you are finding yourself in this situation. Embrace a level of service – when people serve, people are able to reframe who they are in the lenses now of the new pattern they are creating. Forgiveness takes time and is a process, but it’s a process we can live into and reinforce through creating new patterns in our life.
- How would you respond to someone who says if I haven’t gotten validation from my parents, teachers, coaches, etc. there’s no way I’m going to receive it from God?