Bart Hansen is a founding board member of the men’s ministry Wild at Heart. In teaching men how to reclaim masculinity from emasculation, false machismo, and “poserism,” Hansen says one of the best things they can do is examine the life of Jesus Himself—a man who was fierce and unapologetic in his opposition to selfishness and hypocrisy, but who was motivated by compassion and a sincere love for His fellow man. “G.K. Chesterton said that the fierceness of a warrior is determined not by the enemy in front of him that he hates, but by what he loves that he is fighting for,” Hansen explains. “And that really does describe the heart of Jesus. The greatest motive we can live for is love, and that’s what Jesus did.”
The Poser: The Broken Side of Masculinity
Welcome and Speaker Introduction
Good afternoon and welcome. From a lovely but rainy day here in Columbus, Georgia. My name is Paul Amos, and I’m the founder of The Redeemed. The Redeemed is an organization that was built so that men could come together in an open community, in an open environment, where they could come and share about life’s greatest challenges and feel that they are free of judgment.
Today we have a truly special guest, Bart Hanson. Bart is one of the founding members of the Wild at Heart ministry. And he’s been traveling all over the world, helping men understand what masculinity truly means and what we can do to help bring about the love, patience, and the message of Jesus Christ.
The Redeemed is an incredible ministry, a safe place to recapture masculinity. The promise of the gospel is life. We think of that and know that it’s true, especially when we look in Isaiah 61. When Jesus announced his ministry, he said, I’ve come to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty and freedom, and to set the captives free.
But on just about any given Tuesday, I find myself so disoriented, I don’t know which end is up, and sometimes it just seems that God is so distant from me. With the promise of the gospel and with our everyday experience, we have to ask ourselves, ‘What is in the way?’
Do you have what it takes?
I’ve been involved with Wild at Heart ministries for 20 years. John Eldridge wrote the book Wild at Heart about 20 years ago, and it’s been the best-selling men’s book for 20 years. In that book, one of the premises is that there’s a question every day, and every man is trying to answer that question. When we get up in the morning, as we live through our day, as we go to sleep at night, we’re trying to answer the question of, ‘Do I have what it takes?’
That question really does echo back to the brokenness of the garden when Adam just wimps out. We think of Eve’s deception as being the sin that mankind fell upon, but it wasn’t the original sin. The original sin was Adam’s passivity.
How do you handle it?
How do we handle that question? How we do handle that question really surfaces so much in our masculinity, much about who we are, and it has to do with each of our own stories. Where we were raised, who your parents are, what our story is. That question comes at everyone, and every man is trying to answer. The real answer to that question comes out of what God has given us: courage, love, and sacrifice. But in a fallen world, we fall short.
We ask ourselves over and over ‘Do I have what it takes?’
- Do I have what it takes to have what it takes when it’s required that I have the courage to stand for a conviction that I need to face an adversary?
- Do I have what it takes when it requires that I take a risk? (in business or in relationships)
And so much of the time, the answer is really, no, I don’t, I don’t have what it takes.
We tend to go one of three directions when trying to answer that question.
Addition: Whether it be alcohol, pornography, drugs, business, any number of the sports, cars, golf, whatever. Now, I’m not saying any of these are bad, but they can become our addiction.
- Fake it: We present ourselves as being all together, this strength that we present ourselves to have, but underneath there’s fear, rage, all kinds of things, because we’re taking it and we’re scared to death of the fear of exposure.
Fear of Exposure
In Genesis 3:10, it says, when God was seeking Adam after the fall, Adam said, I heard you in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked. There is the fear of exposure. As we try to answer the question and as we try to present ourselves as having it all together, there’s this fear underneath that we’re going to be exposed.
I recall early in my career, I moved to Southern California and found Christ at about 29 years old. I was a very driven young man. I kind of sanctified my brokenness, my busyness and called it “my calling. My work, my ministry, I volunteered for so many things in ministry, and filled my time with activity. Looking back, it was a front that I was trying to make everybody think I had it all together, when really underneath there was a very broken man.
The False Self
While it can look good, and can look very successful, it is the false self. We really have to bring the full work of Christ into this. When we’re saved through the work of the cross, through the crucifixion, we tend to stop there. Post-modern Christianity just says, ‘get saved and go save your neighbor’. It’s in the power of the resurrection that God can promise to change these things, as Jesus said in Isaiah 61:1.
So many stories opposing my busyness was something that I hid behind, a major fig leaf in my life, and it surfaced throughout my 20 years of ministry. I had an intervention by my brothers, that I was just hiding behind this busyness. They came in and basically said, quit working and had me go spend 45 days all by myself. It was probably one of the most disruptive things in my life that I was stripped from these fig leaves that were in front of me.
I recall about two years ago, I was seeing my doctor for a physical, and he comes in and he does everything, does a blood test, he says, I’ll call you in a couple of days with the results. Well, after a couple of days, he called, and says, “Everything looks pretty good, but you’ve got a high sugar content in your blood.” He told me it’s almost pre-diabetic.
He asks, ‘What are you eating these days?’ I told him my diet, and he said, ‘That won’t do it.’ He says, ‘What are you drinking?’ And I said, I have occasional glass of wine maybe once or maybe twice a week, and he says, ‘That won’t do it.’ So he advises that come back in 30 days and reassess.
I hung the phone up and in five minutes, I picked the phone up again and I called him and I say, ‘Let’s go back to that question about my drinking. Probably nearer to the truth is, that my wife and I go out probably five or six nights a week, and we order a bottle of red wine. She has a short glass and I finished the bottle. He says, ‘that’ll do it.’
I really looked at my motive for calling him back. I asked myself if the diabetes and the pre-diabetes thing was not an issue, what I have called him back?
I think the answer is probably no. I would have left that impression, that Poser, that I’ve got it all together. But it took that thread of my health being the real motive that had me call him back. That’s where that Poser comes in.
I think about this all the time. I think I’ve gotten a lot better with it, but I can pose. I can pose any time at the drop of a hat, because that’s built into a man’s brokenness.
Discovering the False Self
To really discover this whole issue of posing, the false self, if we’re going to recover our true masculinity and our integrity as men, we have to see this false-ness, this brokenness in our masculinity. We have to see it first, we have to own it, and then we have to confess it.
Honesty is the best friend we can have as we live together as men and look at each other’s lives.
At Wild at Heart we have four questions that we ask of the poser:
- How do you see yourself posing?
- How would others describe you as a man?
- What would you hope that others would say about you?
- What is it that you are afraid that they might say about you?
Discussion Between Bart Hansen and Paul Amos:
Finding the Strength
Paul Amos: Those are four terrifying questions. I find myself here as someone who’s been exposed to this message, who understands the poser. Who has lived my life as a poser and covered myself with the fig leaf. To ask those questions, and specifically ‘What am I afraid that someone would say about me?’ keeps me in fear.
It evokes a lot of shame when you think about the fact that you’ve done things throughout your entire life. You’re trying to put on this facade, you’re trying to cover up the faults you see in yourself.
How do you talk to someone who is riddled with shame, to come out from underneath this poser, this facade that they built? How do you give them the strength to break free?
Bart Hansen: Shame is one of the biggest enemies that we have as men. All people are paralyzed by shame. What we have to do as part of the promise, that as we give our lives over to Christ and the power of the gospel is owning those things that shame us. We have to expose them, to be honest, come out of hiding. We need to come into the light of the Gospel.
Jesus is Different
Paul Amos: It is tough sometimes. You think about all of the pain that comes from all of the years that we’ve spent trying to hide who we really are. As you think about posing, as you think about someone who is trying to let down their guard, what is it that we see in this message that’s so unique from Wild at Heart about how Jesus is different than the person that we originally think of him as in pop culture today?
Bart Hansen: Jesus, I think we’ve kind of gotten him wrong. We have this picture of Jesus as being this guy that wears a white robe with the lamb around his neck and has all the children around him. He’s certainly compassionate, and he loves children, but Jesus is the consummate man. He’s what we’re after. His model of masculinity is what we were made in the image of.
Jesus was a great disruptor. He loved people, but he would go after hypocrisy, especially with the Pharisees. Week after week, he would come back to the temple and pick fights with the Pharisees because he wanted to expose their hypocrisy.
Jesus has this courageous heart of a warrior. Exodus 15:3 says, ‘The Lord is a warrior, The Lord is His name.’ We are made in that image. He’s given us a warrior’s heart, because Jesus had a warrior’s heart.
We think of Jesus is this nice guy, and that’s kind of what we project ourselves as what the Christian man should be. But Jesus is fierce, and compassionate, and he’s all of the things that God’s character manifests into human flesh. That’s the kind of man that we’re trying to get to.
Paul Amos: You’ve got this warriors heart on the inside, and yet every day we’re standing up and we’re asking that question, ‘Do I have what it takes?’. What does it take for a man to, on a daily basis, from a routine perspective, from a prayer perspective, from a faith perspective, to really answer that question and reveal that warrior’s heart?
Bart Hansen: We are chasing validation when we are trying to answer that question of, ‘Do I have what it takes?’. We seek that validation in all kinds of places. We seek it from our work, our performance, from women. But true validation and the true answer to that question only comes from The Father and our connection with The Father.
One of the most intimate relationships in the universe is that relationship between the father and the son, and the father and daughter. The Father has a role in a place to validate us and to answer that question, ‘Do I have what it takes?’. And if he doesn’t answer that, we’re going to go chasing it all over the place, and in all kinds of places. But when he does answer it we live with courage, we live with sacrifice, and we live with love. And love is the most important component of all those things that Jesus did. He was fierce, but he was motivated by love.
GK Chersterton once said, “The fierceness of a warrior is not determined by the enemy in front of him that he hates, but rather by what he’s compelled to protect, the love behind him.” A Warriors heart is more motivated by love that it is by hating an enemy.
The Fiercest Warriors
Paul Amos: When I watch Braveheart, there’s definitely that thought going through my mind of, ‘Do I have what it takes, would I be willing to exhibit the type of courage that it takes?’. I like what you just quoted because in reality, I think of it as having the anger, to want to defeat the enemy, when in fact, it’s really about the love that you’ve got to protect what it is that you’re fighting for.
Bart Hansen: That’s what makes the fiercest warriors. We have 25 years of our forces that have been overseas, fighting in all kinds of wars. You get stories back of all these special forces, and we’ve seen a lot of them come to Wild at Heart, but what compels them to do what they do, is actually the love that they have for one another. That they don’t want to let each other down. That’s what makes them such a fierce group of warriors. They exhibit that heart of a warrior, and it’s really because of the love, the camaraderie that they have together.
It’s hard to assimilate back in because they have this high level of love for one another in a very, very explosive environment.
Paul Amos: We talked earlier about validation and searching for validation in some of the wrong places. One of the most common places is trying to look to our earthly father for validation.
I know for me, I was constantly chasing the approval of my father trying to win his love and his affection, knowing that he is a man a broken man, he could not fulfill that need and that longing that I had for God and for Jesus.
How do you help men think through the wound that exists in them, so that they can truly become validated from The Father?
Bart Hansen: We’ve all been wounded by our earthly father. It’s not to blame fathers because they were wounded by their father, it’s a generational sin that’s passed down.
With myself, my dad died when he was 49 years old, I was 19 years old. He was in the Marine Corps and fought in the South Pacific in some of the bloodiest battles over there. He lost so many of his men and he never did recover from that. Back then, they didn’t know what PTSD was.
I had that question, could I have done what he did? And I was afraid the answer was no. So I sought his validation and his affirmation of me as a son. But he never spoke those words to me, but the one thing that he did compliment me on was hard work. So, I thought, That’s it. That’s how I make my way. That’s how I please my father, is hard work.
I’ve had job ever since I was 11 years old, and I did it to please my father. I look back and I burned up a lot of life chasing that validation. There’s a lot of brokenness in not getting our validation. Understanding that question and that process of being validated by our earthly fathers, if our earthly father has not done that, then I think we have to go to our Father God, because that’s what he promised. The promise of the Gospel is that He will validate.
Paul Amos: It reminds me of the woman at the well and the unquenchable thirst and the living water, because I think back to the validation that I received in many ways, it should have been enough. But it was an unquenchable thirst on my part, a need for validation times 10, times 100, times 1000. I feel that that ended up creating so much insecurity in me and an inability to see the path forward.
Bart Hansen: I think it speaks about performance, that if we’re not talking about unconditional love between a father and his son, then there’s conditions on that, that it usually involves performance.
It’s like when you play sports well, and we get all this affirmation from your dad, but when we don’t play well, he’s pretty silent. That really does reinforce that it’s the performance and there’s a condition upon that affirmation. Then we become very addicted to performance, and it’s just never enough
I chased that for many, many years, and I find myself sometimes being pulled back into that struggle of performance.
Paul Amos: Performance equals love. And it wasn’t just given to me, it was something that I found on my own because the more successful I was in specific aspects of life, sports or others, the more I felt love come from the people around me, and so, sadly it’s a bottomless pit.
Q & A
You’ve characterized Adam is whipping out in the face of temptation in the Garden of Eden. What are some of the ways in which modern men wimp out and force their wives are partners to shoulder more than their share of the emotional burden?
I remember not long ago; my wife was really having a hard time. I wake up and she’s over there in bed and I can tell she’s not having a good time. I think she’s even kind of weeping in the middle of the night. I asked myself, Do I enter into this? Or do I just turn over and go back to sleep?
I’ve had that encounter more than once in my life. I have to admit that I’ve turned over and gone back to sleep. That’s the wimp, instead of engaging Asking, What is it? Can we get up and pray? And I have so many of those kinds of stories to where my wife’s not doing well or whatever it is, and I don’t have the courage to enter in, I just kind of stay back and hold back… That’s wimping out. You have any of those stories, Paul?
Paul Amos: Oh my goodness, do ever. There is no doubt that I have had my fair share of whipping out. Whether it’s wanting in the middle of an argument for my wife to take the lead, whether it’s wanting for my children to stand up for themselves rather than me standing up for them in a secular situation among their peers.
Those are definitely moments of shame, you know, the thing is, at the time you feel like you’re escaping, you’re getting out of it, you’re moving away from it. But in reality, it comes back to haunt you even worse. It’s those moments where I had the courage to do that right thing, even though it may not have been easy at the time, that when I made those choices, honestly, I felt so much better.
Bart Hansen: There’s just no comparison when you do engage, because we were made to come through. That’s what God made us to do. To step in, to be present, to engage. That’s the warrior’s heart that he gave us. But the wimp is the guy that just kind of fades back into the shadows and says, No, I’m just not going to engage.
Paul Amos: I think about the courage it takes at times to not be the wimp, and I find myself even when I overcome the fear in one moment, it still takes a lot doing the next moment, make sure you’re maintaining that courage again.
You said that macho is not masculinity. How do you get through to men who have this destructive view of masculinity and get them to see Jesus as a role model?
I love the movie City Slickers. The classroom scene, when Mr. Morally, this macho construction guy, is telling the kids what he does. He’s just using expletives and posing left and right. Then there’s Mitch, the passive guy that is wimping out. Mitch talks about his job and he’s going to quit, and how his authority has been stripped from him. It’s two really broken sides of masculinity that we see there.
But the real deal is Jesus, who is motivated by love, not afraid, courageous, and willing to sacrifice himself. He is willing to engage, but he’s motivated by love. He’s not motivated by self-interest. The macho guy is motivated by self-interest, the ultimate poser. He is all about his cars, his trophy wife, whatever that may be…you can always see that there’s something under the surface.
Think of the floating iceberg, 10% of an iceberg is floating about the surface in the ocean that you can see, and 90% is below, unseen. What you see in a man is that poster. But what you don’t see if what’s underneath… all the motives, all of the things, all of the brokenness.
Jesus is really motivated by that love and compassion, those are the things that are really at the heart of a warrior that making them the fiercest.
Follow up Question by Paul Amos: [Timestamp: 42:50]
When God put it on my heart to start this ministry, the whole premise of it, in some senses was the iceberg, the fig leaf, the ability to take away that top 10%. The ability to take away the fig leaf that hid the nakedness that Adam felt when God came searching for him in the garden.
One of the things that I hope that this ministry can do is to get men to tell their story, to get men to come out and begin to say, ‘I may not have done this right, BUT ultimately, I have a story because I think there’s a taste of freedom on the other side. That freedom is something that we all aspire for, but it’s hard to feel it without actually experiencing it.
How do you help convince me that beyond the façade, beyond what we as men have been so dependent on, this persona, this fig leaf that has been with us the better part of our lives, how does giving that up get them to a place of freedom? Where do we find that reward?
When you get a couple men together that really do trust one another and feel safe with one another, the best thing you can do is to tell your story. In your story lies all the mysteries of your life. To be able to tell your story without shame in a safe place, you can begin to unpack all of these opposing areas, all of these areas of brokenness that we as men carry. I think the mystery is always in the story, all of the brokenness, but also all of the glory of their lives.
It’s not all just about brokenness, but it’s about desire, what God put into us, and our glory. When a man tells his story, it’s not just to take apart the brokenness, but it’s also to point a man towards his glory. Those two transactions are occurring simultaneously when a man really takes the time to tell his story.
One of the most powerful things we’ve ever seen, is a man taking the time to really tell his story. It can be one of the most life-changing things he’s ever done in his life, because he begins to see and hear things about himself through the eyes of other people.
Follow-Up Question by Paul Amos: [Timestamp: 46:06]
A big part of sharing your story is having a group of people to share it with. Spending the last 20 years in men’s ministry and helping bring groups of men together, it seems to me that one of the most critical parts of surviving this world, living this life and becoming the three person of Christ that we aspire to be is to do it with other men.
What tips do you have for our listeners about how to find that group of men? I’ve struggled in my life to find a group of men who really want to go deep, who want to talk about more than sports and the weather. And myself at times have been just as guilty as any of them, I’m not here to point fingers. How do you get to a group of men or a brotherhood that helps bond us and helps further our journey.
That is a question we often get when we’ll have 400 to 500 men at a conference and they’re from all of the world, and many of them come alone. They asked that very question.
We’ve heard so many stories of guys connecting at these conferences because they’ve got a like-mindedness of chasing their masculinity and going after what’s true of them as men. Some of those men will form a relationship and they’ll carry that on over long distance. But I think it really should be a focus of our prayer.
We at Wild at Heart, we say this isn’t just the next book to live by, it is the way for a man to live. The men that have followed us have pretty much said ‘This is the way I want to live’, ‘This is the Jesus that I want to emulate’.
Two guys is better than one, and then you can kind of build from there. We’ve seen these ministries grow around the world that are founded in this message, but they started with that same question. They found one man and they started to recapture their masculinity and other men were saying, that’s what I want, I want that!
So I think it’s praying for it, it’s living it and get the attraction, because when you live that, it’s the real Jesus, that’s the way He lived.