Lies that hinder a man’s emotional freedom
Many men live emotionally isolated lives because we have been taught from young to project a strong, invincible image. Boys quickly learn that it is not socially acceptable to cry or express “weaknesses” such as loneliness, helplessness, or sadness. As a result, millions of adult men struggle to process totally natural vulnerable feelings. God gives us a full range of emotions in order to connect more fully with us, not to stifle us. He reminds us to seek Him with all our hearts.
(See Chinese versions: 简体中文 > 妨碍男性情感自由的谎言 | 繁體中文 > 妨礙男性情感自由的謊言)
Jeremiah 29:13 ESV You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
When we submit all our emotions to God’s spiritual guidance, healing, and restoration, we will become true masters of our flesh, including our subconscious reactions to raw, painful, and vulnerable feelings.
Romans 8:12 ESV So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
God expresses His vulnerable emotions
As perfect as He is, God is unafraid to express His raw, painful, and vulnerable feelings. He is not emotionally detached. God is true to His emotions and is unafraid to let us know how He feels.
- God felt abandoned | Matthew 27:46 ESV And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
- God felt indignant | Mark 10:14-29 ESV But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.
- God felt distressed | Mark 3:4-5 ESV Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts…
- God felt regret | Genesis 6:5-6 ESV The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
- God feels jealous | Exodus 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
- God feels grieved | Ephesians 4:30 ESV And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
- God feels great sorrow | John 11:35 ESV Jesus wept.
God connects with us most powerfully through our emotions, heart to heart. It is our hearts that give us the conviction to do God’s will. This is why God preferred David to be king over Saul, because He found David to be a man after God’s heart.
Acts 13:22 ESV … he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
There is no need to be politically correct with God
David’s connection with God was wonderfully intimate and intense because He did not hold back all his raw, painful, and vulnerable feelings from his Creator.
Just look at how David expressed himself to God in some of the challenging times of his life. David certainly did not hold back. Neither was he politically correct.
Psalm 10:1,12-15 ESV Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.
Psalm 6:2-3,6-7 ESV Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.
Psalm 22:6-8 ESV But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
David often presented vulnerable feelings of abandonment, anger, fear, despair, grief, and self-doubt directly to God. He complained to God. He wept bitterly before his Heavenly Father. He rejoiced and danced before Him too.
And God blessed, prospered and expanded David’s kingdom, giving him victory after victory. King David was an extraordinary warrior who took down entire cities and struck down tens of thousands in war. In one famous battle, David struck down 18,000 men in the Salt Valley (2 Samuel 8:13). His strength came from presenting his heart with all its emotions to God.
1 Samuel 18:7 ESV And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”
Psalm 73:26 ESV My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
God desires us to be completely authentic with Him and confess how we truly feel too. He sees all our emotions more clearly than we do anyway.
Also, see Our broken images of God and Emotional suppression is ungodly and harmful
This world keeps men from expressing ourselves fully
The world, however, teaches us something very different.
Society teaches us that heroes only exhibit a few emotions socially; happy, proud, disgusted or angry. Men are openly despised for admitting to feeling abandoned, afraid, grieved, helpless, lonely, powerless or regretful, even though all these are natural emotions for every single human being. This inhibition extends even to positive emotions. We are taught not to be too exuberant about people. We need to control our excitement, adoration, empathy, or delight. Otherwise, we might be labeled weak, soft or weird.
How did our temporary emotions come to define who we are as men?
Such teachings pervert God’s (emotional) image in men. It is God who created our ability to feel these emotions in the first place. To reject or suppress our own emotions is to reject a large part of who God made us to be (and feel). If God expresses His raw, painful, and vulnerable feelings, so can we.
Hebrews 13:9 ESV Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.
Typical male defence mechanisms
Many of us guard our hearts like fortresses, letting little in and little out. Here are some typical emotional defence mechanisms that men turn to.
- Passivity: “I prefer to avoid emotional issues and hope they resolve themselves.”
- Self-reliance: “Let me figure this out – in my head.”
- Stress relief: “I’ll find a way to displace this (emotional) stress.”
- Denial: “I will ignore it and pretend it’s not there.”
- Victimisation: “This is not my fault. I had no choice.”
- Blame: “If I can’t find a logical reason for myself, it must be someone else’s fault.”
- Anger: “I’m feeling something that makes me feel helpless.”
Some of these patterns were already evident in the world’s first male prototype, Adam, who turned against God’s commandments. (Genesis 3:1-12)
God gave clear instructions to Adam to look after the Garden of Eden and forbade him from eating from a particular tree. Yet Adam quietly observed Satan deceive Eve into eating the forbidden fruit (passivity). He then found a way to cover their nakedness with fig leaves (self-reliance). In his fear and stress, Adam hid from God (stress relief). He did not own up to God for eating the fruit but talked about his nakedness instead (denial). Then he accused God of giving him Eve (victimisation) and put the blame on Eve (blame). Sadly, these ungodly patterns continue today in many men today.
Genesis 2:15-18 ESV The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Many of our defence mechanisms are subconscious. We may not even be aware of them.
Like the apostle Paul, we become frustrated and guilt-ridden that we keep doing what is evil in God’s eyes, in spite of desiring to do what is good, acceptable and perfect – all because we haven’t confessed our vulnerable emotions to God and been restored by Him. We continue to be enslaved to the hidden subconscious emotions that linger inside us and drive us to sin.
Romans 12:2 ESV Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 7:19 ESV For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Patterns of this world
The sinful defence mechanisms that we develop as men begin early in childhood, based on worldly wisdom that is opposed to God’s will for us.
1. “Don’t cry.”
The ungodly message: Bottle up your toxic emotions inside and let them fester, instead of allowing Jesus to heal you.
Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 ESV For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
2. “Don’t show your true emotions.”
The ungodly message: Wear a mask, lie and deceive others, instead of confessing your emotions before God and God’s people.
Leviticus 19:11 ESV … “‘Do not lie. “‘Do not deceive one another.
3. “It’s not manly to talk about how you feel.”
The ungodly message: Deny a part of yourself, reject the gift of emotions that God has given you.
Psalm 57:2 ESV I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
4. “Be a (masculine) man or else!”
The ungodly message: Develop your macho appearance, even though this is not what God looks for. God looks at a man’s heart.
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
5. “Never show your vulnerable side in front of people.”
The ungodly message: Do not be vulnerable. Do not show empathy.
Romans 12:15 ESV Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
After soaking in such messages over and over again, many men disconnect from their hearts. We come across as cool, aloof, impenetrable, distant, and proud. Privately, we long for deep connection but don’t feel capable of doing so.
God wants to restore His sons to fullness
The deepest bonds we form with God is through our hearts, not our logic, achievements, or appearances.
God invites us to give Him all the vulnerable areas of our hearts so that He can restore and strengthen us. Nothing is taboo and nothing is beyond restoration. Our God, who created 100 billions of billions of planets in this universe, is certainly big enough for all our problems and pains, which become minuscule by comparison.
When we confess to feeling helpless, He will rescue us. When we confess to feeling weak, He will lift us up. When we confess to feeling despair, He will comfort us. When we confess to feeling angry, He will listen to us and restore us. Here are some promises from God.
- Anxious hearts | 1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
- Broken hearts | Psalm 34:18 ESV The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
- Burdened hearts | Psalm 94:19 ESV When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.
- Complaining hearts | Psalm 55:1-2 ESV Give ear to my prayer, O God… Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan,
- Fearful hearts | Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
- Troubled hearts | Psalm 34:17 ESV When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
Uncovering our hidden emotions and confessing them to God
When we have hidden our emotions for years, it can be helpful to go through a list such as the one below, to uncover what is really going on inside us. The Holy Spirit will test our hearts and bring God’s revelation if we pray and invite Him to.
|1. Have I ever told or made a promise to myself on what to do whenever I feel anxious/ uncomfortable/vulnerable/hurt?||Please confess and break any ungodly inner vows in Jesus’ name.|
|2. When do I feel stuck, threatened or stressed the most? Are there any common triggers?||Please invite the Holy Spirit to reveal the emotional triggers within our hearts and surrender our fears and anxieties to God.|
|3. What are my deepest regrets? Are there things I feel I didn’t deserve or don’t feel worthy of?||Please tell God how we feel and ask for His peace and resolution.|
|4. What are my raw and truest feelings towards each of my family members?||Please repent of any inner judgments we have made towards them and release our families into God’s will, not our own.|
|5. What emotions do my most significant life events continue to evoke in me? What pain, grief or shame do I continue to carry?||Confess them to God and invite Him to heal us.|
It is amazing that our wonderful Father makes Himself emotionally available for us every second, 24/7, 365 days a year, for all eternity. There is no need to wait for an “appropriate time”. Now is as good as any time.
Let us, therefore, stop hiding behind our macho masks and go to God to confess all our raw, painful and vulnerable emotions to Him. Our Heavenly Father longs to run to greet us, embrace us and kiss us to say, “Welcome home, son. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
Proverbs 23:26 ESV My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.
Luke 15:20,22-24 ESV And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him… the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And… let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’
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