Change Comes through Building Strength
By Alan P. Medinger
It took me years to figure this one out. I was most driven to connect with a man sexually when I felt weakest. Most of us have heard the Alcoholics Anonymous acronym, HALT. People are most likely to succumb to their addiction, when they are Hungry, Angry, Lonely and/or Tired. For men and women dealing with homosexuality, I would add a "W” for weakness. More than that, I would place the W ahead of the other four.
We have two responses when we feel weak: We want to connect with strength, or we want to do something that will make us feel strong within ourselves. With homosexual men, the more common desire is to connect with strength; and manhood usually connotes strength. With women dealing with lesbianism, often they seem driven to act in ways that will make them feel strong. Each offers immediate relief from feelings of weakness, but, of course, neither provides any lasting benefit. And in fact, especially with men, the sexual contact only increases feelings of weakness.
The words "manhood” and "strength” are inseparably linked, not just in our culture, but possibly in our very nature. A little boy tries to demonstrate his manhood by making a muscle or by performing feats of strength. A powerfully built body is the almost irresistible attraction for many homosexual men who have so little sense of their own manhood. Whatever exudes strength – muscles, an air of authority, even cruelty or domination – is a likely attraction to homosexual men. Physical contact with such men seems to provide a dose of strength to overcome that painful feeling of weakness.
I had a ministry friend who every year had to undertake a project at work for which he felt totally inadequate. Every year he completed the project, but always felt he had done an inadequate job. Every year as soon as he had turned the project in, he went out and found himself a male prostitute. And this was a man who rarely acted out. In my pre-Christian life, feelings that I was in over my head at work of that I was inadequate as a husband and a father were likely triggers to my acting out sexually. I craved manly strength. I believed I could never have it myself; so I sought the strength of another man. Conversely, in the later years of my active homosexuality and after my weekly trip to the YMCA with some old college friends to play racquetball and lifts weights, I often came home with a feeling of manly strength; and those were the times I was most able to fulfill my manly role with my wife.
We have two responses when we feel weak: We want to connect with strength, or we want to do something that will make us feel strong within ourselves.
At the root of much lesbianism there dwells a great fear of being hurt or abused. Feelings of vulnerability are the equivalent of feelings of weakness. Many lesbian women seek to play roles of strength and authority to cover this deep sense of weakness. Although they may hate to hear it put this way, many lesbian women link masculinity and strength; so they assume a masculine role as a defense against their own deep sense of weakness. Popular figures who appeal to lesbian women are almost always strong, takecharge-type women.
What can help? What can a person do about nagging, painful feelings of weakness, especially after he or she recognizes that some of his or her destructive behavior is triggered by these feelings? In this day of therapies and self-help programs aimed at improving our self-image, my answer may be a bit revolutionary; but here it is: I say that if you feel like you are weak, you probably are. The solution is to make yourself strong.
No, not quite. Right now some of you are probably protesting, "What do you mean, I’m weak? I’m not weak; the only things I need to change are my feelings about myself.” I am sure that there are many people who really do have an incorrect sense of their own being, who feel weak but are not. If you believe that you are one of those and are not really weak but just feel that your are, by all means seek out whatever spiritual and psychological help that might be available to help you change your self-image. However, you might just want to hold onto this article in case you don’t experience the change you had hoped for.
Let’s look at where we may actually be weak and what we might do to start making ourselves strong. Real weakness can show up in three areas:
Here, I’m going to deal primarily with #1 and #2. We won’t get into #3, as it has been covered in many, many articles here and elsewhere.
What I offer is certainly not all inclusive, and the brevity of what I have to say reflects space limitations in this newsletter, not the simplicity of the tasks that are proposed. Here are some things you can do to become (not just feel) stronger:
1. Build up your body. Whoa! Isn’t this simplistic? Aren’t homosexual men already obsessed with big muscular bodies? Aren’t female body builders reflecting some kind of distorted images themselves? Isn’t this an invitation to more narcissism, a trait already too common, especially with homosexual men? No, its not simplistic; but it is fundamental. There may be strengths that are more important than physical strength, like strength of character for instance, but it is terribly impractical to think we can deal with strength and ignore the physical. Our bodies were designed for work. Many of the fundamental tasks of life require strength. To fulfill our obligations to family, friends, neighbors and church, often requires us to do certain things. If we can’t do them, we will not only feel weak, we will be weak.
Having physical strength is not the same thing as having a beautiful physique. The former is part of our humanity; the later can feed narcissism. There are barrel shaped men who are strong, and there are lean wiry men who are strong, also. They may not be beautiful, but they can carry their load. God gave us wonderful bodies, and He wants us to be able to use them. Exercising, eating well and maintaining relatively good health is all that is necessary to gain the physical strength that we should have.
2. Repent of self-protection and being a people pleaser. Most of our relational weakness comes from fear of being rejected, of not having other people’s approval, or of looking foolish. Self-protecting persons and people pleasers acquiesce when they don’t really want to, are quiet when they should speak up, and prefer to stay in the background rather than step forward to initiate when they should. To the extent that these attitudes keep us from being the men and women God called us to be and keep us from doing the good things that He would have us do, they are a cause for repentance. They also reflect in most cases a lack of trust in God, who has promised He well be with us, even in our failures.
3. Be a risk taker. This is the "putting on” that accompanies "putting off” of self-protection and people pleasing. Challenging, confronting and leading are all risky ventures. They can lead to our being wrong, rejected, or simply looking foolish. But taking risks will be the "exercise” that will build us up relationally.
For a woman who has hidden behind a tough, dominant façade, the risks can be formidable. To come out from behind her hard exterior may be terrifying, but she will not be able to exercise true strength until she tries to do it without the false front.
4. Be a doer. If appropriate, repent of sloth. Inactive people are generally weak people. Strong people are active. Make the decision to be active.
5. Be a lover. As a new Christian, my strongest incentive to step out and be a leader in my family was my love for my wife and children. When I challenge my coworkers in ministry – which I still struggle to do adequately – it is usually because I love them more than I crave their approval. Our families, our friends, our church, our communities need us to be strong. If we love them, we will try to be strong. Now, where is Jesus in all this? What I have said thus far could be another secular self-improvement program. I have saved the best for last. Jesus is right here.
When my daughters and son were babies, I loved to carry them. When they were learning to walk, I loved to hold their hands; and, when they were learning to ride bicycles, I loved to run beside them holding onto the seat of their bikes. But I stopped doing each of these things, because the time had come for them to do these things by themselves.
When I was a new Christian, I could have been characterized as a 38-year-old weakling. I needed Jesus in a very special way, not too unlike the ways my children needed me. In my weakness He let me use my imagination to realize His presence for me in a very physical way. We would climb mountains together, and, when I fell, He would lift me up. At the end of the trail, He would let me rest my head on His strong shoulder. My relationship with Him was like that of a little boy with his father or big brother. It was what I needed at the time.
My little-boy dependency was a wonderfully comfortable state, but He would not let it go on indefinitely. He loved me too much for that. These days I continue to need Him every day of my life, but my needs now are not those of a weak little boy. They are the needs of a grown man.
When you start growing in strength, you may need Jesus to run beside you in an almost physical way. That’s okay. If it is what you truly need, He wants to do it. But eventually, like a good big brother or father, He won’t want you depending on Him the way a little boy or girl does. He will want you strong and able to do what you were created to do as an adult son or daughter.
As we become all that the Creator designed us to be, we will no longer seek our strength in other men or women or have to put up a false facade of strength. We will find that God had placed in us all the strength that we need to live victorious lives.
Now, go out and exercise!
Copyright 2000 Regeneration. All rights reserved. Posted on the web with permission.