Category: Anger

“Just One More Shooting Star”

“Just One More Shooting Star”

​The STEM school shooting in Highlands Ranch, CO is disturbing to all of us. We may differ in our convictions of what the main solutions to this scourge in our nation are, but I think we agree on at least three things:

​1. These kinds of repeated trauma ​leave an enormous heart and soul wound on our nation whether they have touched our families directly or not.

​2. We must find solutions. This must end.

​3. The solutions will ​​include reaching angry, isolated, broken men and helping them to be connected, healed and transformed.

​One of the men in a weekly teaching/discussion group I lead, called The Journey, wrote about his feelings on the shooting. One of his best friends has two kids who attend the school. Carl’s words are artistic, honest and emotional and include some implied profanity in quoting the shooter. If you prefer not to see that you can just skip it. But if you’d like to see a heart-level expression of an honestly searching man you can read it by clicking here: “Just One More Shooting Star.”

Another man in the same group agonized over the shootings 20 years ago at Columbine High School, also in the Denver suburbs. In the days after that horror he gave voice to the jarring perspective behind the distorted lies isolated young men believe when they choose to bring random violence into the lives of others. “So My Pain Can Be Heard.”

Most of us are unfamiliar with this kind of despair. Many men and women around us live with it every day. Some of them choose to end their own lives. Others choose to end as many other lives as possible along with their own. Those in the latter category are almost always males. (The STEM shootings brought an exception to this pattern in that one of the suspected shooters was a transgender woman who self-identified as a male. I wonder, did she see this kind of violent act as distorted proof of her “masculinity”?)

I believe most of us who view these horrific outbursts with some degree of honest objectivity can agree that the solutions must acknowledge a critical need to provide better care for those who struggle with emotional and mental health issues. The solutions must include the establishment and enforcement of limitations on the accessibility of weapons of mass violence for those who have no qualifications to own them.

And the solutions must direct specific, convincing, healing, and empowering messages to young men that they matter, and have a crucial place in the world. Without that, they will continue to unleash their pain on the rest of us and sadly choose to be just another shooting star.

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” Ps. 40:2, 3

Honesty and Hope

Perhaps you’ve seen the recent Gillette commercial about men being the best they can be. The phrase “the best a man can get” took me back to hazy “wonder years” when I wondered when I might need to shave anything at all.

As I watched the clip, it evoked similar beneath-the-surface feelings: recognition, conviction, inspiration and commitment. So I was surprised to hear and read that not everyone had the same positive impression of the clip as I did. In fact, I saw through one source that reactions against the commercial were 4:1 versus those that saw it as positive.

Honesty and Hope
American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part II

In my previous post, Random Male Violence, Part I I began to unravel the mystery of why the random violence we regularly encounter happens in the U.S. on a level unlike any other country. Our soul-searching requires that we recognize that we are developing wounded males. But all countries have wounded males.

There’s another inescapable reason random mass slaughter happens within American borders so much more than anywhere else— the ease with which anyone, regardless of capabilities, mental health or training can get their hands on assault rifles—weapons of mass destruction. The solution to this issue has proven exceptionally difficult to find, but I don’t think there is any question that this is a central part of the problem.

Why is it that the perpetrators are almost always males? Simply put, because the male “heart,” our core design, is different from the female “heart.” The historic essence of how we understand femininity is that it’s open, relational, inclusive, and fiercely protective of others. The essence of how we understand masculinity is that it’s aggressive, adventuresome, initiating, and fiercely competitive with others. The power of femininity draws others inward; the power of masculinity extends itself outward. If you notice the parallel with our respective anatomies, that’s not a coincidence.

When wounded women turn violent they so often turn their anger inward. They harm themselves: suicide, cutting, prostitution, eating disorders. Even when mothers attack or kill their own children, which we read of with awful regularity, I’d suggest that’s the ultimate attack that causes her the deepest pain possible.

When wounded men turn violent they so often unleash that anger toward others. Yes, of course, men are capable of suicide and self-cutting with frightening effectiveness, but no one can deny that the vast majority of assaults, beatings, murders, terror incidents and, yes, random mass killings, across the globe come from the hands of males. That same male quality—aggressive outward action—is also the reason why the majority of those who heroically run into the building, who face the gunfire, who stand in front of those who are risk, are also men.

It’s why a Kenyan pastor told me of an African proverb that strikes close to the heart of what we are seeing: “The boys in the village must be initiated into manhood or they will burn down the village just to feel the heat.” Almost every month we see “boys,” not-yet-men whatever their age, burning down American villages—schools, movie theaters, university campuses, or outdoor concert arenas— just to feel one blast of heat before they die or head to prison.

In the United States we have an awful culmination of cultural and gender issues at work creating a heart-rending example of American Exceptionalism. What can we do about it? The causes of this condition are numerous and they didn’t happen suddenly. The solutions are likewise multiple and won’t resolve the problem suddenly.

But we must take steps forward in every path that is part of the solution:

  • Our schools, places of faith and community organizations must understand that boys are not the same as girls. They must have healthy, non-shaming opportunities for play, competition, communal connection, bonding and success.
  • Just as Jewish, African and Native American cultures have practiced for centuries, elder men need to “call out” boys in the “village” and acquaint them with values and a vision for who they can be as healthy contributors to society. I’ve developed an approach from a Christian perspective in the Passage to Manhood Field Guide.
  • We need to pay particular attention to boys who are on the fringes of our schools, who are loners in the lunch room, who express their rage on social media, and provide them with insightful, effective mental, emotional and spiritual care.
  • We need to press against the expanding levels of brutality and violence marketed as entertainment in video games to our sons who are making life-altering decisions about how to connect with others, relate to those who are different from them, and how to resolve conflict.
  • Somehow we need to dramatically limit the accessibility of firearms for those who have no business getting them. In many ways the genie is way out of the bottle in the U.S. in limiting firearms—there are more guns in our country than there are citizens. But certainly we can do a much better job of limiting assault weapons, conducting background checks, sharing crucial information between branches of local and federal police agencies and tracking those with violent histories.
  • We must insist on requiring training and certification in all states for anyone who wants to buy or own a firearm to ensure they actually know how to use it safely.

There are more factors to address, but can we agree to begin with these?

Radio commentator Dennis Prager says, “One of the most important issues for any society is to answer the question: How do we build good men?” That’s not because men are more important than women. Of course we aren’t. It’s because the difference in impact between good men and violently wounded men is so huge. Our headlines prove this every day.

There may be no more crucial domestic issue for the United States to face right now than to effectively answer this question. Let’s make sure that the recent violence in Parkland marks the beginning of us finding the answers and finally putting an end to this brand of American Exceptionalism.

Craig Glass is the founder and president of Peregrine Ministries and is the author of The Passage to Manhood Field Guide and the recently published Noble Journey: The Quest for a Lasting Legacy. Both are available on Amazon.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I

Once again we wrestle with piercing feelings of grief, bewilderment and anger. Yet again a young American male has unleashed his wrath against a vulnerable group of students. Our hearts ache, our heads shake and our minds reel. How can this keep happening? What can we do to make sure this never happens again?

We’re familiar with the spectrum of suggested causes as well as solutions—it’s a mental health issue, it’s a gun access issue, it’s a cultural issue. It’s all of those to some degree, but in my option it’s a horrific case of American Exceptionalism.

I love my country, but I really dislike the way that term is typically used. It implies that American culture is first and best, as if we’re all in a global competition for a mythical cultural gold medal. Having traveled to more than 60 countries over the years I’ve experienced qualities in every one of them that are admirable as well as unfortunate. Mine included.

American Exceptionalism: Random Male Violence, Part I
And the Greatest of These…is Shame.

And the Greatest of These…is Shame.

Most people who know much about men, know that anger is a frequent trait that we struggle with. It seems to be a reflexive emotion whenever we encounter frustration or disappointment. It comes out in road rage, kicking the cat, yelling at the kids, or abusing wives. It’s awful and it’s destructive.

A second emotion men struggle with is fear. In fact, fear is often the actual emotion lurking beneath the surface in men, that presents itself outwardly as anger. Men don’t know it, or don’t want to admit it, but what we are often angry about is fear of failure.

Humans are designed to long for the fulfillment of two profound inner needs: Relationship/Intimacy and Respect/Impact. While we all line up on a sliding scale in our thirst for these two, most men long first for respect; most women long first for relationship. Of course, there are exceptions to this pattern in both men and women. But that’s what they are…exceptions.

Because our deepest longings tend to be connected to our gender, our deepest fears do, too. If a woman longs first for relationship, her greatest fear is abandonment or betrayal; the loss of relationship. If a man longs first for respect, his greatest fear is  failure, the loss of respect.

Not long ago a friend asked me, “What are the issues that bring out the most shame in men?” I thought immediately of the above way of understanding men. The issues that are most likely to bring up the most shame, have to do with failure:

  • Divorce
  • Bankruptcy
  • Failing college
  • Loss of reputation
  • Not measuring up in sports
  • Getting fired
  • Dishonorable discharge from the military
  • Time in prison
  • Body image

Men fear all of these, and once experienced, they can result in enormous shame—the sense of being unusually defective in worth, value and significance.

But nothing casts more shame than failure of sexual morality: promiscuity, affairs, porn, prostitutes, STD’s, strip clubs, abortion. These deserve their own list. They are why the Bible says, “Run away from sexual sin. Every other sin people do is outside their bodies, but those who sin sexually sin against their own bodies.” I Cor. 6:18 NCV images

In my opinion shame is the deepest most frequent emotion many men feel, and they have no idea it’s there, nor how to combat it. As I’ve written in previous posts, you scratch the surface of just about any self-serving, self-protective, self-pleasuring or other-harming behavior in men, and you’ll find shame.

It’s the conviction that we don’t matter and no one cares anyway. So we’re going to compensate one way or another.

In that respect shame is both the source and the consequence of our sin.

How do we overcome shame?

  • We renounce the lies of the Enemy that tell us we should be ashamed of ourselves.
  • We claim the promise of God the Father that we are fully forgiven and fully accepted as sons.
  • We remind ourselves of Scripture that says no one who trusts in God will ever be put to shame.     (Ro. 10:11)
  • We entrust a few well-chosen men with our story, our temptations and our hopes. In doing so, we have community with each other and the blood of Jesus transforms us. (I John 1:7)

For men, these three remain: anger, fear and shame. But the greatest of these…is shame.

Greater still? The grace of God, the truth of his Word, the hope of community and the power of the blood of Christ.

Avoiding Highway D

Avoiding Highway D

Having grown up in northern Illinois, I have a permanent memory of certain highway route numbers and the roads they pertain to: Rt. 68, Dundee Road; Rt. 83, Elmhurst Road; Rt. 21 Milwaukee Road, and so on.

In Wisconsin they seem to have a partially different system, which is based largely on letters rather than numbers. Perhaps a Wisconsinite can inform the rest of us if there’s a hidden reason for that.

Not long ago my brother-in-law, and I were chatting about how we respond to hardship and disappointment in our lives. I confess that, due to high expectations of myself, I’m vulnerable to disappointment. Every now and then that disappointment leads to discouragement; which every few years or so can lead to depletion. I want to change that.

Some of you reading this know that depletion can then lead to despair. I can honestly say, that while I haven’t been to despair, I’ve seen the off-ramp that leads there. I’m not interested in making a visit.

Disappointment-Discouragement-Depletion-Depression-Despair. I call them way-points on Highway D.

How do we avoid this highway, or at the very least, how do we recognize the way-points and turn away from the next one before we enter its territory?

There are 3 options for us to avoid getting stuck on this downward path:

1. Change our circumstances.

Where we have choices, we must flee physical, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse. We must flee immoral and unethical behavior when we run into it. In those cases we must change our circumstances to avoid a downward spiral of emotions.

But more commonly, the issues we wrestle with most deeply are our own inner struggles with the difficulties of every day life. Those conditions and our reactions to them follow us, no matter the marriage, church, business or state we are in. Like an imaginary backpack into which we stuff anger, resentment, shame, fear or isolation, those destructive emotions follow us around.

The one common denominator we carry into all the “Change our circumstances” options is our backpack. We bring it wherever we go. As a result, changing circumstances isn’t always the solution to our struggles.

2. Change our expectations.

Often our disappointments are based on our expectations of how life ought to go. Americans in particular have a built-in expectation (we might even say demand) for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The world doesn’t always offer those options. While they might be fine values on which to build a nation, they aren’t values on which to build Christian character.

The apostle Paul wouldn’t have come up with that list. His list might have been more along the lines of self-sacrifice, humility, and the pursuit of Christlikeness. (Phil. 2:1-11) If we expect a life free from illness, loss, limitations or sorrow, we are setting ourselves up for great disappointment.

Some Christians think our lives should be defined by unending provision, health, riches and acts from God that serve our wants. If that describes us, we may well need to revise those expectations.

3. Change our beliefs.

When bad things happen, our beliefs and assumptions about life rise to the surface:
• I lose my job; I believe my boss is a jerk.
• My wife is dying; I believe God must be teaching her a lesson.
• My child is pulling away from church; I believe God must not be paying attention.
• Everything I put my hand to is filled with futility; I believe there must be something defective about me.

Blame, shame, and anger at God, or others, all come from our deeply felt beliefs that we carry around with us, again, like a familiar backpack, regardless of our location or circumstances. The common denominator again, is us. Wherever we go, we show up. We may need to transform those beliefs.

The deep issues that surround the depression or despair many Christians experience must not be minimized; they are often influenced by personality and body-chemistry factors largely determined at birth. The road to restored health can be a long, difficult one. To minimize the more common road signs—like discouragement or depletion—that indicate we are heading in a downward direction is equally unwise.

Rather than automatically assuming that the best solution to trials or disappointment in our lives is to simply change circumstances— change our spouse, job, church or zip code— sometimes the better step for us is the deeper, inner transformation of changing our expectations and beliefs. Some of us may need to be open to a new awareness of what life is truly like, who we really are, and who God actually is.

How might we change our expectations? By revising our assumptions that life will always go well for us. The descriptions of the life of the early Church, as well as Paul’s letters of exhortation to us, make it clear that we should expect difficulty:
• “…we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God…” Acts 14:22
• “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.” Heb. 12:7
• “…though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” I Peter 1:6
Our expectation should be that we will have hardship in life.

How might we change our beliefs? By embracing the fact that God redeems trials and hardships for our benefit:
• “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:4
• “…[God] comforts us in all out troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble…” II Cor. 1:4
• “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Cor. 12:10
• “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
Our belief should be that God uses our hardships for our good, and for the good of others. Knowing this, we can choose to be joyful in the midst of trial.

The journey down Highway D is a well-traveled one, but it leads nowhere anyone wants to go. The next time we find ourselves struggling with the disappointment and discouragement that life so often brings, let’s consider a re-route that plugs the above set of expectations and beliefs into our emotional GPS system.

They can serve as a refreshed route that prevents a return trip to the dead-end destinations of Depletion, Depression and Despair, and leads instead to deeper peace and joy despite our circumstances.

When It Rains, It Hails

In the past few months I’ve grown increasingly weary by a series of unmet hopes and regular-life challenges. I recounted to a friend the technical disruptions that began first with this blog, and then the Peregrine website, being hacked; thousands of dollars being defrauded from two accounts (since reimbursed); email turning annoyingly glitchy and then […]

Is This Heaven? No, It’s Augusta

Is This Heaven? No, It’s Augusta

fieldThough I enjoy golf I rarely shoot as well as I think I should. The truth is for as little as I actually DO golf, I have no right to think I could shoot any better than I do.

When I was younger I used to get pretty frustrated at my inconsistency— the unbelievably awful shot that would follow one of the best drives of my life. The “snowman” (8) that would follow a highly prized par. My temper was often ruining the joy of the experience for me, and sometimes for those along with me.

Eventually I made a shift in thinking that helped. I identified three priorities for enjoyment in a round of golf:

1.     Play my best, and hopefully score better than I had last round.

2.     Appreciate the camaraderie and friendship of spending a half-day with a group of good men.

3.     Soak in the beauty of the invariably pleasant, and often spectacular, surroundings of the golf course.

I then decided if my score is going south, or more accurately, north, to hold that priority lightly and not let it ruin the other two sources of enjoyment of that day.

Recently my son and I watched the final day of competition for the Masters Golf Tournament held annually at Augusta National Golf Club. For those who love golf, or even those who simply enjoy sports and nature, the scenery, history and human elements of Augusta are tough to beat.

Here’s a clip about Augusta from a current pastor and former caddy that reveals some of the deeper stories going on at that course. Finding God at Augusta. His point reminds me of one of the highest callings I believe men have in life— elevate others, not yourself; be a source of blessing to them.

What lessons have you learned from the game of golf? I’d like to know.