Manhood without Narcissism

There is often a high degree of narcissism in male homosexuality. The process of seeking to change and grow in manhood requires a self-focus that can actually contribute to narcissism. There is, however, a way to counter this and even become less self-focused as the Lord is healing us.

A man is his most wholesome and appealing when he is outer-directed, when he has little consciousness of himself. His face is towards the world, towards others, hopefully towards God. The world is a joyous challenge, something to be both overcome and delighted in. His lack of self-consciousness draws people to him.

Those of us who sense a deficit in our manhood, by our very focus on our shortcomings, are turned inward. Excessively conscious of our appearance, how we are coming across to others, how we compare with other men. In our striving to be men, we manifest an inner directedness that is the antithesis of healthy manhood.

In this respect, we are not unlike adolescent boys trying to prove their manhood. But in the adolescent, such a focus is a normal step in development, so expected that it can be seen as desirable, even endearing.

Sadly, many men who are not from a homosexual background, seem never to emerge from this stage. Constantly needing to prove their manhood (to themselves as well as others) they pursue any outward manifestation that will show that they are men: body building, womanizing, excessively aggressive behavior. Their focus is decidedly on themselves. They are, in a word, narcissistic.

A primary way that the homosexual man differs from the narcissistic heterosexual is that the homosexual has at some level given up attaining his own manhood; he seeks to draw it from others. The narcissistic heterosexual never gives up. He is determined to prove his manhood. But like the homosexual, he is doomed to failure. The fact that he is focused on himself, that he gives such great importance to outward appearances, dooms him to perpetual adolescence.

How are those of us who have decided to come out of homosexuality, and are determined to become men in the truest sense of the word, to avoid this narcissistic trap? Homosexual men are often narcissistic enough to start with. The stereotypical fastidiousness of the male homosexual – his grooming, his clothes – often give him away. One man in our ministry tells how a friend shared with him, “Oh, I always knew you were gay. I could tell by your furniture.”

How can we examine and measure ourselves – necessary steps if we really want to change – without perpetuating, or even intensifying, our self-absorption?

It is difficult, but it is possible.

I discovered a key answer to this problem in the statement of a newcomer to our ministry. He said, “Manhood is something we give away.”

We grow as men when we see our manhood as something we desire for the sake of others. When we desire manhood so that we can protect and defend, help and serve, provide safety and security for others, we will grow into men. And it is the practice of helping, protecting, and serving that develops our manhood.

We grow as men when we see our manhood as something we desire for the sake of others.

An active member of one of our sister ministries is a woman with quite severe cerebral palsy. When I visited the ministry, I observed the men regularly lifting her in and out of cars, from a wheelchair to a sofa and back. Their manhood was wonderfully visible in this act of helping and serving.

In the book, And The Band Played On, although gay author Randy Shilts may not have recognized what he was describing, there is a beautiful illustration of this. A homosexual man, very mild and passive in his nature, came down with AIDS. The person who took care of him in his final months was a bold aggressive lesbian woman. The two were close friends; in fact you soon could see that they genuinely loved each other. As the man became increasingly sick, his tough lesbian friend became more and more tender and fragile. Her strength seemed to fade away as her love for the dying man cut deeper and deeper into her heart. On his part, the more vulnerable she became, the stronger he became in his desire to protect her. Wanting to shelter her fragile heart, he grew stronger and stronger. What Randy Shilts was describing was the forming of a man (and a woman).

At the Exodus Conferences until a few years ago, on Fridays before the closing banquet, we had “makeovers” in which hairdressers (mostly men) did the hair and make-up for women for many of whom such expressions of femininity had been very threatening. Watching these men gently and sensitively serving these women, I always knew I was witnessing a beautiful display of manly strength.

Jesus was the ultimate man. He never had to prove it, but how clearly He demonstrated it. Gently talking with the woman at the well, protecting the life of the woman caught in adultery, kindly humoring His mother when she insisted He do something about the wine having run out at the wedding in Cana, taking the little children up into his arms, His manhood shines forth. Washing the feet of His disciples, He provides those men He has chosen to follow Him an example of manly strength put under control for the purpose of serving others.

If I were a creator of advertising, there is one picture I would use every chance I could because it is an image that will draw the attention of almost everyone, man, woman or child. It is a picture of a young man walking down a path holding the hand of a little toddler, a little two- or three-year-old boy or girl. It symbolizes manly strength under submission for the purpose of guiding and protecting someone who is so much smaller and weaker. It is almost irresistible. It is an expression of God’s purpose for manhood, that it be in service to others.

It would be wonderful if we could just “be” men, but for many of us our backgrounds have made that almost impossible. Perhaps our culture has made it impossible for any men to be men unconsciously. But, there is a way in which this consciousness does not have to turn to narcissism. It is that we live according to the principle that our manhood is something we give away, something God created in us that we might use to bless others.

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