The speaker of this episode of The Redeemed Man podcast is Reverend Dr. Shane Green, senior minister at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ga. Shane will be speaking about men’s need for validation from certain important figures in their lives and the wrong turns they often take when they don’t receive it—along with how we can better know ourselves and each other through self-reflection and Christ’s love. “Until people really love themselves and become comfortable with who they are, they’re always going to be ‘posing’ or presenting to others what they think will be the most lovable. We live in a society that runs off this projection of what we think others want us to be,” he says. “I hope that people come away from this with a sense that it’s OK if there are things about them that are broken or in need of being whole.”
Welcome & Speaker Introduction
I’d like to welcome you to Pursuing Restoration, a series of live web events, sponsored by The Redeemed, featuring insights and advice from some of the region’s most dynamic speakers, each from diverse backgrounds and experiences, offering wisdom and insights into life’s challenges and how we can recover and heal from the problems we may encounter.
Dr. Shane Green, Senior Minister at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Columbus, Georgia, will be speaking about men’s need for validation from certain important figures in their lives and the wrong turns they take when often they don’t receive it. He will also be talking about how we can better know ourselves and each other through self-reflection and Christ’s love.
Why Do We Need Restoration?
Maybe it’s proper to begin at why we need restoration in the first place. And that revolves around certain levels of validations. Today we will specifically talk about validation from a man’s perspective.
The Important Aspects of Validation
Validation is something that every male needs to receive in their life, beginning early on in their development. There are three aspects of validation that are necessary:
Early on, children are wonderful observers but not the best interpreters. Young people are not born with a sense of self-awareness. In young people, this is something that is acquired or learned, similar to maturity. Hearing validation from the right people will create that self-awareness and having someone to validate you by saying things like “I recognize this about you,” and “I see something in you that you’re growing into a fine man or a fine adult” is necessary.
These words of validation need to also be accompanied with actions…and they need to be consistent. Those validations have to happen at certain times, and those times are dependent upon each family or each relationship. There are times in our society that make this easier, when someone’s 16, when someone’s 18, and when someone’s 21. But there are also times that are not necessarily related to age but life events like a graduation or a wedding day.
There needs to be unique times of validation that are tied to individual families and relationships in order for them to successfully carry over from one generation to the next. When someone else recognizes and validates your actions, it begins to create a sense of identity that leads to wholeness and restoration.
As stated earlier, these validations need to come from certain people. While someone within the family setting is important, this individual is not limited to just family. However, this person relates to the individual, it needs to be a person of influence; a person who that younger man deems to be important.
We need certain validations, at certain times, and from certain people.
Absence of Validation Outcomes
When a son or young man does not receive those types of validation, they normally revert to one of two outcomes and they are classical in nature.
One of my favorite theologians of the wrote this about rebellion and conformity…
“We have the choice of two identities, the external mask that we present, the external mask that we think is real, and then the hidden inner person, who seems to us to be nothing, but who can give himself eternally to the truth.” – Thomas Merton
When we lack the validations, we needed and craved early on in life, it leads in us identity voids, and we seek to fill those voids through either rebellion or conformity. What we are doing is creating projections of ourselves that we think is what the world wants to see or will value, but it’s ultimately not our real self.
The Good News
The good news is that we are not destined to be stuck in this identity void forever; people can change. However, the degree to which an individual was lacking that needed validation is directly related to their path to restoration – how long it could take and potentially how painful it may become.
The good news is this: we can change and there is restoration for all of us. This is where faith can be very effective, influential and most helpful because in our relationship with God we have the ability for our nature to change. Thomas Merton wrote that:
“The secret of my full identity, my real identity, is hidden in Him, and He, God alone can make me who I am, or rather who I will be when at last I fully begin to be in Him. But unless I desire this identity and work to find it with Him and in Him, that work will never be done.”
This work of God has the ability to change our nature and inside the church we use two theological terms to describe that:
How does this change happen?
Step 1: Honesty
The first step on the journey of a changed nature is honesty. Honesty is often painful, especially when we have to put our finger on those areas where we’ve either acted out in rebellion or we have adopted a level of conformity that displays a false projection of our true self.
“The first step toward finding God who is truth is to discover the truth about myself, and if I have been in error, then this first step to truth is the discovery of my error. We stumble and fall constantly, even when we are the most enlightened. And when we are in spiritual darkness, and this is key, even when we are in spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen. We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not ultimately at peace with God.”
Honesty has the wonderful ability to shine light on things that are dark, on things that are hidden, and on the difference between who we portray we are versus who we really are. When we talk of nature change, we are talking about the idea of restoration…and the first step towards restoration has to begin with honesty.
The Prodigal Son
One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15. To give you a thumbnail sketch of the story, it’s about a father that has two sons, and the younger son approaches his father asking for his inheritance and runs off to a “foreign land.”
He begins to live his life, acting out the projection of what he believes he wants to be seen by as by the world – the rebel. Over the course of time, he comes to a point where that facade no longer brings him fulfillment and returns back to his father…not as a son, but with the intent of being a slave or servant. The moment he steps foot at home, the father immediately receives him in and restores him into full sonship. But the story doesn’t stop there.
There’s another part of the story that is of equal importance to note – the older son. This son has been living the life of conformity, staying committed to his family business and farm. When he receives word of a celebration (unaware that it’s for his brother’s return), he asked “What’s going on?”
Once told of his brother’s return and restoration, the older son is immediately irate. Because of this, the older son doesn’t go to the party, which in that time would have been offensive to the father and entire community. Yet, the father leaves the party to find his older son only to be raked over the coals by this son as he and talks about all the things he has done for the family, and specifically defines himself by saying, “I’ve always worked for you, I’ve never done anything wrong, I’ve always done what everybody has asked of me.” And yet on the inside, what he’s presented to the world is nowhere near his real sense of self.
What we find in the story is that the younger son, in his level of honesty, is able to put his finger on his action and say, “This is who I am, this is what I’ve done,” no longer hiding from the truth. What’s unfortunate is that we don’t know what happens to the older son, but what we see that at the end of the story, this older son has not yet reached this level of honesty.
Restoration Through Honesty
No level of restoration can be achieved without first reaching a level of honesty with yourself.
There is no level of restoration or wholeness without first a level of honesty. CS Lewis said that:
“God whispers to us in our pleasures and He speaks to us in our conscience, but He shouts to us in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
When we are willing to be honest, brutally honest with who we are, we are able to see that projection we’ve presented to the world is vastly different than who we really are on the inside. Honesty has the ability to bring everything to surface…and that is where our path and journey towards restoration begins.
Step 2: Repentance
The next step in the journey towards restoration is the idea of renouncing old ways, otherwise known as repentance. While many refer to actions when they think of repentance, it’s actually more of a disposition of the heart.
We must, in a sense, die to the image we’ve presented to the world, either through rebellion or conformity, in order to open ourselves up for restoration. It’s a journey that begins with honesty that then leads to renouncing or turning from what we used to be and becoming the person we really are. And this must be a disposition of the heart, because authentic living is learning to live from the inside out, not the outside in.
Step 3: Develop a New Pattern
The third and final step in the journey of restoration is to develop a new pattern, one that will replace old patterns that no longer match who we really are. This is where things like discipline or accountability can become effective. One of my hopes for The Redeemed is that this would be a safe place for people as they seek restoration and work to embrace new patterns in their life. There is hope for us all. There is a journey that we can all travel that will lead us to restoration – for our souls and our identity.