I had a rough childhood, but not in the way a lot of people think when someone says that. I wasn’t a rough kid. Quite the opposite, I was a timid boy who didn’t do the rough stuff a lot of boys do. It was rough for me because I lived in a highly dysfunctional family with two males who thought that being rough was the same as being a man.
Things weren’t like that for me. I viewed myself as clumsy, awkward, weak, and even effeminate. The two males in my family, my stepfather and my stepbrother, often used the word “sissy” to describe me. In my mind, even though I protested, I believed it to be true.I remember my stepbrother trying to teach me to catch a ball with a mitt that I got for Christmas. It was hopeless. It wasn’t just hopeless because I couldn’t do it. It was hopeless because I didn’t care if I could do it. When I was 13, when other boys were planning their careers in professional sports, I was thinking of doing choreography.
Without engaging in a debate about the causality of homosexuality, which I still believe to be an unsolved mystery, I know that I longed for someone to patiently teach me some of the things other boys seemed to know instinctively how to do. Even if they weren’t born knowing how to do it, it seemed they were at least born to know they should want to know.
Despite my statement that I didn’t care if I knew how to catch a ball, I really did care. I just thought of it as hopeless. I especially thought it was hopeless if I had to learn at the feet of someone who seemed to hate me and was only doing it out of obligation. My stepfather made him do it. Why? Dad didn’t want to, so he made his son do it.
That’s not exactly the way you get a boy to want to do something. So, I decided that I didn’t want to and it made a good excuse in my library of excuses for not being able to do it. It was like that for a lot of things.
As I piled up wish-I-coulds in my collection of can’ts, I began more and more to distance myself from anything that was in the shoulds list as far as boys were concerned: playing sports, liking war, and being able to name the make a model of any car that went by. All of these kinds of things were things I wish I could do as easily and as naturally as my stepbrother could. Rather than admit that I wanted to do them, I’d rather claim to be uninterested if it meant I didn’t have to endure his aggressively impatient tutelage.
So, I became good at other things, things I had a natural propensity for. That included pretty much any school subject other than P.E. and shop. When I was six, my stepbrother took me around to his friends for a spelling challenge. Any word they could come up with, I could spell. At least there was one thing he could be proud of.
I was pretty proud of myself too. I loved the attention I got that day. It seemed to me that it was the first time I had ever been admired by guys.
I craved that attention and found only one way to get what I thought of as positive attention from males. During my teenage years, I developed an addiction for sexual contact. I thought of it as positive attention.
I’ll pause a moment in this narrative to point out that I don’t necessarily claim that this tension between my insecurities and craving attention from men was the cause of my homosexual feelings. I think that homosexuality is too complex to so accurately pinpoint one cause. I do think it was a large part of my sexual addiction, which I think of as different but related to my same-sex attraction.
When I broke the chain of my sexual addiction, I spent a few years in relative peace about my same-sex attraction. I got married during those years, not really thinking in terms of being gay or SSA or whatever you call it. I knew deep down that I was, but it was buried deep enough to get very little of my energy.
What I continued to feel was that I was different. I still had the aversion to sports. I was scared of locker rooms. I still panicked at the idea of being in a closer conversation with other males that were talking about sports. I worried that my lack of knowledge would betray me.
I still think that the first thing a man thinks when another man is stumped by, “What did you think of the game yesterday?” is “gay.” It may not be true, but that’s my worry.
So, along comes this idea, promoted by methodologies that are purported to cure the gay in me, that a mentor can do me a lot of good towards making myself feel better about my masculinity. I don’t know that I ever believed it, but I liked the idea of a man getting close to me and mentoring me even if It wasn’t going to work like it was purported. I’d take him. It’s kind of like the truth that being rich only seems like it would fix your problems. It really doesn’t, but I’d still like to give it a try.
So, why is the one-man mentor idea a myth? I’m not talking about it being a myth when it comes to curing homosexuality. That part, I think is pretty obvious. I think it is not only untrue, but also unwise, to put all of your hopes in one man for anything. I don’t think that God planned life to be that way. In three different proverbs, wise Solomon recommended a multitude of counsellors (Proverbs 11:14, 15:22, and 24:6).
“Best Friend” is a strange designation. I have a friend that I refer to as my best friend. He is really great and I feel very close to him.
Sometimes referring to someone as my best friend seems like a slight to some of the really, really good friends I have. I am close to each one of them in a unique way and it’s hard to judge one as better than another.
At the same time, I also think of my wife as my best friend. We’re awesome together. No one more fun. As much as I’ve shared with my official Best Friend of the male variety, he could never approach the lifetime of sharing of struggles, joys, and heart that I’ve shared with my Barbara.
Yet, if I were to really identify my best friend, I would have to choose Jesus. As friendships go, ours is a little uneven. He has infinitely more to offer in the relationship than I do, but I don’t think that bothers him. I think he is content to know that he is my Best Friend, even though I am not always his best friend. Despite this difference, he is and always has been my truest best friend. He wins in every category.
Here are some of the reasons I think that putting all of our eggs into one man’s basket is a problem:
- It blinds us to the good that we get from everyone but that one man. I have been in the situation of feeling like my friendship was valued less because I couldn’t be that one man to someone else.
- It creates jealousy. I have felt jealous over the attention another man gets from his other friends when I hoped he would be solely devoted to me.
- It ignores the value of women. I’m a big believer in men needing male friends and “guy time” with those friends. At the same time, many women in my life have provided as much friendship as the men.
- It narrows the input. We really need to get as many perspectives on things as we can. Many times, I’ve sought input from many friends and found insights that one friend alone could not have given me.
- It devalues us in our own eyes. I’ve long felt that this idea of an all-knowing mentor was just another way of saying that we have nothing to offer and are only in need. In Inasmuch As You Desire a Companion, I describe how I found out that I had much to give.
- Men are fallible. The Prophet Jeremiah taught that “cursed be the man that trusteth in man… (Jeremiah 17:5)” It is good to for people to love, support, and speak truth to each other, but only One has all truth.
- It offends God. The first commandment has always put God first. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3)” is still in force. If we are going to count on one man for all of our needs, God is the one to trust.
I feel especially blessed by the high quality of the friends I have. I couldn’t ask for better. They provide me with all that I would get from one man and so much more.