Note: This article was excerpted from Brian Goin's new book Playing Hurt: A Guy's Strategy for a Winning Marriage (Kregel, 2011).
For years, I never shared my battle with jealousy, insecurity and comparison. Then I heard an older man, very successful in his field, who was honest enough to say, “I’ve come to realize I’m insecure. No, I’m desperately insecure.” It was the first time I’d heard a man say ouch.
Ever since the garden of Eden, men have mastered the art of covering their shame and pain with fig leaves. The same is true in marriage. Rather than cry for help, we run for cover. I’m not suggesting we walk around flashing bracelets etched with our ailments: “Doubts Self-Worth,” or “Addicted to Porn,” or “Physically Abused.” But somehow we need to start airing out our wounds. Every fifteen-year-old in a first-aid class will tell you that unless you clean the wound, you never heal. As I said in the previous chapter, every injury in marriage affects a man’s eyesight. He’s blinded to his real adversary and his allies fade from view. God has given every man a couple of medics ready to rush to his side if he would just cry out: men in his life that are within earshot.
Some wounds require expert surgeons, but I think the bulk of the wounds inflicted on men can and should be treated in the company of other men. When a man goes down on the football field or the battlefield, other men rush to his aid. But when a man develops the habit of hiding his emotional wounds, no one knows when he’s down. That’s one reason I like being around guys in recovery. Whether it’s alcoholics or sex addicts, they’ve learned through their own brokenness the need to cry, “Medic!” Just as a scratch can eventually turn into gangrene, minor emotional cuts can turn into major infections. Many marriages are ruined on nothing more than years of festering bitterness caused by minor irritations over things long forgotten. Instead of saying “ouch,” we stubbornly proclaim, “Nah, it’s just a flesh wound. I’m fine.”
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? Write it down in the margin. I bet it was dangerous. There’s a good chance it involved the police. And I’d wager my son’s college education it involved other guys. Chances are, someone acted as your accomplice or as your audience. Living in Charlotte, home of NASCAR, where people spend five hours watching left-hand turns, I’ve heard a few redneck jokes—like this one: What are a redneck’s famous last words?
“Guys, hold my beer and watch this.”
Men do crazy things when other men are around. But they also achieve the impossible. First guys to conquer Mount Everest: Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. First Americans to find a passage from the Mississippi to the Northwest: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. First guys to fly a plane: Wilburand
Orville Wright. First guys to land on the moon: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
What’s the common element between all those firsts? The word and. Crazy only requires spectators. But great missions, whether conquering a mountain or the moon, requires camaraderie. When you open the New Testament, you discover men (plural) on a mission. Even Jesus didn’t venture out alone. First thing he did after he started his public ministry? Surrounded himself with other guys (
When the first churches were established, they were founded by pairs of men: Peter and John (
Who follows the and in your life? Who are your “and” guys? Walk through the letters of Paul and you’ll discover he never went anywhere without some trusted companions:
Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you; so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater . . . (
Paul . . . and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth . . . (
I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus . . . for they refreshed my spirit. (
Paul . . . and Timothy our brother . . . (
Paul . . . and all the brothers who are with me . . . (
So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. (
Paul and Timothy . . . to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi. (Philippians 1:1; see also Colossians 1:1)
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark . . . and Jesus who is called Justus. . . . Ephaphras, who is one of you . . .greets you. . . . Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. (Colossians 4:10–14)
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians . . . (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1)
When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. (Titus 3:12)
In all but one of his thirteen letters, Paul mentions men who are in his foxhole with him. The only exception is 1 Timothy, which is addressed to one of Paul’s most trusted “and” guys (see Philippians 2:19–22). Crack open your Bible and find 2 Timothy 4:9–22. Here we have Paul’s last known written words. Last words can reveal a person’s heart. How do Paul’s last words strike you? Twice he appeals to Timothy: “Do your best to come to me soon. . . . Do your best to come before winter” (4:9, 21).
He laments losing some “and” guys to ministry (Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus), and others to betrayal (Demas, Alexander). You can feel distress flow from his pen: “Luke alone is with me” (4:11). When Paul speaks of these men, it’s because he had come to rely on them. He needed them. They weren’t just spectators for some crazy antics.
Quick, think about your wedding pictures. Specifically imagine the one with your groomsmen. Maybe you were sporting blue ruffled tuxedo shirts. Maybe you had one guy beside you.
Maybe you had ten. If you retook the picture today, how many of those guys would still be standing beside you? And how many would really know what’s going on in your life? Granted, we live in a mobile and transient culture, so chances may be slim that you still live near your groomsmen. Even so, could you fill their spots with other men who you would say are “and” guys? We invite other men to stand with us at the wedding, but rarely to stand beside us throughout the marriage.
As men, we tend to fall into the trap of thinking that we conquered Mount Everest on our wedding day. In reality, we just hit base camp. Painting a living portrait of God’s glory by loving our wives sacrificially for fifty years is Mount Everest. Can you imagine Sir Edmund Hilary reaching base camp in the Himalayas and saying to his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, “Hey, I got it from here—later.” Yet we leave most of our “and” guys at the altar and head up the mountain of marriage solo.
Solomon, a man who puts dunce caps on Mensa members, wrote, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1). Solomon ought to know. He blew the wisdom lottery ticket. Early in Solomon’s life, God granted him one wish. Already guaranteed King David’s inheritance, Solomon asked for wisdom. God granted his wish; yet Solomon, who was sought after for his acumen by kings and queens, squandered wisdom in his own life. When we read his personal journal (the book of Ecclesiastes), we see a man who abandoned sound wisdom to chase selfish desires. In the end, his pursuits of hedonism, intellectualism, and materialism led him to meaninglessness. I can’t prove it, but somehow I think Ecclesiastes
12:1–8 describes Solomon in his last days, as a strong man bent over whose “grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows [eyes] are dimmed” (12:3). Rocking back and forth on his front porch, he reflects on his hedonistic marathon run: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth. . . . Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:1, 13–14).
So the man who traded divine wisdom for human existentialism proved he wasn’t smarter than a fifth grader. Any child raised in Sunday school could reveal Solomon’s wisdom that he gained after chasing foolishness: fear God and follow him. Elsewhere in Scripture, Solomon writes poetry espousing the joys of loving one woman for a lifetime. His steamy Song of Songs relives his passion for a peasant woman (more than likely his first wife). In Proverbs 5:18, Solomon instructs husbands to “rejoice in the wife of your youth.” And in Ecclesiastes, he concludes, “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain [brief] life” (9:9). After having 300 wives and 700 concubines, Solomon concluded it was far easier to love the woman you have than long for the woman you don’t. The perfect spouse is the present spouse.
It’s no surprise we don’t see any “and” guys in Solomon’s life. When we look at the tragic figures in Scripture, we notice how hard it is to fill in the blank after the and:
- Samson and ___________ (someone other than Delilah).
- King Saul and ___________
- After he sent all his “and” guys away to battle and decided to grab some rays on the roof, King David and ___________ (someone other than Bathsheba)
- Jonah and ___________
- Judas Iscariot and ___________
- Solomon and ___________
The blank shouts a warning to us across the centuries: “Whoever isolates himself . . . breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1).
God didn’t design us to drop in the tunnels alone. “And” guys rebuke, refocus, recharge, and remind us that the goal of marriage is not our personal happiness. They rebuke us when we crave the immediate over the eternal. They help us refocus on the mission of marriage: God’s glory—his fame and his name. They remind us that our adversary doesn’t share our address.
Men identify quickly with other guys in most every other context besides marriage. Growing up in the neighborhood, boys form a club. Without guidance, boys join a gang. Guys talk about their “boyz,” “entourage,” and “crew.” Beer commercials highlight a guy’s “wingman.” So how do you find “and” guys for your marriage mission?
Seek them out. Isolated men seek out their own destruction. Wise men seek out trusted companions. Chances are, you’ve got guys who share your affinities for sports, business, or hobbies.
Spend regular time with them. Grab a coffee before work. Go on a camping trip. Get a regular time on the calendar. I’ve learned that if I don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. I can make buddies accidentally, but developing “and” guys requires intentionality.
This last part might be the most difficult: share your scars. Men love to share past pains. Get guys in a room and eventually you’ll hear stories about their injuries. My brother-in law’s legs look like someone beat him with a metal chain. Each divot and jagged scar tells a story about some mountain or road bike accident. “I got this one when a car turned into me. Oh, you should have seen this crash. When my knee skidded on that stump, it felt like someone cut me open with a chain saw.”
When men get real with the rawness in their lives, they invite others to share their wounds. They realize they aren’t alone. But in order to find teammates, someone has to step up and pull back the curtain. Be brave. Share your scars first.
Right now you’re thinking, Brian, I can hear my wife say,“Oh, yeah, so the book tells you to have another guys’ night out!”
The reason your wife doesn’t like guys’ night out is because you go to a bar and talk sports with your buddies. Nothing wrong with that every now and again, but “and” guys get together and talk about scars. Here’s a quick comparison between buddies and “and” guys:
- Get together and watch sports
- Encourage you to wife bash
- Say you deserve better
- Magnify your wife’s weaknesses
- Help you crave vindication for wounds
- Gawk at other women
- Get together and share scars
- Encourage you to beautify your wife
- Encourage you to sacrifice
- Guard your eyes against other women
- Magnify your wife’s strengths
- Help you crave victory despite your wounds
Find some “and” guys in your life and your wife will help you schedule the next guys’ night out.
Brian Goin's home base is in Charlotte, NC where he serves as lead pastor for Renaissance Bible Church. He enjoys traveling and speaking to couples at Family Life's Weekend to Remember conferences with Jennifer, his bride and mother of their three children (Brantley, Palmer, and Gibson). He's written numerous study guides, workbooks, and Bible studies that he has developed for Insight for Living and Walk Thru the Bible. For more information visit www.playinghurt.org/.