In the past few months, I've been thinking a lot of friendships and relationships among men in the Church. I wrote about an Epidemic of Loneliness in October. I later came across a web article on the topic. A friend from my ward was kind enough to share with me a video he though was insightful. And then a second friend recommended an indoor mountain biking park in the area that he thought would make a good men's activity.
I've put a lot of thought into it, and although it isn't exactly what I would envision as ideal, I think it's a good start. Today, I showed up to church with a flyer to hand out for Man-richment (thank you, Just_A_Guy).
I've included a copy of the flyer below. Now let me write out a few motivations that don't really go well on a flyer.
- I want to see more emotional intimacy among the men in my congregation. I firmly believe this means doing more talking.
- Make opportunities for a variety of interests. I felt movie nights were an easy way to appeal to a broad audience. I chose to stick to the IMDB top 250 list because at least the movies on that list are likely to have good stories to talk about. I definitely wanted to avoid movie nights where we watch man-boy classics like Meet the Fockers and then resort to giggling at each other whenever we say "Focker." (Although, giggling amongst ourselves might be a good step towards emotional intimacy.)
- I want the men at church to open up about themselves. I want to hear them talk about their strengths, their dreams, their insecurities, their fears and worries. I want to know them.
Without question, the hardest goal I'm hoping to accomplish is to open up myself. There aren't many people in my life that have seen deeper than my façade, and almost none of them are people in my congregation. This makes me as guilty of contributing to the epidemic of loneliness as anyone else.
Some of that is introversion. I'll tell you all of that is introversion, most days. But really, it's fear. I worry about how revealing my true feelings in public will change my social standing in groups. When I'm in groups of people I don't know well, I worry constantly that I'm saying the wrong things, come across as extremely boring, overly quirky, and am just generally unpleasant or unenjoyable to be around. To some extent, I know those are all true, but I fear that the brighter sides of my personality don't shine enough to make people willing to tolerate them, or possibly even enjoy them.
So there it is. I feel alone when I go to church these days. I don't want to feel that way anymore. And I don't want any of my brothers in faith to feel that way either.