In the early months of 2012, I was working at a large accounting firm in the midst of ‘busy season’. This meant long days, late nights, and little room for anything other than work. It was an annual season within the industry as we worked on client files. Most clients closed their books at the end of December and needed annual reporting completed early the next year.
During these months, I would find myself sitting in the bullpen of our office well past midnight. Tight deadlines that could not be missed drove us to sacrifice sleep to make sure we got our work done.
Despite the long days and personal sacrifices, I look back at these times with fondness. Not because of the work itself, but because of who I got to work with. Going through tough challenges at work is a little bit easier when you are on a team. I was fortunate to work with some great people. Most of the teams I was a part of had a spirit of ‘we’re in this together’ and supported each other. I appreciated being on those teams. Had I had to do the work alone, it would have been awful, and I am not sure I would have made it as an accountant.
In life, as in work, there are big challenges and difficulties that can take us out when we try to go at it alone. We were not meant to do life alone. Teams, families, and communities are there to support us on the way. These structures help us achieve that which we are created to do.
Our culture often romanticizes the self-made man or lone wolf. The successful man who does it all on his own. When I think of the archetype of this man, I think of Batman. The Dark Knight Trilogy is one of my favourite movie series. It is gritty, conflicted, and very entertaining.
While Bruce Wayne has his trusted aide, Alfred, he is mysterious and elusive to other characters in the films, even the ones who support him. He conducts his work, both as Bruce and Batman, largely alone. Batman is a tortured character. He has a higher calling but is often misunderstood and maligned. He ultimately overcomes his opponents and saves Gotham City. He is a reluctant hero.
It is easy to look at characters like Batman, James Bond, or real-life men who seem to have it all with some degree of admiration or even envy. We believe that we can and should be able to do it all ourselves. That the support of others is unnecessary. The only problem with this approach is that when we fall, as we all do, there is nobody there to help us. The blame rests solely on our shoulders.
When we try to do life alone, we become lonely. We think our struggles and problems are unique to us and therefore we cannot approach others for support out of fear of exposing our weaknesses. When we hide the parts of us we are ashamed of, we deny ourselves the opportunity to find support and healing.
On my own journey, I have struggled with many issues. In my personal life, relationships with others, and in my career, there are many examples of hardships I have endured alone. Mistakenly I thought that if I sought help I would be perceived as weak or deficient, particularly by other men.
Light it Up
One morning, a few years ago, I was struggling with some issues present in my life at the time. I took the problem to prayer and asked God for support. As I prayed, I felt a strong urge that was prompting me to do something. To put it into words, I felt God saying, ‘bring this into the light’. I decided to share with a close friend what I was going through and almost as soon as I did, the burden lightened. I did not feel alone in it anymore.
As I have grown in my own faith, I have realized that by bringing my struggles out in the open and into the light, they hold less power over me. When I share with others, people I trust, I find two things happen. First, I feel less alone and more supported. I no longer carry the burden that my struggles bring by myself. Second, in being open about real things happening in my life, it has given others permission to talk about their own struggles.
Through these lessons, I have experienced what St. Paul says about life in Jesus: “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10)
In our lives, we have a choice between the life offered to us by the world, or a life that Jesus offers us. He tells us that the narrow way is the path to life, but that it is not easy. Walking it alone is difficult, if not impossible. Realizing we need God’s help to walk this path is the first step. But we also need to find allies for the journey. People we can walk alongside who can help us find strength in our weakness, as we support them in theirs. The road is not meant to be travelled alone.
Allies are necessary to walk the narrow way. As a married man, my first and closest ally in this journey is my wife. Katie listens, supports, advises, and challenges me. She inspires me to grow as a man and to grow closer to God. We have accepted the call to serve each other and our family. We are committed to helping each other grow in our relationship with each other and with God.
In addition to my marriage, I have experienced the benefit of finding other like-hearted men to journey with. These men are mentors and friends. When things are tough at home, they are brothers I can go to in trust and talk through the issues. Even if these discussions do not yield a solution, knowing I am not alone in my struggles makes them much easier to bear.
Morgan Snyder talks about these relationships and the importance of men finding other men to ‘lock shields’ and ‘make treaties’ with. With my friends, I call these relationships the 2 am club. It is a short list, but on it are the guys I would call at two o’clock in the morning when shit is hitting the fan and know they would pick up, as I would for them.
These relationships are built on a desire to grow as men who love God and who want to be better. Better husbands, better fathers, better friends, and better leaders. They are rooted in faith and built to last.
It is only in the last few years that I have realized the importance of these relationships and have sought them out in my life. After experiencing the benefits of allied relationships, I believe they are necessary and foundational in the pursuit of the narrow way.
When you look at your life and relationships, who are the people that you would call in the middle of the night, when things are breaking loose? Who would call you? Answering this question requires us to acknowledge there are times in our lives when we experience weakness and that we need others. But in the hope offered to us by Jesus, we also remember that when we are weak, then we are strong.
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