Connecting With Others
About the Guest
Why are so many men silent? Maybe it’s time to speak up. Wes Yoder talks with Dennis Rainey about connecting with other men beyond the sports page. Most men long for someone to be real and authentic in this high-tech, low-relationship world, Wes explains. One way he’s found to break the ice is to invite a group of men to dinner and ask the tough questions--not to fix them, but just to listen.
Wes YoderRaised on a dairy farm in the Amish and Mennonite community of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Wes Yoder's book, Bond of Brothers: Connecting with Other Men beyond Work, Weather and Sports, seeks to move men from silent and broken lives to the company of men where conversation, spiritual friendship and a life filled with friends and brothers define and complete God’s purposes for them. Wes and his wife, Linda, have two children and three grandchildren.
Why are so many men silent?
Connecting With Others
Bob: Have you been part of a men’s group at church that never really got past the surface, never got down deep? Wes Yoder says he thinks he knows why.
Wes: Guys will not come to something where they think somebody’s going to try to fix them. They will not come to something where they think, “Oh, I’ve got to spill my beans.” But if you could actually get together and have conversations that are fun, but that are important life things, guys will talk all night long and they will keep coming back year after year after year.
Bob: This is FamilyLifeToday for Tuesday, June 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about why men who need friendships fear friendships, and what we can do to help guys open up a little bit.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I’ve talked with pastors and church leaders about the difference between the men’s groups and the women’s groups in their church. Women’s groups are pretty easy to put together. You get some women; you get maybe some scones and some tea --
Dennis: Be careful, be careful.
Bob: -- and a few questions, and you’ve got a women’s group. But if you got a group of guys together with scones and tea and a few questions, you –
Dennis: We’re going to get mail, Bob.
Bob: Well, but you know what I’m talking about, right? If you want to get a men’s group together, you do a project, you form a softball team, you get guys doing stuff together, and it’s in the context of doing stuff together that you may get some relationships that start to form.
Dennis: Yes. I remember a number of years ago, and it doesn’t matter who it was – it was a broadcaster, who didn’t have enough friends to carry his casket, and he was very nervous about being able to list six to eight men who would carry his body and drop him in the ground at the end of the day. Highly successful in his profession, but didn’t have the friendships of other men who would be there at the end to drop his body in the ground.
I think it’s really an illustration of what you’re talking about. Men don’t make friendships easily. It’s much easier to join a team and to do something, as you said.
Bob: Yes. There’s a – I don’t know if it’s a task orientation –
Dennis: Oh, I think that’s part of it. It’s safe.
Dennis: A task is safe.
Bob: Well, we ought to ask our guest, because I bet he’s thought about it a little bit, don’t you think?
Dennis: Wes Yoder joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Wes, welcome back.
Wes: Thank you so much.
Dennis: He’s written a book called Bond of Brothers: Connecting With Other Men Beyond Work, Weather and Sports.
Bob: And scones and tea, right?
Bob: You’re not going to win with the guys with scones and tea, are you?
Wes: No, but you can win with some steaks and potatoes, though. You sure can.
Bob: Well, you and your wife Linda have two children, two grandchildren, and this is now kind of the focus of your life. You’re calling men to those relationships. What’s your take on this? Why are they finding it so difficult?
Wes: Well, I’m calling men into relationship and to a new conversation, and I’m doing that by inviting them to dinner. I think having dinner around your table is one of the most neglected things in our society for men. Christian homes ought to be the center place of the community, the place everybody wants to go to.
So we just started -- about six years ago a friend of mine in New York, B.J. Weber, who is with the New Canaan Society and the New York Fellowship, invited me to stay for a dinner one night with a group of young men from Columbia University. He asked them a question. He said, “What is the most surprising thing that’s ever happened in your life?” The conversation that came from that one simple question that doesn’t even sound spiritual evoked all kinds of things.
I go, “I can go home and do this.” And so B.J. and I are partners in this. He’s in New York; he flies down to some of our dinners, and when I run out of questions I say, “B.J. What in the world are you asking your guys this week?” And so we’ve had these dinners going on for six years around food.
Linda often helps me make the dinner and then she’ll disappear, and it’s just guys. We don’t talk about our work and we don’t talk about sports and we don’t talk about the weather, and the conversations have been phenomenal.
Bob: You know, as you describe that I’m thinking back to a group of guys that I met with for a period of years, and this started because the church was going to have a men’s study. We were all going to go through a book and we divided into small groups.
I remember when I got the assignment to lead the group and I got the book, and honestly, was dreading it. The guys had signed up on a clipboard. I didn’t know them. I thought, “This is just going to be a pain every week to get together with guys I don’t know and try and lead them through this book study.”
Here’s what I did. I said, “Okay, if we’re going to do this, instead of meeting at church we’re going to meet at a place where we can get cheese dip and where we can get some food. Okay? Second thing we’re going to do is we’re going to spend less time talking about the book and more time talking about our lives.”
So when the group got together I said to all the guys, “If you’re here to really master this book,” I said, “You probably ought to sign up for a different group.” I said, “Because what we’re going to do is we’ll spend 15 minutes of our time on the book, but the rest of the time we’re going to start off and we’re just going to go around the table. I’m going to start with you, and I want to hear the hour-long version of the story of your life, and if I don’t think you’re telling me enough detail I’m going to ask you questions.”
I said, “I’ll start.” So I modeled for them what kind of level of transparency we were talking about. The book was fine. I mean, nothing wrong with the book, but at the end of the eight weeks, these guys – I remember one guy saying to me, “I didn’t think I could join this church because I didn’t think there was anybody like me at this church.”
He said, “Some of you guys are worse than I am, and you’re a part of the church. I can fit here.” And when the book study was over and the church said it’s time for the men’s group to disband, all of the guys in this group said, “Uh-uh. We don’t want to disband. We want to keep meeting for cheese dip and diet Coke and talking about this stuff.”
Wes: And friendship.
Wes: All of a sudden friendships are developing. I’m fascinated about what men want to talk about and how long they will talk about it. One night at our dinner group I said, “Why don’t we tell stories about our dads, because I think we can get to know each other by telling stories about our dads. Did we like them? Did they abuse us? Were they kind to us? Did they say ‘I love you?’ Did they abuse you but there are still certain qualities about them that you would like to emulate in your life?”
That conversation with about eight guys went four hours. One night we talked about our moms. “Tell us about your sweet mother.” That was an amazing evening. Some nights we’d talk about sorrow and the challenges of living as men growing older, and what happens when our marriages start changing.
What makes your marriage strong? What makes you marriage weak? What’s your greatest fear right now and what’s the greatest sorrow of your life?
And guys can take questions like that and go anywhere they want to with them, as self-revealing as they feel safe to do, or they can tell you how they won at something last week, at the office last Thursday.
Dennis: Men do want to tell their story, but for some reason men tend to be silent. What’s your opinion of why guys retreat to the safety of silence?
Wes: There are a couple of things that I think are really significant to understand. One, we as men by nature defer and the weakness of that is passivity. The beauty in it is that if somebody else is talking in the room we’re not going to talk over them. We defer to our wives when they speak.
It’s the dynamic that you observe when couples get together and the women do all the talking and the guys haven’t said anything. And there’s a politeness in it, and there’s a sickness in it. So part of this, the silence of men, is a sickness that we’ve learned, most of the time from our fathers, where we really weren’t engaged by them. We haven’t learned the dialect that men speak to one another, and we don’t quite know how to get started.
We don’t know how to initiate that conversation, and that’s what I’m hoping the book will do, is help guys find a starting point. And then when they find out they really do have friends and they really do love them, you can talk about anything. You can go all sorts of places. You can become playful again, which is another thing that’s missing in men.
Bob: Have you had guys that you’ve tried to peel back some of the layers on, and they just wouldn’t peel?
Wes: Not yet.
Wes: Not since I learned to forgive the guys who betrayed me. I didn’t even want to. I have to tell you a little story. After this whole thing with our porch group, our accountability group fell apart. Here I am, an elder in the church – and I wouldn’t have said it out loud then, and I can barely say it now because I was taught not to use the h-a-t-e word, but I hated men. At least I didn’t want to be around any of you guys. And whenever I would look into the face of other guys I would see the face of another potential betrayer, and I wanted nothing to do with you.
And so, again, my friend B.J. Weber in New York, he and I were in the process of becoming friends, and he says, “Hey, Wes. Why don’t you come up to this men’s retreat?” “A men’s retreat? Are you kidding?” That’s the last place on earth I wanted to be. And he prevailed and I finally said, “Okay, I’m going to fly to New York, and I’m going to go there. Nobody’s going to know me. I can hide all weekend long and be just fine and B.J. will be happy that I came.”
That weekend Jack Deere was speaking and he was speaking on this text of Scripture from Matthew where the king has forgiven this guy these 10,000 talents, which is about 200,000 years of income, and he throws him in prison, and the guy gets off because the king forgives him. And then he gets out and won’t forgive the guy who owes him about two years worth of wages. And the Scripture says, “This is what your Heavenly Father will do to you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
And Jack said, “What will your Heavenly Father do?” He says, “He will put you in a prison of your own making. You were free. He will put you in a prison of your own making and he will hand you the key, and you can get out of here anytime you want to. But you have to forgive in order to do it.”
They gave an invitation that night. I’m a private guy. I don’t like to be in the center of that kind of attention. I decided to go forward and have the oldest guy up there lay hands on me, and he said, “Do you want to be set free?” I said, “I have to be set free,” and he prayed over me that night, and that was the day that I forgave all the guys that had hurt me in the past.
After that happened there was a slow but steady stream, an increasing stream of guys coming into my office, the bug man, the UPS guy, I don’t know who it was – everybody – and they would sit there and start telling me their stories. All of a sudden I realized that God was healing me and in the process giving me the opportunity to be a part of the healing process of other men.
Dennis: You know, I’m listening to you and I’m just reflecting back on a lot of different interactions I’ve had with men, and I really agree with you. I think most men long, they hunger, they thirst for somebody to be honest, real, authentic, no bologna, no veneer, no – and excuse me here, but no God-talk that’s kind of a pious spirituality that covers everything and doesn’t get down to the nitty-gritty.
Men really do long for that, and if there can be a setting where, as Bob described, you get together with a group of guys over a period of weeks, and they probably really honestly – if you’d gone around the room and kind of checked their meters in terms of their trust of Bob when he started that group -- they probably would have said, “Nah. Not going there, Bob.”
But he set the pace by modeling what it looked like to tell the story and to crack open his heart, and as a result men’s hearts were cemented to one another. I think today, in this high-tech, low-relationship world, they’re really hungering for this.
Wes: Guys are really hungry. I do the same thing in our dinner group, which has been together now six years. I’ve made a point of not talking about sex in the group, because that’s what you’re supposed to finally get together and talk about this – until January of this year.
I finally asked the question. I said, “How has pornography affected your view of women?” I said, “Before we answer that question, why don’t we go around the room and talk about when we were young boys when we first saw pornography and what it did to us.”
And that led to this incredible discussion that night where four of the guys in the room had wives who for 30 and 40 years of marriage could not initiate touch, could not initiate saying “I love you,” because they had been severely sexually abused when they were kids or raped when they were teenagers.
And all of a sudden that one question – we weren’t trying to get people to confess their sins, although one guy said, “I’ve had a twenty-year addiction to pornography,” that God was delivering him from it, but he said, “I still fight it.” And so we found, without even asking for a confession, guys willing to share their life, and it was based around this gentle question that then revealed other sorrows of our hearts. It was incredible.
Dennis: I hadn’t really thought of it until you just explained it as you did, Wes, but I wonder, I just wonder if the pornography addiction that occurs today within the body of Christ – I’m talking about believers, people who follow Christ –
Wes: Oh, yeah.
Dennis: Are you with me? I’m not talking about –
Wes: You mean, 50 percent of the guys, for the most part.
Dennis: Yeah, and a huge percentage of pastors.
Wes: And a lot of women now.
Dennis: You just wonder if they were engaged in authentic relationship, what percent it would slash and almost take the power – not totally – but take the power away from the temptation.
Wes: Well, evil has intrinsic power, so like you said, there’s going to still be some power left in the intrinsic evil that is there, but this whole idea of coming open and becoming men through whom light shines freely, that’s a constant maintenance, it’s a constant confessional life, but it would really cut down the kind of troubles that we’re seeing right now.
We’ve got to do something about this. We have got, not to fix pornography, not to fix marriages, although we have to do all these things, but we have to get these things healed in our life. We have to come to a place of openness –
Wes: -- where God is going to reveal himself with power and transform us. You know, about the time that a man has the most to offer in life, he’s ushered to the greatest silence of his life. This happens through sorrows, through job loss, through failures that he’s had, all kinds of things that happen, and by the time a man should be a patriarch he does not even yet know how to be a father.
By the time he should be a man he barely knows how to be a son. As we get older and ought to be rejoicing in the coming springtime of our youth, we don’t even know yet how to be children.
Jesus said some things that are crazy, like “Unless you become like a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” He’s talking about the playfulness, he’s talking about the purity of heart, he’s talking about the simplicity of trust, he’s talking about the kind of complete openness that I think would cut addictions off at the legs.
Dennis: A number of years ago I started going on a hunting trip with a group of guys, total strangers. There have been guys come and go from that group. This coming year we have people standing in line, men who are standing in line to get in that group, and there’s a reason – because that group of men that have come together, started out coming together around hunting. The hunt is irrelevant.
Dennis: It is irrelevant. I’m telling you. What is relevant is there’s a group of guys who have peeled it back, and it’s no bologna. I mean, zero bologna. And there is also, as to your point, no Mister fix-its. I’m thinking as you said that, Wes, how against our natures this really is. Men want to do what?
Wes: Fix it. Do it. Yes.
Dennis: Fix things. We want to get closure on it, and yet what God says, is “I want you to be a conduit of healing, merciful grace, of which you are the chief recipient, because you, too, are broken.”
Wes: And he says, “I’m going to come to your door, and I’m going to knock on it, and if you open it, I’m going to come in and sit down and eat with you.”
Wes: That’s what it says.
Dennis: Imagine that. Jesus at the table.
Dennis: He’s with us.
Wes: And so this thing is so important. The fix-it mindset has got to die. It’s dead already anyway. But we have got to learn how to be with each other. I was talking to a pastor in Michigan not long ago, and I made the comment that I was sorry to see how few pastors really have close friends. And he said, “That’s true,” but he said, “There’s a reason for it.”
I said, “What do you think the reason is?” He said, “Well, we, as pastors, have learned that it’s not safe. You share your heart, somebody goes and talks about it, all of a sudden it’s all over the church and it’s a big spectacle.” And I said, “But on the night that Jesus was betrayed he invited all of his best friends. They were the runaways, they were the betrayers and the deny-ers. He invited them into his presence, and he was such a healthy man that he could invite them into his presence.
He was also the Son of God, but he was a healthy man at that point. We’re looking at healthy manhood. And he invites them into his presence, knowing what’s going to happen. And I am finding; I am slowly discovering this: that the more that I allow God to heal me, the further I get in this journey of healing, the more willing I am to invite men to my table and into my life and into the embrace of my arms who I know could hurt me.”
Dennis: Wes, there are two groups of people listening right now. There is a group of men who need these friendships. There are also women who are listening who are married to the men, and honestly, there is no way a radio broadcast can begin to offer the kind of solution, speaking of fixing it, but appealing to God can provide wisdom. Would you pray for both groups of people here?
Wes: I will. I will.
Father, we thank you for this moment in our life together where we get to speak and people around this country are listening to a message, Lord, that might even seem far-fetched – I can’t get there, I’m not the kind of guy who can ever be in relationship and friendships with people, and I have a wife who doesn’t understand me, and I don’t really understand her.
Father, we together today are praying for both men and women listening to this broadcast who need friends, who need spiritual friendships, who need a transformation of Jesus in their life. Father, I am praying for the women who need to pray for their husbands today instead of trying to fix them, instead of trying to nag them. Father, I pray for these women, that you would bring healing to their hearts.
I pray for my brothers out there. Lord, you want to do amazing things with us as men. I pray that you would give them life. I pray that you would help them to rediscover their childhood, and that they would come alive in you. Lord, this is the miraculous thing that you can do, and I pray that you would transform us, Father, to become the kind of men who actually have friends and who can look in the face of another man and not see a betrayer, but see a man who just like us is weak and in need of a savior, and in need of Jesus to come and sit down at our table.
Father, bless us. We ask you to do this enormous work in us, Lord. We’re so broken and we need you so much. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Dennis: There’s not a man who’s listening nor a woman who didn’t need that prayer, because what you’re talking about here is not – this is not natural. Everything within a man wants to retreat, wants to hide. He doesn’t want to disclose, but it’s taking the key to the prison, as you talked about, and putting it there, and you know what? As a man you can step up. You can step up and step out of that prison.
Bob: Yes. And one of the ways you do that is with the kinds of relationships that we’ve been talking about this week, and the kind that you encourage us toward in the book, Bond of Brothers. We have copies of that book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Let me encourage our listeners: go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on Wes Yoder’s book, Bond of Brothers.
Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. And then let me encourage them as well, get a copy of Dennis Rainey’s new book, which is called Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, where, Dennis, you walk us through five different stages a man goes through in his life, from boyhood through adolescence to manhood, and then to becoming a mentor to other men and a patriarch.
You really give us, not only a vision for those stages of masculine growth, but also call us to move forward in our development as men. And of course we’ve got copies of the book, Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood in our FamilyLifeToday Resource Center as well. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information, or call 1-800-
FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”
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This month, if you’re able to help with a donation of any amount, we’d like to say thank you by sending you a book and a CD, both on the same subject. The book is by John Yates. It’s called How a Man Prays for His Family, and the accompanying CD is a conversation that Dennis and I had with John Yates a while back about this subject. Along with the book and the CD we’ll send you a couple of cards that you can use to help prompt you to pray for your children on a regular basis.
Again, we’re sending these out to those of you who can make a donation this month to help support FamilyLife Today. If you make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com, just type the word “PRAY” in the online key code box, and that will let us know that you’d like to have these resources sent to you.
If you call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone, just ask for the material on men and prayer as you make your donation. They’ll know what you’re talking about, and we’ll get that sent to you.
Again, let me just say thanks so much for your support of the ministry. All of us here at FamilyLife Today really appreciate you listening, we appreciate hearing from you, and we do appreciate your financial support as well.
And we want to encourage you to join us again tomorrow, when we’re going to talk about men stepping up and being the men that God has called each one of us to be. I hope you can be here for that conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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