Nate Pyle currently serves as Lead Pastor at Christ’s Community Church in Fishers, Indiana. He is married and the father of a son, Luke. Pyle is the author of Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood, published by Zondervan in 2015.
STAND: You start your book with the fairly provocative claim that you did not feel like a man until you were thirty-one years old, and that it was an act of vulnerability that enabled you to begin to feel like a man. What is it about vulnerability that helps us be more fully human?
Every one of us has something we’d like to keep hidden. Perhaps it’s a weakness we’re ashamed of, an insecurity making us feel inadequate, or a fear that holds us back. Most of us have been taught to cover these things up by relying on our strengths. We put all our energy into making sure people only see the best parts of us. We bolster our resumes, work longer hours, and put our best foot forward in an effort to disguise our weakness. If we are honest, it’s exhausting.
Not to mention lonely. If we want to be known then we have to let people know all of who we are. Humans are created for relationships. Authentic relationships require vulnerability.
Vulnerability enables us to embrace every part of who we are. Vulnerability isn’t weakness; it is simply the willingness to be fully seen. It’s to embrace the reality of being human: we are not impervious to risk. To live the fully human life is to embrace risk. That’s courage. Yes, running into a burning building or into the heart of conflict is courageous, but so is showing people your weakness. It takes courage to share your hopes and dreams with people who may laugh at you. Opening yourself up to criticism by admitting your limitations is courageous. Those who live the most human are the ones willing to live the most vulnerably.
STAND: Man Enough explores how Jesus redefines manhood. When you consider Jesus and his life, what are some of his qualities or characteristics that are most lacking or needed in men today?
Jesus is the model for what a fully human man looks like. Therefore, there are a number of characteristics that Jesus embodied that men today should emulate. One is the willingness to express emotion. Jesus was not a stoic man. He laughed with children, cried at the death of a friend, and publicly displayed a righteous anger. In our culture, emotions are seen as a detriment to men. They betray us, making us look weak in the eyes of others. The only emotion that is “safe” for men to display is anger. Anger is seen as an emotion of strength. Jesus, on the other hand, used anger sparingly, and when he did, directed his anger toward injustice, creating space for oppressed people to come into the presence of God.
Jesus also shows us the power of weakness. The moment of Jesus’ greatest weakness is also the moment of his greatest victory. We would do well to embrace our weakness so that we would recognize our need for the strengths of others, and the work of God in our lives.
Finally, I would say that Jesus models a completely different way of being in the world. American men are exhorted to climb, conquer, and celebrate their way to the top. Jesus does just the opposite. He descends, denies, and dies. This is the way of Jesus.
STAND: What can fathers do to raise their sons to courageously embrace vulnerability and authenticity, and to embody these qualities?
I have a very distinct memory of sitting on the bed with my son when he was about one year old. I was looking at him, marveling at how much I loved him. Suddenly, a thought ran through my head. “I am going to fail him. There will be times I will let him down. I am going to have to ask him for forgiveness.” One way fathers can raise their sons to courageously embrace vulnerability and authenticity is to model it. Asking for forgiveness takes an incredible amount of vulnerability. When you fail your sons (or daughters) own it. Don’t try and cover it up. Don’t save face. Model that you can vulnerably ask for forgiveness and survive. Teach them, by your example, that authenticity is the key to relationships.
Recently, I took my son to a birthday party where he only knew the birthday boy. While the kids were playing a game and I was standing off to the side talking with other parents, my son came over to me. I knelt down and asked, “What’s wrong, buddy?” He told me that he was scared because he didn’t know any of the other kids. In that moment I could have told him to suck it up. Man up, get over it, and get in there. But I didn’t. I took him off to the side and told him that meeting new people makes me scared as well. I told him that it’s okay to be scared, but that we can do scary things. I reminded him that he is brave. In this way, I didn’t shame away his fear, but, hopefully, taught him to acknowledge it without being limited by it.
Most importantly, we as fathers can affirm the courage our children display when they are vulnerable. Look for it, and when you see, celebrate it.
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