Hugs. Tears. Goodbyes. After two days of intense emotional work and mental processes, I got in the car with the two men I was driving with and, for the first time in two days, I checked my phone for the time. Literally the first time. For the 48 hours previous, we’d had no phones, no watches, nothing electronic (other than perhaps a flashlight). 48 hours of seclusion from the outside world. 48 hours of work. 48 hours of betterment. 48 hours called Journey into Manhood.
I arrived at a camp in the mountains in the Salt Lake City area along with the two other men in my car. The three of us, along with about 30 other “journeyers”, had hit a point in our lives where we felt stuck, complacent, unproductive, etc. As it is advertised as a healing weekend for men who want to deal with unwanted same-sex attraction, most men who attend Journey into Manhood (JiM) have SSA. However, I’ve known men who are completely straight to go as well. It’s because very little of the exercises and processes during the weekend pertain directly to same-sex attraction.
Every person has scars. Every person has wounds. And in my opinion, every person in the world could use therapy to some degree to resolve those wounds (if you disagree and don’t think you have wounds, I’m happy for you, but in my experience most (if not all) people have some weight that they’re carrying).
Because of the confidentiality agreement that I signed when I went to JiM, I can’t divulge any of the specific processes we did, but I do want to share what the weekend did for me:
|My "Golden Boy" (first day of first grade)|
For months now, I have been aware of my previously unconscious belief that I was unlovable. This belief grew out of years of being teased, excluded, and abandoned by peers. Eventually I became conditioned to believe that each friend, each classmate, each acquaintance would abandon me and/or toss me aside as I’d experienced in the past. At JiM, I had a chance to look very deeply at the shadowy parts of myself and could very easily reaffirm those negative beliefs about myself. However, that was also contrasted with exercises that helped me see my strengths, my good qualities, the golden parts of me that make me a person that people like. More importantly than that, they showed me why I should like myself. For so many of us, it was the first time in years that we had seen a glimpse of the little golden boys we’d been before we began to be scarred, wounded, and disillusioned to the world. I used to be confident, I used to be adventurous, I used to be outgoing, and I used to love myself. Having seen a glimpse of that boy who used to be all those things, I was reminded that he’s still there… and I can be him again: confident, brave, loving, etc.
When I first joined North Star in May 2012 (wow, it’s been over a year!) and started attending my Evergreen group the next month, the thing that blew me away and helped me the most was realizing that I wasn’t alone. That feeling has come and gone over the past year, some days feeling lonelier than others, but being at JiM with 31 other men who were willing to work through issues that were holding them back in life (wounds from abuse, bullying, dysfunctional family life, etc.), I felt connected, blessed, and accepted. And this joyful feeling was common among the men there. Some of them, it was the first time in their lives that they had ever felt like that.
By the end of the weekend, I felt energized. I got in the car at 5:50pm and “officially” re-entered reality, I was on a high. The best thing I can compare it to would be when I went to EFY as a youth… but even more so. I was able to connect to my God that weekend… and I think a lot of it had to do with coming to believe to a greater extent that I was worth His time. Those 48 hours were not the end to my problems. I have a lot more emotional work and processing to do before they’ll be done (and they’ll never be done in this life, I expect). However, I feel that JiM has given me the tools to do that work and the brothers I need to help me with my work.
Now, here’s my plug for JiM (and this goes to men who deal with SSA and those who do not): If you have scars and issues from your past that hold you back from being the whole man that you want to be, I recommend looking into it. I’m not going to be the guy who insists that every man on North Star should go to JiM or that every man needs to… but if you are considering it, I say go! You won’t regret it! It changed how I look at myself and at others and it’s in that way that life gets better, by changing me, even if “change” never means becoming straight.