The Measure of a Man

Is this a real man?It felt colder than normal that morning as I sat in a circle of inmates inside the Chapel of the maximum security prison.  I was the only “free” man in the group and the emotional flow of the discussion added to the chill that was penetrating my bones.  Myself and six or seven inmates sat in a circle on rickety chairs around a tattered rug with a small wood stump supporting a flickering candle in the middle.  The chapel was a large concrete block space, maybe thirty feet wide, fifty feet and with a ceiling approximately twenty-five feet above the cold hard floor.  The main fluorescent lights were off and the secondary incandescent lighting was dimmed to create a somber yet reverent atmosphere.

It had been serval months, over nine in fact, since we had last gathered.  The result of an “incident” on the yard that ended with several injuries and the inmates “locked down” in their cells – no program, no group time.  This was our first time meeting since the “lock down” and the chill in the air was the grief that each was feeling and expressing about a friend who had been murdered during the time of the “lock down.”  This friend, an inmate had been in our group for many years before being relocated to another Yard at the prison where he was brutally killed by his cell mate.  This first circle back was our first opportunity to share our grief and to honor the spirit of this man who had touched each of us in a special way.

An inmate had a picture of our dead friend and he placed it with honor on a heavy wooden chair that we used as an “alter” in the circle.  This chair was never sat in by members of the group and was placed at the head of the circle as a place of honor for the founders of the work we were carrying on.  We took turns expressing our anger and the grief we each felt for the loss of a dear friend and we shared stories about the man to honor the impact he had on our lives.  A touching and cathartic experience for us all.

What troubles me now as I write this is the selfish feelings I experienced that day.  I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of  appreciation for this fallen brother and the respect that each of the men had for him.  My predominate thought, “Will people miss me like this when I’m gone from this life? Will they gather to tell the stories of how I have affected their lives?”  The selfish pain I was feeling underneath the grief for the dead inmate was that the answer to these questions is, “No.”

My wife will often kid me by saying that “people are always talking about me behind my back.”  Her intent is to good-naturedly tell me that I matter to her and her children.  This has been the core of my inner personal work for the past 22-years but it’s not the point of this blog.  The point is, “What is the Measure of Man?”  This is the question that stuck with me after dealing with those feelings, emotions that morning inside the prison

With this question tugging at my soul the week after that circle inside the prison I came across a book that just so happened to be titled, “The Measure of A Man.”  Go figure.  The full title is “The Measure of a Man, Men Mentoring Me,” by Gene A. Getz.

Pastor Getz presently serves as Senior Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church North, located in Plano, Texas and his ministry career has involved a variety of experiences including Christian education and music ministries, college and seminary teaching. He has also authored over 40 books mostly focused on what it takes to lead a Godly life.

“The Measure of a Man” is an excellent read but it’s true value is if the reader uses the text as a basis for a men’s study group.  The book uses the values presented by the Apostle Paul to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:1-7 ) and Titus (Titus 1:5-10) that Paul believed to be necessary for godly men.  Dr. Getz explores each of these values and provides an outline for further group exploration and discussion that if followed will help men to clarify what it really means to be a man.

The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.  2 Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher,  3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money.  4 He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way—  5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?  6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.  7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. 1 Timothy NRSV

I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you:  6 someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious.  7 For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain;  8 but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled.  9 He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. Titus 1: 5-10 NRSV

Dr. Getz has distilled Paul’s letters into the following 20 attribute of a man and then challenges his readers to evaluate themselves in each area. Talk about convicting!

  1. Spiritual maturity (a well rounded man)
  2. Above reproach (a man of good repute)
  3. Husband of one wife (Morally pure)
  4. Temperate (balanced in words and actions)
  5. Prudent (wise and humble)
  6. Respectable (good role model)
  7. Hospitable (unselfish and generous)
  8. Able to teach (communicates sensitively in a non-threatening and non-defensive manner)
  9. Not addicted to wine (not addicted to substances)
  10. Not self-willed (not self-centered and controlling)
  11. Not quick-tempered (void of anger that becomes sinful)
  12. Not pugnacious (Not abusive)
  13. Gentle (sensitive, loving and kind)
  14. Peaceable (non-argumentative and non-divisive)
  15. Free from the love of money (non-materialistic)
  16. Manages his own household well (a good husband and father)
  17. Loving what is good (pursues godly activities)
  18. Just (wise, discerning, non-prejudiced and fair)
  19. Devout (holy, devoted to God)
  20. Self-controlled (Disciplined)

My first reaction was, “there are 20 qualities!” Really?”! I’ve come a long way since my youth and thinking that the only manly quality was physical strength as portrayed by the Charles Atlas ads in the comic books,  but a man is measured by these 20 qualities?  Even with all of the personal growth work I’ve done, first with the New Warrior Adventurer Trainings and more recently the Inside Circle Foundation prison ministry, I had not considered the specifics of what it truly is to be a man in the eyes of God, family and friends.

Dr. Getz’s book opened my mind and heart to the word of God.

“Listen to God’s voice, which is saying, ‘I love you no matter what you’ve done, no matter where you are in your spiritual growth, no matter what your feelings.  I’m on your side, I have not rejected you.  You are my child.  You can become a man of God, and I’m here to help you.’”

Get the book, challenge yourself.  Find a group of like-minded seekers and use the book as a guide for exploring the soul of becoming a man.  Change the world because we need more men who will take responsibility for their lives and not look to or blame others for their situation in life, especially the government.

“The greatest contribution we can make is to be everything God wants us to be as individuals, as families and as local churches.”

In closing I welcome feedback from those who know me.  How do you see me? How do I measure up to the 20 points made by Paul?  Your honesty and truth would be appreciated.

“If you really want to know what I am like, you’ll have to talk to those who really know me.”

(All quotes, with the exception of the two verses from the Holy Bible, are from “A Measure of a Man” by Gene Getz)

Joe Cryns and the Ugly Hawaiian Shirt

No more Hawaiian shirts, but what's up with that hat?

“Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?”

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Remembered

This man shows up at an early San Diego New Warrior Training Adventure in an ugly Hawaiian shirt and he’s reluctant to make the commitment needed to enter the training.  He struggles but participates even though he has doubts.

After the training this man shows up at the “graduation” celebration in Olivenhain again wearing an ugly Hawaiian shirt.  Once more he’s not sure if he wants to participate, especially in the suggested follow-up groups.  After kicking the dirt and jawing for a while he participates in the celebration.

A week later this man shows up at the warehouse in San Diego where we stored the training materials between trainings and where we conducted the post training Integration Groups (I-Groups).  Again, this man shows up in an ugly Hawaiian shirt expressing doubts about this “work” being for him.  At this point I bribe him and he makes the commitment to participate in the eight week I-Group program.

This man was Joe Cryns.

The world is a better place because Joe made those decisions back in the early 90’s however reluctantly and I’m a better man for having had the privileged of knowing him.  Joe’s passing last week is a blessing in that he no longer suffers from the cancer that was attacking his body and a great loss for his family, friends, and those who won’t have the great joy of having their lives “roughed-up” by Joe.

In a recent Blog Posting, “The River Flows Through Me,” I pass along the metaphor, provided by a recent retreat leader, of our dysfunctions being a raging river that is excavating deep emotional grooves in our souls.  In that article I suggest that what is needed to change the course of that river is someone or something to “disturb” the flow and change the course, radically and in a positive direction.  Joe was someone who could “disturb” your life!

Many of the postings since his death talk of Joe’s irreverence, his mischievousness, or how he didn’t follow the “rules.”  They are all correct, Joe was all of that and more.  Once Joe was able to throw off the shackles of his “ugly Hawaiian shirt life” and discover his true self there was no stopping this man from helping others to do the same.  Joe didn’t “color outside the lines” because he wanted to be an anarchist or nonconformance, he did whatever was necessary to “disturb” the person who was struggling, as Joe had, by finding out who they were and what was working and not working in their lives.  And Joe always accomplished this with joy, humor and compassion.

The compassion and sensitivity of Joe is not often discussed but he had a great capacity for both.  You get past the bravado and elfish playfulness and you find a man that cares about life deeply.  Two stories from past New Warrior Training Adventures in Edmonton Canada paint the picture of this side of Joe Cryns:

Trainings in Edmonton always included several members of the local native tribes and this particular training was no different.  Early in the weekend, probably Saturday, a staff member, a native, came running to me and another senior staff member saying that we had a serious problem, the training participants from the tribe wanted to kill Joe!  We tried to calm the man down but he was serious and he began to educate us “guys from the States” that when someone touches a medicine man they must die.  What?  What medicine man?

It turns out that Joe had gone up to the medicine man who was a training participant and gave him a hug, not realizing that the man was considered sacred and should not be touched.    Joe was attracted to his man by his sacredness and not knowing the “rules” authentically expressed his compassion for the man in his own honest way.  Joe was thinking about the man, not the labels or cultural stereotypes and I’m not sure he wouldn’t have still offered the hug even if he knew the “rules.”  Joe wanted to share his love and passion with this man at any cost.  I don’t remember how we resolved this matter other than the obvious – I do remember how Joe owned his actions and stood up as a man.

The other situation I choose not to elaborate on the actual event other than to say that after another training, or it could be the same one in Edmonton (they all run together for me), a group of us where staying at the late Gordon Walinski’s (I apologize for not knowing the correct spelling) house in Edmonton.  We all had flights back to the States on Monday so Sunday night after the training we decided to “party.”  Again, the details about this night are not important in fact I can’t remember who was there except for Gordon, Rich Grahalva and Joe.  What is important was that I experienced a side of Joe that night that I’d never seen before – the speechless, humbled and sensitive Joe Cryns!  That night I discovered that underneath all the bluster, bravado and masculine joking Joe was a humble and sensitive man with depth and caring that most rarely got to see.  For those of you who knew Joe just imaging him speechless and transfixed, incapable of action and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Thinking back on these and many other treasured experiences with Joe I realize that I don’t think of him as having been irreverent, mischievous or undisciplined.  I don’t remember just  the jokes, the bravado, the teasing, the playfulness – What I see and will always remember about Joe is that he was a Man, no adjectives necessary and no more ugly Hawaiian shirts!

An Awakening

Some “New Warriors” on their way to a Network meeting in Northern Minnesota. Phil “Bo” Bocanowski is the second man from the left.

“What the hell have I gotten myself into?  I’m going to have a serious talk with Bo when I find him.  What was he thinking, convincing me to sign up for this ‘Men’s weekend’?  I need to find a way out of here and quick.  This is a crazy place!”

These thoughts and a thousand others, many that I can’t share here were streaming through my head, at light speed, as I stood there amongst a group of men, men I didn’t know, in a large space within an abandoned nunnery located in southern Wisconsin near the Illinois border.  It was a Friday evening, August 3, 1990 and I had traveled from San Diego at the urging of my employer, Phil Bozanowski (Bo) because he thought the experience would be good for me.

“What was I thinking!!!”

I’d only been working for Bo a short time and I didn’t really know him.  All I knew was that he was a successful real estate developer, a bit eccentric and that he was very persuasive.  He had taken an interest in my life and me and he was certain that this “men’s retreat” was just what I needed.  On that Friday night twenty years ago I was scanning the faces of the men, the retreat staff, that surrounded myself and about twenty other suckers who had paid good money to participate in this “experience.”  I finally found Bo, who was on staff, standing next to a man that appeared to be the leader.  I was really angry and I wanted to lock eyes with Bo so that he knew how mad and disappointed I was with him, but he just stood there motionless, staring straight ahead as the “leader” began the process.

I was thinking, “Bo, you wait until I get the opportunity to confront you.  I’ll give you a piece of my mind!” Which was a crock considering that Bo would mop the floor with me if we had had a confrontation.  So I just stood there waiting for an opportunity to escape the madness when suddenly the “leader” called my name, “Oh no!”

That Friday night and the next two days proved to be one of the most significant experiences of my life, an experience that allowed me to become the man that God had always intended (To paraphrase Dallas Willard).  I’m not overstating the situation to say that that night I made a decision to save my life when I answered the call instead of running.

I was forty-two years old when I experienced the “New Warrior Training Adventure” in that old nunnery in Wisconsin and I didn’t know it at the time but my life was in shambles.  I was unaccountable, I was constantly afraid, I was shy, I was repressed emotionally and I didn’t really know what it was to be a man.  I took advantage of people to keep myself “safe” and I was failing as a husband, a father and as a businessman.  I was at the end of my rope and Bo recognized this and kept after me about this “experience” he had had that made such a profound difference in his life.

So as I stood there on that hot muggy Friday night and I heard my name called I made a choice, based on what little trust I had for Bo, to answer the call instead of running which would be my typical reaction.  I stepped up and allowed myself to be exposed to these men and to see through their eyes, through their hearts, through their courage what it really meant to be an authentic man, to be Bob Petersen.

Through that initial experience and all the subsequent experiences with the New Warrior Training Adventure I learned what it means to be accountable, to be responsible for my actions, that my actions have consequences that affect other people, especially people I love.  I learned how to live a life of integrity, honor and courage.  I became emotionally literate and most of all I discovered my true self and that I had a purpose here on earth.

Sitting here in a San Francisco hotel room on the twentieth anniversary of my initiation into manhood, I’m feeling connected with all the men and all the experience I’ve had over these past two decades.  And I’m especially thankful for the opportunity that Bo gave me, both professionally and spiritually. I’m often asked why I continue to donate my time and talents to help men find themselves.  My answer is that I’ll never be able to repay the debt of love and gratitude I owe for the opportunity I was given to save my life  on August 3, 1990.

Thank you Bo, my brother from another mother.  I hope and pray that you hear and feel my love and my gratitude.