At Mentoring Men, we’re privileged to guide men worldwide through the most challenging times of their lives. In the process, we help each man distill his complaints and symptoms and uncover his fundamental frustrations and unmet needs and desires.
When we first meet these men, they’re convinced they have specific problems like:
- Being unappreciated/disrespected/overlooked
- Feeling alone even though in a relationship or in a crowd
- An angry, cold, distant wife or partner who doesn’t seem to like them, let alone love them
- Not receiving warmth/attention/affection/touch/together time/sex/intimacy
- Their wife/partner spending too much time on her phone/with friends/with the kids/etc
Naturally, men at first believe they need more of the things they’re not experiencing. More appreciation, respect, together time, warmth, closeness, attention, affection, touch, intimacy, sex, time, and more.
But these actually aren’t needs. Though these things aren’t insignificant, no man dies for not receiving them.
In truth, these are strategies to meet deeper needs – things that haunt a man’s soul at the fiber of his being. It’s not that he feels he will die without them, but that he won’t live if he doesn’t experience them.
Routinely, the men in our care discover that what they’re missing and that has been frustrating them isn’t an angry cold wife, a sexless spouse, a wife that doesn’t respect him, being unappreciated, taken advantage of, or alone – it’s that they feel disconnected.
Men feel disconnected. Men want to feel connected. Men seek connection. All their complaints generally point to feeling disconnected. Everything else is just the fruit of not feeling secure in their connections.
Are we really disconnected?
Despite feeling disconnected, I believe we are all constantly and permanently “connected” whether we think it or not.
Things like quantum physics are helping humanity understand that it’s impossible not to be. Everything is energy at the very fabric of the universe, and it’s all connected, flowing, and moving in harmony.
Yet we don’t live as though this is true, do we? Instead, we live as though we are disconnected – and it’s showing up in the lives of men, women, and children all over the world.
Connection is one of, if not the most profound thing people seek. Yet, we all seem to have a barrier to connection within ourselves.
I believe this barrier is shame, the belief that there is a standard for being connectable, and we don’t measure up to whatever it is.
The relationship between shame and disconnection
I believe we have shame because of one specifically pesky habit we learn in our childhood and maintain throughout our days: judgment.
Judgment is this ability we possess to sort through the information of our experiences and decide if something is “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong,” etc.
Despite having this capacity to make such distinctions, we need more scope and breadth of information to do it accurately and reliably when judging complex things like the hearts and minds of human souls.
To do that, we need omniscience – something we clearly don’t have. Thus, judgment creates substantial challenges for us because we have the capacity to judge but are missing the vital ingredients of all the information.
Good judgment requires good knowledge
Imagine if we elected a four-year-old as a Supreme Court Justice. How well do you suppose they’d perform this task? Clearly, they lack the wisdom, insight, experience, and knowledge to make wise judiciary decisions.
Likewise, humans often judge “above our paygrade” and with devastating consequences.
Judgment can be helpful if we just did it to determine whether a plant is toxic vs. tasty or if milk is spoiled or fresh. It’s useful when determining if a used car is worth buying or looking for another. It’s helpful when determining the falsehood of the email in our inbox suggesting we’re related to a Nigerian prince and are due a substantial inheritance.
But we tend to use judgment to make far deeper assessments, ones we aren’t qualified to make. We have the cognitive process of judging nailed but lack accuracy and competency when judging deep things accurately – like human souls, motivations, and intentions.
Whenever, wherever, and whoever we judge, we disconnect.
Read that again.
When we judge that the milk is spoiled, we disconnect from it.
When we judge the plant as toxic, we disconnect from it.
When we judge the wife as toxic, we disconnect from her.
When we judge ourselves as toxic or spoiled, we disconnect from ourselves.
This pattern is reliable in life; whatever we judge unfavorably, we disconnect from:
- Judge self, disconnected from self.
- Judge our wife, disconnected from our wife.
- Judge our friends, disconnected from our friends.
- Judge our neighbors, disconnected from our neighbors.
- Judge our brothers, disconnected from our brothers.
From talking to a lot of men, it’s apparent that we do a f*ck ton of judging! Hence, we also experience a f*ck ton of disconnection.
This is because disconnection is proportional to judgment.
Where our judgment begins
We begin our judgment careers early in life – by judging ourselves, sometime around seven or so, once we become self-aware.
This means we have our most long-standing judgment-based disconnection with ourselves too.
We judge ourselves harshly, unfairly, and inaccurately. One of the reasons we do so is because our standards of judgment are limited to what we know and experience from the world around us; our worldview. As kids, our worldviews are pretty immature. We think Santa is real; reindeer can fly, a giant bunny hides plastic eggs, and storks deliver babies.
Our worldview as kids are limited and filled with misunderstanding. They’re full of our parent’s dysfunction, our cultural norms, family bias, assumptions, conjectures, associations, and correlations that make sense to our young, inexperienced brains but, in reality, are feeble.
These feeble judgments we begin making lead us to declare some pretty horrible things about ourselves. We often conclude that we’re inadequate, not enough, broken, hopelessly deficient, behind repair, toxic, and spoiled. Others conclude they’re better than others, more deserving, and entitled to privilege for their greatness.
And so, in our judgment of ourselves, we begin setting the stage for disconnecting from ourselves and others. We disconnect from what we judge.
In our state of disconnected judgment, we become victims suffering at the hands of our harsh internal critique or an elevated sense of self that others won’ acknowledge. What do we always seek to end our suffering victimization?
Heroes who will rescue us from our disconnected state!
Where we disconnect within, we seek rescue without
As we disconnect from ourselves, we begin to declare and cement an idea: that we’re not trustable or capable of meeting our needs, wants, and desires, so others must do so for us.
We begin looking outside of ourselves to others. We look for heroes.
In our blindness, immaturity, and inexperience, we build or accept stories into our worldview where what we need to be happy, complete, and thriving comes to us instead of through us. After all, it can’t be us, right? We’ve already judged ourselves as unworthy and incapable of sourcing these things, and our brains begin to operate on this as belief.
Thus, we begin bidding for the connection we seek in those we identify as heroes. We bid with gifts, compliments, deeds,, adoration, and even what we ironically often call “love languages.”
Yet we aren’t often truly loving these heroes at all! We’re dependent on them! We want something from them! Thus, we begin seeking ways to manipulate them to get it.
We form covert contracts or recipes and “love languages.” Things we can do to get them to give us acceptance so we can return to feeling connected.
“My partner appreciates ‘acts of service’. Maybe, if I do the dishes, she will finally put their cell phone down, give me affection, and I can feel okay? If I mow the lawn, she’ll appreciate me and want to be intimate, and I’ll feel good”.
“My partner appreciates ‘physical touch’. Maybe if I hug her, she won’t have a mean look on their face that makes me feel unloved. That look makes me uneasy and worry that she’ll stop loving me and I’ll be alone.”
These inner narratives are largely subconscious and escape our attention, but often precisely how we move through life.
We’re not suggesting anything is wrong with love languages by the way. Not at all! Instead, we’re saying that what we often call “love” is a dependency-based form of trying to get something from others ultimately – connection!
That kind of “love” doesn’t last. It leads us to judge how well our “lover” is giving us our needs. What we judge, we disconnect from, and often, disconnects from us.
Women that say things like, “I need space,” “I love you, but I’m not ‘in love’ with you,” “I want a separation!”, “I want a divorce” and create distance because of feeling disconnection – the mutual disconnection that results from judgment; ours for them and theirs for us.
(Take heart! When one partner puts an end to judgment, it begins to restore connection, even if the other partner continues to hang on to their judgment for a while. We see this over and over again in the lives of men we mentor.)
No amount of love language proficiency fixes feelings of disconnection
It is the natural tendency of most people to look at others are the source of their suffering. For men, this results in blaming their partner. They think that because she judges them that they’re disconnected.
By far, one of our most complicated challenges as mentors us to help a man realize this is a fallacy.
We are disconnected from others, including our partners, but blaming them is misguided and, more often, just childish immaturity rearing its head.
In the hundreds of men we help to restore their sense of self, well-being, and relationships, none does so while hanging on to judgment and blame for others.
We’re disconnected because we judge ourselves. We then create dependencies on others, seeking their fixes for the consequences of our deep self-judgment.
But others can’t fix it. They can only offer very temporary relief!
Because the people we look to (usually partners) are as disconnected as we are. They’re incapable of being a significant source of acceptance, especially as people who seek acceptance also.
What makes the approval of your partner particularly connecting?
Brother, there are eight billion people on the planet…How many people do we need to be accepted by to feel okay?
Each of those eight billion people is just as fickle, unreliable, and impotent as we are. They struggle with judgment, rejection, and self-acceptance too. How can their acceptance ever meaningfully overcome our judgment and rejection of self?
Nevertheless, we keep trying the same tired, ineffective approach repeatedly.
We also keep looking to people who seem “higher up” to us, believing the acceptance and validation of those we believe are above us might restore our sense of connection.
If they approve of us, we must be okay! If we’re okay, we can be connected, or so our thinking goes!
Judgment of self becomes the lens through which we see others
Self is the lens through which we see the world and others.
In our disconnected, rejected state, we tend to see everyone else through the lens of our judged self. We feel judged, and so we see others with judgment. We judge because we’re judged.
We also judge others because we feel insecure. We judge anything and anyone we perceive as a threat to our acceptance and, thus, connection. They’re horrible and evil if they don’t give me what I need. We judge our parents, siblings, partners, neighbors, and friends.
We also judge others where we see an opportunity to stand out as better than others and thus feel more worthy than them for acceptance. This, too, is our insecurity rearing its head.
Regardless of why and how we judge others, the moment we do, we disconnect from them, also.
In this way, the sad irony is that more judgment results in more disconnection, which results in more hopeless, dependency-based connection-seeking and more judging of those who can’t or won’t cooperate in our quest.
That leads to deeper feelings of judgment and more disconnection!
How does it stop?!
Judgment disconnects. Acceptance reconnects.
Relief happens we move away from judgment.
When we release judgment, we find acceptance and connection are there. They are our natural state when not judging.
Acceptance does not mean we must approve and enjoy everyone and their actions and behaviors. It means that we let go of judgment of them as persons.
If means we let go of the need to classify their souls as “good” or “evil.” It means we recognize that we’re not qualified to do this, can’t read human hearts or minds, and leave this kind of judgment to more qualified powers than me.
Whatever we stop judging, we stop disconnecting from.
Whatever we accept, we can connect with – people, ideas, and circumstances alike.
If we release judgment on ourselves, we’re left with acceptance of ourselves. Accepting ourselves allows us to experience connection because we’re no longer rejecting ourselves.
Acceptance of self is, therefore, the first and most vital step in overcoming disconnection.
“Yeah, but… shouldn’t we judge ourselves sometimes?”
Should we ever judge anything?
I judge my behaviors and actions to see if they align with my values and understanding of truth.
I judge ideas or information likewise (though I’d call that “discernment”).
I do both of those constantly and believe them to be good.
Why? Because judgment disconnects, and there are lots of instances where disconnection is a good thing!
When I judge my poor actions, ineffective behaviors, and unhelpful habits, I disconnect from them.
I disconnect from an idea if I judge it as impotent and powerless to create good things, an error, or even evil.
These are instances where we should judge. Yet notice this is not the judgment of human hearts and minds.
Yeah, but… isn’t it okay to judge others sometimes?
Judging other people’s ideas, actions, and behaviors has its place, too. I believe we must be careful to do so as it relates to ourselves and without judging the person’s substance. We must judge only our experience of a person while holding fast to not judging the person themselves.
We derive benefit from judging how we experience others but get no benefit from judging human souls and only internal, toxic results the more we do so.
This subtle but essential distinction allows us to disconnect from the ideas, actions, and behaviors we don’t appreciate or value while keeping our emotional and mental state clear of toxic debris.
We can use this to recognize when being in a relationship with someone doesn’t serve us and disconnecting the relationship is in our best interest. We can (and should) use this to help guide us in choosing who we relate to, for what reasons, and for how long.
Yet we can do all of this while maintaining high positive regard for the person by refusing to classify the substance of the person as “evil,” “bad,” etc.
For example, if my neighbor allowed their dog to damage my property, the judgment of how I experience those behaviors is reasonable.
“I don’t like dogs damaging my property. I find it distasteful when neighbors don’t control their dogs. I wish they’d not allow that to happen.”
However, I err and begin accumulating toxicity within if I begin to judge the substance of my neighbors by these actions.
“I find my neighbor’s actions and values distasteful. Come to think of it… What kind of deadbeat assh*les would do this?! They must think I’m a pushover or something. What a bunch of lousy human beings for letting their dog destroy my property. I’ll show them… see if I purchase Girl Scout cookies from their kid this year. They can go f*ck themselves!”
(sorry for the harsh speech, but this is what our inner narratives are often like, is it not?!)
We think we are judging accurately when we do this, but we’re not.
My neighbor could be unaware, sick, injured, preoccupied, or a hundred other things that could distract them from what their dog is doing to my property.
We are making it about us when we experience these moments with judgment. We taking it personally. We think we are experiencing “reality,” but we’re just experiencing our thinking.
We are projecting our insecurities and self-judgment into the situation, assuming that the person we are judging feels the same way about us that match the stories we’ve told ourselves repeatedly through life.
The moment we fall for that, we judge the other person. What happens when we judge? We disconnect!
We create more of our own suffering when we judge.
To stay connected, we must stop judging souls
If we are going to experience connection, we must cease the unhelpful practice of judging the hearts, minds, and souls of others.
That includes and must begin with ourselves!
We are not qualified to judge the substance of hearts, minds, and souls and always do it wrongly.
There is no way to validate our conclusions.
No value comes into life from doing so, and it always ends up creating more feelings of disconnection.
Worse still, our resulting disconnection leads us to create more external dependencies upon others to soothe the results of our disconnection.
Instead, we must diligently guard our hearts against all forms of the judgment of hearts, minds, and souls, including our own.
The more we stop judging, the more connected we are with ourselves and the more connection and presence we experience with others.
Do you desire this? We do, and we continue to experience it daily!
Beautiful things take place when we help men release judgment on themselves and those around them. They become powerful agents of change. They expand. They Create. They flourish and prosper personally, relationally, and professionally. They heal long-held personal and relationship wounds.
They gain self-respect, self-love, self-trust, self-reliance, and self-confidence – all of which suffered significantly from judging themselves.
This renewed sense of self, free of toxic thoughts and emotions, leads to connection. Deep connection.
Many of these men find their newly-created acceptance for themselves, and others also begin repairing what previously looked like a hopelessly broken marriage. They sow acceptance and connection and see the fruit of this grow in their lives.
Do you need help letting go of judgment and accepting yourself and others?
At Mentoring Men, we specialize in guiding men on journeys that help them overcome unhelpful, ineffective ways of being they’ve gained along their journey, including judgment.
We lead men through a carefully curated transformative process that…
- Repairs and restores a man’s heart and mind.
- Improves his relationship with himself and others.
- Shows him the path to an intimate, deeply connected, emotionally and physically satisfying romantic relationship.
- Propels him forward in discovering and fulfilling his purpose and mission.
If you’re ready to start your journey? Schedule your complimentary, No Bullsh*t clarity call today and start experiencing more connection today.