“What?!” all of them replied.
I’d just told them about my consideration for suicide. Josh sat next to me on my left, and he looked at me with pure sadness.
“Dude, why didn’t you tell us this?”
I shot back, “I’ve been telling you guys basically all of my sob stories for the past few months, and it’s not getting any better! It’s like I’m repeating myself in different ways, and it seems like it’s getting annoying!”
“Matt, you know we all love you and we don’t want anything bad to happen to you. There is a reason why you keep coming to this group, and I don’t want anything horrible to happen to you! I already lost one cousin to suicide this week; we don’t need to lose another brother like that. If you need help, you have our numbers!”
Josh had this stern, but loving concern for me as he gave me a huge hug – which, of course, I’m never a fan of. But this Thursday was different. I felt different. So, I just gave in. Just this once.
Every Thursday, I have a men’s Bible study called “He-bros” (they named it; I just entered it). It’s led by two guys, Josh and Taylor. Both are straight, and the whole group is straight – with the exception of myself. The guys have known each other and been best friends since elementary school. Whenever you enter the group, it feels like you’re part of “the guys.”
Before we get into our Bible study each week, we do this thing called “thorns and roses” – what’s been a good thing for you this week, and what’s been a bad thing? Usually, we take 45 minutes of thorns and roses for everybody, then an hour of Bible study.
Trust me, it’s so good for your soul to have a time spot and place to vent all your troubles and triumphs with other men.
Oh! In case you’re wondering, this group of guys does act like your typical “bros.” But in a joyful way.
I came into this group a few years back. Josh, our faithful leader, preached at a ministry night, and I could tell this person was genuine and very down to earth. When that first ministry night ended, I went up to him and thanked him for his preaching; on the spot, he invited me to his men’s Bible study.
Since then, I’ve stayed and never left.
Flash-forward years later to my announcing my suicidal considerations and all of these guys’ appreciations that I was in the group. If I weren’t part of the group, they would have never learned what someone who is gay/SSA (same-sex attracted) experiences and most likely remain ignorant of it.
I was almost done with my turn of thorns and roses, and I remembered wanting to tell them I liked a girl. I just blurted it out: “So, I like this girl, and I think she’s pretty awesome!”
All of the guys were a bit shocked and surprised to hear that come out of my mouth.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Taylor said with your typical, straight, bro-like affirmation. “When did you start liking this girl?”
I told them the story from a few years ago, and Josh said, “Man! This is definitely a surprise! I mean, I think we shouldn’t conclude anything yet, but I think God is giving you some freedom from your past!”
In some way, that was comforting to hear. So, I asked, “What do I do? Should I tell her that I like her or just keep it to myself?”
All of them blurted out, “You gotta tell her!”
One of the guys said, “You won’t know if she likes you back if you don’t ask her! You’ll be kicking yourself and looking back on this situation, asking why you didn’t ask her that question. Even if she doesn’t like you back, at least you’ll know, and you can move on.”
They were right!
I knew I had to get this off my chest! I wouldn’t feel right keeping it to myself, being one of those creepers who kept playing make-believe in my head with different scenarios of how it could have gone down. I couldn’t do that to myself.
“All right, the next time I see her I’ll just be honest with her,” I said. I took a deep breath and exhaled the anxiety out of me, at least for now. Then we went into our Bible study.
The next time I’d see Annie, it would be one of the hardest conversations in my life!
Have you found a community of men with whom you can be vulnerable? Have you ever liked someone of the opposite sex and told that person? How did that reaction go?
Thank you for sharing, Matt! It’s awesome you have the “He-Bro’s” to talk to about anything and everything! That’s definitely a huge blessing. And their encouragement to have the conversation, even though it seems it isn’t going to go well, was a great encouragement. I’m glad you opened up to them. I know you’re not easily vulnerable all the time — proud of you for being so in that moment!
Thank you for sharing this Matt! As an SSA guy who has been trying to navigate my attraction to women at the same time, I am very excited to read this!
My college roommates, who were also my main group of friends throughout college, were the first people I opened up to in a group setting about my SSA. That experience has allowed me to be a lot more open with other guys since.
My experience with girls that I have been attracted to has contributed a lot to my SSA story. Every time I told a girl I was attracted to them I was always rejected, making it easier to give into same-sex lustful desires and challenge my masculinity. There was only one girl in JH that actually reciprocated the feelings, but I was so nervous about actually entering a relationship at the time that nothing became of it. Since I’ve only experienced rejection after that I’ve battled regret of that event. I’ve always wondered if it would be “easier” for me to pursue a relationship with a guy but never pursued it. When I opened up to my college buddies about my SSA and how I feel it influences my interaction with girls that I’m attracted to they affirmed me that it is probably not as significant as I presume it to be. That encouragement has always stuck with me and encouraged me in establishing my masculinity in God and being more bold about opening up to girls that I am attracted to. Though I still have not had success, I’m a lot less shaken by rejection than before.
I like that idea of “Thorns and Roses”. It helps you get stuff off your chest and talk to people about your problems, but it also reminds you to count your blessings and gives your friends something to celebrate.
Yeah, I always look forward to Thorns and Roses whenever my mens bible study group comes around. It’s such a huge relief to get stuff off your chest. Many blessings.
That’s awesome that you have a group of Christian men like that! Especially since they are all straight and are willing to give hugs and whatnot, gosh that’s a needle in a haystack.
Blessing in NM.
Can I be an honorary he-bro??
Thanks for sharing and for your vulnerability. I’m glad you have these men to lean on. I have two groups of guys who love me. My SSA recovery group where I can share anything. And my straight guys group that is local. My 7 straight guys don’t know of my SSA and I’m not planning to tell them. I don’t think they will know how to react-most are not millennials who understand better. But that’s alright, they love me and they give me big hugs when we greet. They are Godly men and I have opened up discussions on porn and masturbation and we have had some vulnerable open honesty. Some of them are struggling with porn, one guy with not being able to get his wife to engage in sex. I have been able to share about how Covenant Eyes keeps me safe and I haven’t masturbated in a very long time. They seem encouraged to find some answers.
Over 40 years ago I was determined to not allow SSA to keep me from marriage. I took a flying leap of faith, as your brothers are encouraging you to do. We have had 39 years of extraordinary marriage (and wonderful sex). I was a nervous wreck on my wedding night, but everything worked as it should and I loved it. Yes, pursue her. Who knows you may be able to encourage young SSA men as I try to 39 years from now?
He-Bros, I love that haha. You are such a great story teller. I NEED to know what comes next!