Why men have trouble sharing, being transparent, and opening up in small group meetings.
Lack of transparency in a group is a classic challenge and critical to overcoming. Real transformation in a man’s life will only happen when we go a little deeper by opening up and sharing more.
From my experience, mature men and those who are spiritual leaders can invite this. They are willing to embrace their strengths, weaknesses, and uncertainties at a character level and have no problem sharing these – and some are even good at poking fun at themselves.
But this leaves us with two big questions:
- First, why don’t men open up?
- Second, how do we get them to open up?
These are both great questions, let me try to answer both. Let’s first start with a few reasons why men have trouble opening up.
Why Men Have Trouble Opening Up:
First | They have bought into the macho lie
Men may not be aware of this, but slowly over a lifetime, we do buy into the macho lie. From a young age, we are told philosophical lies that we blindly accept delivered to us in anecdotal statements like “stop being a baby,” and “don’t throw like a girl.” These world-based philosophies then get embedded into our thought, beliefs, and attitudes and before you know it we are passing them on to our children. And we could spend all day on this point alone, but I think you get the point. Men have a wrong or skewed view of manhood.
Second | They have not experienced healthy intimacy
Many men have never experienced healthy intimacy with other men, or women. I know that word “intimacy” is a little strong, but this is what we want – to know and be known. However, in my childhood, I never had a healthy relationship with another man, until my grandfather took me in. And it took me years to push this challenge. It was not until after college, and marriage that I learned some of my first lessons about healthy versions of relationship and intimacy. Many men know what I am referencing. Even today this still affects me in my relationship with my wife. But my wife has slowly, over the last 20+ years, push me to share my feelings, care more about hers, and has got me to open up. And while we may think this is less than masculine, a real man is willing to be open and is not fearful of who is or what others think about it.
Third | They need a safe place, and sometimes groups are not
I hate this one, but we should face reality! Sometimes the men’s small group in a church is not a safe and confidential environment. I know numerous men that avoid these for this reason. And I hate that this prohibits them because we all want the best experience for our men and groups. The unfortunate outcome of this is that men who want community join a group yet maintain surface-level depth and never get beyond facts and opinions to discover the amazement of transparency in a safe environment.
Fourth | They have not seen the incredible benefits
Now there are all kinds of benefits of transparency. One is that when we become transparent we can find ways to navigate and overcome the obstacles of life that keep tripping us up. Just take an Alcoholics Anonymous, where men are forced to look inward, face their issues, and therefore witness the benefits of transparency in community with other men. Men who have never pushed through this miss profiting from the benefits of opening up. I think the 12 disciples experienced the benefits of this more than we realize because they were in each other’s lives seven days a week and almost 24 hours of every day. They were forced into intimacy and could not hide from each other or Jesus, and in doing so, they became incredible men who changed the world.
Fifth | They have too much to hide
There are men in your group that are hiding things. And when I sit in a group of men I always assume men are hiding things. For example, if facts show that 3 out of 10 men in are addicted to pornography and no one is talking about the issue in your group of 10 men then there are men hiding. This is because men either like their sin or are ashamed of their sin. Therefore they feel safer when they pretend to be the man rather than become the man that God wants them to be.
Sixth | They just don’t know themselves well
Often men know lots about sports, work, leadership, politics, and even religion but lack knowledge about themselves. Spiritual knowing is another level of knowledge. It is not information about but intimacy with. And for us to be truly intimate with God, we have to know the truth about ourselves and the depth of our sin. And some men have not genuinely discovered this. And sometimes pointing this out drives them further away.
So what can we do? And how can we respond?
I have found some solutions over the years and here are a few responses to the challenges above. And from experience, I can tell you that they work, especially in a small group environment.
Response #1 | Redefine Godly Manhood – and unlearn the macho lie.
You must redefine godly manhood for men. Jesus was the ultimate man from God’s perspective. While Jesus does not look or act like Rambo, the Gladiator, or James Bond, he is the man that we should be modeling our life after. If you are looking for content that redefines manhood, you need to try our small group series “The Nine Attributes of a Man.” I promise you will never look at manhood the same and these nine attributes we pulled from the teaching and life of Jesus.
Response #2 | Commit To A Long-Term Group – and teach healthy intimacy over time.
Long term commitment works! Men who commit past the early stages of group life will stick, and if they stick, they will traverse issues and challenges together. And if they do this, a man will discover new levels of intimacy.
Response #3 | Meet One-On-One With Men – and bring a safe place to them.
For men who are not opening up, I buy them coffee and invite them to intimacy. And even more strategically I often ask them to share these things with the group. It gives them a push and even a leadership role in the group for a session.
Response #4 | Thank Men When They Are Transparent – and show the benefits to other men.
There is nothing that reinforces transparency better than rewarding the guys who are and do because this teaches the other men how. Thank your men when they open up, and you will discover the group culture will catch on and learn transparency is acceptable and safe?
Response #5 | Have Men Share Testimonies – and bring them out of hiding.
Testimonies are an excellent way to get men to open up and let men discover each other. Add to this a few open-ended questions from the group and intimacy will grow.
Response #6 | Dig Out Sin and Discuss Why – and help them to discover themselves.
I think the words “tell me more” are some of the best ways to get men to take a conversation deeper. As men share more, they also have time to reflect on themselves and the triggers and challenges they face.
In the end, remember we all have issues, and we all need to open up more. So why not take the first step and share a little more transparently with another man. And you don’t have to call it intimacy! You don’t ever have to use it. Call it something else. Call it seeking advice. Call it asking for help. Call it talking out a problem but don’t do nothing. Be the first to take the leap and see what God does.
If you are looking for material for your men’s group or are looking for help with your small group leadership, reach out to us a www.beresolute.org or send us an email.
Vince Miller is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to speak to men’s audiences and has a deep passion for mentorship and God’s Word. He has authored ten books and small group content for men. He is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Reach out to him today if you need a men’s speaker or content for your men’s small groups.