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Living life in abundance

Stock image by Martin Carter
Western culture has tended to divide life into physical, mental, and emotional. Jesus, however, speaks of an abundant life, a total experience from the giver of life.

If men are reticent about going to their doctor about routine physical health at the best of times, where do they find a GP in regards to spiritual and emotional health?

In church tradition, the minister has often been cast in the role of spiritual GP.

Finding your spiritual GP

Caloundra Uniting Church minister Rev Brian Gilbert put forward a definition of spiritual health from the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

The writers defined spiritual distress as the impaired ability to experience and integrate meaning and purpose in life through connectedness with self, others, art, music, literature, nature, or a power greater than oneself.

“That’s a general definition,” said Mr Gilbert, “but it does hold true for us as Christians as we find a specific interpretation of the power greater than ourselves.”

He said the answers to questions of meaning and purpose are defined in the scriptures. But Mr Gilbert said spiritual health professionals (ministers, spiritual directors and pastors) aren’t the only people who can help with personal reflection and finding connectedness.

“The important thing is to have people you can trust, people with whom you can share frustrations and fears, people who will listen and not give pat answers, people who themselves have a clear understanding of God’s purpose or are at least willing to continue to explore this.

“These people may not be professional, but they are true saints and each congregation has them.”

He warned against those who quickly prescribe a scripture verse to solve the problem and suggested we need people who can listen.

A community of men

Peter Janetski is a Brisbane based counselor and Family Radio host. He gets his check-up from other men he trusts.

“For me it is the key blokes who are the core of my community of men,” said Mr Janetski. “These guys are safe enough for me to take the risk to get real about the important matters of my heart.”

He said men who care about the state of their hearts need to be intentional about investing time in these relationships. If a key to men’s spiritual health is connectedness in community, recovering addicts at the Salvation Army’s Brisbane Moonyah programme provide a practical example.

The framework of the program is the HALT acronym. If men are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, they are at risk of spiralling down internally and cutting themselves off.

National Shed Night founder Ian Watson said isolation is the greatest killer of Australian men.

“We go inside ourselves and shut down, then suicide,” he said. “Most of what’s wrong with us blokes is between our ears.”

Mr Watson addressed the Senate Select Committee on Men’s health issues earlier this year.

“I think we spend a lot of time on issues of health, but the real issue of men’s total wellbeing is emotions: the head, heart, spirit and soul,” he said. “Most of my life I spent spiritually dead.

“My head was OK and so was my body, but one day a bloke challenged me, saying, ‘You’re spiritually dead’.

“I thought, ‘Who do you think you are?’ But he was right.”

In 1624 John Donne said, “No man is an island”. Almost 400 years later, clichés about manhood still hold sway: buck up, pull yourself together and tough it out.

Mr Watson said he now sees a resurgence in men supporting one another as community, with a foundation in the scriptures.

Photo : Stock image by Martin Carter