Like many others, I came to Christ through significant tragedy, both personal and professional. Also like many, I really suffered in having a lack of self-love. No one knew how much I was struggling, given how I carried myself. I lived in a nice house, drove nice cars, had three wonderful kids, a marriage that appeared to be great, a successful career, a busy life, and the appearance of great self-confidence. To those who didn’t know me well, which was all but a very few, I seemed to be on top of the world; all the while I was crumbling inside. I was a wreck. Not being able to comprehend how I ended up in the situation I was in, I was really hard on myself, beating myself up regularly. I didn’t believe in myself and therefore, I didn’t love myself; IO didn’t understand how anyone could love me.
Near the time of my conversion, where I began to understand and internalize the love of Christ, I had attended an event where I heard a man say during his talk from the stage, “You know the guy that you’ve been seeing at Church for the last 20 years; when you ask him how he’s doing and he says ‘ok’…do you know that he’s lying?” He went on to say that we all wear masks, pretending to the outside world about how well we’re doing. He shared with the audience the idea that we compare our insides with everyone else’s outsides. As such, we relate how we truly feel to the facade that is portrayed by others. This really rang true with me.
It was within weeks of that event that I was invited to attend a men’s group at my parish. Wow, what an eye opening, all inspiring experience! Beginning each weekly session in prayer, we worked from a book that incorporated Scripture, the Catechism, a short story, and discussion questions. With the get-togethers consisting of mostly the same men week after week, I could sense the barriers coming down, not only for me but the others around the table. There was a vulnerability that was taking place. Before I got into a small faith group, I thought, “Woe is me…I’m the only one going through these things.” A very valuable lesson I learned was that we all have similar experiences in life; they are just characterized differently.
You can’t imagine how being in that group helped me on my journey. I no longer felt so unique in the tragedies I was experiencing, now knowing what was going on in others’ lives. There was and still is so much comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my experiences. To this day, more than 10 years later, I’m still in a men’s group, with those distant enough to not have an agenda (like family often does), but close enough to support and challenge me, teach and share with me, hold me accountable, tell me the truth, and love me as a brother in Christ. Participating in a men’s group for all of these years, I’m not only a better Catholic Christian, but a better husband, father, son, brother, friend, and man of the Church, in the community, and at work.
I’ve heard it said that you can judge the character of a person by the books he reads and the people he associates with. Surrounding myself with the right type of people in my life has made all the difference in the world. We’re not meant to go through this life alone. Being in a small group, not only do I no longer feel unique in my suffering or all alone, but I get to associate with the very best of our faith, those who really care for me: brothers in Christ. I invite you to join a small faith group. You won’t be disappointed.