Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 20, 2006
Clean those burdens out of your closet
A man who has been there tells his audience of men how they can live with integrity
"To be a man of integrity, we must be without burden."
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Jesus exemplified it, Don Henley sang about it and John Ream discussed the way a man can live with integrity.
It's about forgiveness.
Telling someone you are sorry or attempting to understand why someone hurt you perhaps years ago are ways to forgive people. And to forgive is a means to "cleaning out the closet."
"We have to ask ourselves 'Am I the man God intended me to be by carrying burdens?' To be a man of integrity, we must be without burden," said Ream, a speaker on male relationships and on how men can become better fathers.
About 200 men - some visibly moved by Ream's words - attended the sixth annual Men of Integrity conference Feb. 10-11.
To be a man of integrity, one must not be inhibited by painful moments from his past. His family might depend on it.
"We carry a sack of garbage in our relationship closet. The key is to live a peaceful life."
What sometimes compounds the problem of forgiveness is that men are generally reluctant to speak to other men - be they their fathers, sons, friends or business associates - from a level where forgiveness can begin to be manifest. It's easier to avoid the issue, hoping it will resolve itself and disappear.
Forgiveness can be done, but it takes practise, Ream said. The key is to communicate and then let it go.
In a father-son relationship, the role of the natural father is to lead his son to the heavenly Father, Ream said. He must show peace and love for his son as God did when Jesus was baptized. It is difficult to do if he is laden with unresolved issues.
"I love my children because God has blessed me with them. He has lent them to me to hold, to teach and to love," Ream said. "And special needs children are so precious because they reveal to us how (a perfect) God loves us."
Ream grew up in a broken home. His parents divorced when he was young. His father travelled a lot. Ream was never as close to his father as he would have liked.
Anxiety grew unchecked within him for years. His mother remarried, but his stepfather could not fill the role well enough for the young boy. And Ream was sent to live with his grandparents.
He longed for his father until his death more than 20 years ago. Ream was at his side.
All men want to be loved by their fathers, he said. And they want to feel more than worthy.
"Men crave significance. We want to mean something. Did your father make you feel significant?"
A retired marine and former bank president, Ream once noticed how little time he was spending with his wife and children. He was consumed by his responsibility of managing billions of dollars, while the responsibility to his family went largely bankrupt.
Some 30 years ago, Ream was listening to a talk show that discussed the role of fathers in parenting. The speaker said that on average, men barely afforded more than 10 minutes a week of their time for their children. Ream compared it to his own life and the reality hit him right in the heart.
He changed his priorities and began to place more emphasis on his family. In 1980, he began leading Effective Father seminars, patterned after a book he read, yet largely based on his life's experiences.
Now in his seventies, Ream is a highly respected speaker, holding more than 20 weekend seminars a year.
He wrote Velvet and Steel, a book that shares his insights explaining how men can strengthen their families with a kind heart and a moral, ethical lifestyle.
"Bringing the men together gives them an opportunity to examine where they stand in their particular lives compared to the virtues being explained," said Malcolm MacDonell, financial director of Catholic Family Ministries.
A life of integrity
"The purpose of the conference is to encourage and inspire the men and give them the tools to be better fathers and husbands - to strive to live a life of integrity."
When forgiveness was requested, the conference offered the services of nine priests for anyone wanting to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation.
"We are hoping to evangelize them, to go out and invite other men to come to the next conference," MacDonell said.
If a failed relationship continues to keep people apart, the isolated feeling tends to spill over into other relationships causing a similar effect. It can last for generations. There is everything to gain by reaching out in an effort to mend periods of our lives that continue in an unhealthy manner.
Ream suggests writing a letter.
"Take your time. Go to a quiet place and journal your thoughts. You may need help to let go of your load. You can make a phone call or send an email, but a letter does not require an immediate response. He can't hang up on you."