The Longing Little Boy

(Posted 10/2008)
By Alan Medinger, Former Director, Regeneration Ministries

Adapted from July/August 2008 Regeneration News

I suspect that inside every man who grew up to find himself with same-sex attractions (SSA), there is a longing little boy. The boy inside has this longing because certain very important needs that he had were never met at the time they should have been. These needs related to something every boy prizes greatly, something he passionately wants to possess for himself—manhood.

When felt by a young boy, the longings are good and natural. G-d placed them in every little boy so that in striving to meet them, he would develop his manhood. When they are still present in an adult man, and they have great power to affect his life, they are not good. It is understandable that the man still feels these longings because they were never satisfied earlier in life, but for the man to grow in his heterosexual manhood, he is going to have to let go of the little boy, or at least find ways to diminish his power.

The Longings
In different forms from man to man, the boy inside the man longs for: -A man’s approval -Value in a man’s eyes -A man’s touch -Feeling loved by a man -Security in the presence of a man who provides limits and discipline -Acknowledgment and affirmation of the boy’s manhood -Inclusion in the world of men

In the adult SSA man, these boyhood longings may no longer be recognized as such, especially if they have become sexualized and their sexual component has come to the fore. But the heart feels the longings. It appears that the heart (in its broadest sense) has a memory of its own. In a way more powerful than the mind, the heart recalls events and situations that brought great joy or great pain.

For SSA men, on the pain side—and that’s what’s relevant here—are memories of rejection, memories of feeling worthless, unmet desires for touch, sadness over not being included in the world of boys. The list goes on and on of these experiences that were just the opposite of those longed for by every little boy. These wounds intensified the longings.

The needs that give rise to the longings are so fundamental (as they are for every little boy) that left unmet, they can shape a boy’s entire personality as he grows. Unmet needs are a primary source of homosexuality itself. In fact, the area of need felt most strongly often determines the nature of a boy’s homosexuality.  A boy left craving a father’s love might be attracted to older men. A boy who never experienced being valued by men might become extremely promiscuous. A boy never given security, direction and discipline might lean towards masochism.

These needs are found in all boys, and in this broken world they are rarely fully met in many boys. Some boys did not sexualize them but we SSA men did. Why did we? I have some thoughts on this.
  1. Early sexual experiences – Through molestation, experimentation, or just horsing around, we had a sexual experience with a male and found that it satisfied the longing. This was not in any permanent way, and we weren’t thinking in those terms.  We just knew that some hurting empty place in us seemed filled for the moment and that it felt good. 
  2. Exposure to pornography – We read about or saw pictures of sex between two men, and vicariously experienced the same satisfaction described above. (This is why I believe letting pornography fall into the hands of young children is a form of child sexual abuse). 
  3. Passivity – We were by nature passive boys, so when our needs were not met, we turned inward. Contrast that to naturally more aggressive boys who, when thwarted in one place, would go out and get their needs met elsewhere. We didn’t do that and so the need remained unmet. Homosexuality is at its core a turning inward. 
  4. Identity with the feminine – Family dynamics could have left us identifying more with mom than with dad. Or we might have had felt somewhat less masculanized than most of our peers, and so boy things, such as trucks and baseballs, were less desirable to us than girl things, such as relationships and drama. Such a boy could come to picture himself in a feminine role in relationship to men. 
Once the longing was sexualized, the quickest and easiest way to get rid of the painful longing was through sex. The love, the touch, the manhood, the security, the acceptance we craved could all be found instantly in the world of sexual fantasy or in sexual acting out. In the face of the immediate gratification we could experience, the longer term ways of meeting the needs, ways that would actually give shape to our manhood, became less and less an option.

The Longing Little Boy in the Adult Man
If not dealt with, the longing little boy will remain inside the man, exerting considerable control for the rest of his life. This may, in part, account for why so many believe that homosexuality is an unchangeable trait.

Indeed, homosexuality is a form of arrested development, as a man’s boyhood desires continue to control him. Furthermore, many SSA men show by their lifestyle choices that they have chosen to live in a permanent state of adolescence. Of course they are not alone in this; our culture abounds with heterosexually-attracted men who have chosen a life of perpetually “playing around.”

At least in the early stages of their healing, most of the men to whom we minister struggle with the feeling that they are still boys functioning within the world of men. I don’t mean that they have not actually developed many of the qualities of true manhood— they may or may not have—but that they remain troubled by the longing little boy who regularly comes to the surface. Some feel a chronic sadness over whatever needs the boy did not have met as a child.

Gaining Freedom From the Longing Little Boy
Men who have achieved the greatest success in overcoming homosexuality, whether they are conscious of it or not, have dealt effectively with the longing little boy.  Here’s what they have done, or what has happened to them:
  1. They have desexualized their need. This can happen in any number of ways. In my case, G-d did it. My needs did not immediately go away, but they were no longer linked to sexual desire. But this is the exception. More commonly, the man learns to satisfy his needs in legitimate ways—most often through healthy male relationships—and as this happens, the sexual dimension of his relationships with other men diminishes.
  2. They have grown in their own manhood. The powerful attraction that the masculine has for them, an attraction to symbols of the masculine as much as to the real thing, diminishes as they find their manhood in themselves. The longing to possess the manhood of other men fades as their own manhood grows. 
  3. They abstain from sex with men for an extended time. Feeding the old longing through doses of male sex actually increases the longing over time and it perpetuates the sense of being less than a man, in effect, being a boy. Stopping that process breaks the patterns of thinking and habits that have been with them since childhood. Over time the longing little boy speaks up less and less. What felt natural for the little boy, starts to seem “unnatural” for the man. 
  4. They forgave those who had not met their needs.  Unforgiveness keeps us chained to the past, to whatever wrongs we feel were done to us. Forgiveness, besides being a Commandment clearly laid down for us, can be a key to healing of emotional wounds. Continued resentment against a father or against peers becomes a resentment against men in general, and the SSA man keeps viewing men and boys from a wounded little boy’s perspective. 
  5. They renounce self-pity. Like unforgiveness, self-pity, can be crippling.  But it feels so good. It can be used to justify our actions. If we are inclined to the dramatic, we can use it to make ourselves heroic figures. But self-pity keeps us focused on the poor wounded child within us. It makes us want to keep him alive, and so we never move on.
  6. They decide to grow up. This really encompasses all of the above. It may be difficult to do.  You may actually like the little fellow and enjoy indulging him. You may want to hold onto him because he provides a shelter from the demands of manhood. But remember, G-d put all of those longings in boys so that in meeting them they would grow into men. It is the same for the adult man who still feels the pain of those unmet needs.
The voice of the Father in Heaven that calls us to let go of the little boy and to start to grow in our manhood is not a condemning voice, but the voice of One who loves us, who believes in us, and who already sees our potential for true manhood.

In Growth Into Manhood, I presented the picture of a man walking beside his longing little boy and initially refusing  to let him go. Eventually, the man does let the boy go. Because he does so, the man experiences his reward. The boy is healed. He matures. He grows. He becomes The Man he needs to be.

The little boy starts to grow within the shell of the man, and “The little boy within and the outer man will start to come together until they are one solid being, one solid man created in the image of G-d.”1

This is a picture of what I believe each SSA man has to do if his little boy is still in him or walking beside him. This is what must happen if each of us wishes to be set free and to grow into the man that little boy was always intended to become.

1 Alan Medinger, Growth Into Manhood: Resuming the Journey,(Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO, 2000), Pp 181-183.