Our spiritual confrontation beings with ourselves. No matter what we think, what we say, pretend, imagine, or fashion, we have self-destructive tendencies—and we all face death. There is no going around it. Like the second son, Cain, self-destruction crouches at our door, waiting to devour us. If we submit to it, we fall short of our destiny, hurt ourselves and others, and reap the bitter harvest. Eventually, it kills us.

But we are called to master it. The only way for us to survive is by facing our mortality, and surrendering it into the capable hands of another.

If we survive our mythic confrontation, there is transformation.

Something changes when we face the bear, when we face our own mortality. Once we face our worst nightmare, nothing else seems as daunting. Once we confront our darkest fears, we can face anything else. We no longer have to convince ourselves that we’re not afraid. Fear still exists but has lost its grip. It will be back, but the confrontation and transformation stands as a steel H-beam, bracing us against the storm.

The men who live through confrontations exude quiet strength.

They don’t have to prove it on Twitter or Facebook, or by being the guy who “one-ups” everyone else at parties. When you’re around them, they feel less like a pro-wrestler wannabe and more like Mike, my Kodiak guide. There is something settling, something calming about him.

People usually can’t describe this type of strength, but they can feel it.

There is something trustworthy about this man. It’s not that he never makes mistakes, but you can count on him. Others look to him for guidance or wisdom. Even without seeing his resume or job title or social media pedigree, they sense his fortitude.

The uninitiated man often lives in constant competition, trying to prove his strength and worth to others and to himself. He derides other men and is a cynic, tearing down and belittling, living in envy of others’ success. At the heart of this man are fear and lack of initiation. This man has never found his strength, and tries desperately to posture himself above others, convincing himself he has it.

Heroic-PathThis article is an excerpt from the book The Heroic Path: In Search of the Masculine Heart by John Sowers. Read Chapter 1 of The Heroic Path John Sowers is President of The Mentoring Project as well as an author and frequent speaker, regularly advocating for positive role models and communities to invest in their own young people. Hi is the author of Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story and The Heroic Path: In Search of the Masculine Heart. John received his Masters of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and his Doctorate from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He is active on Twitter and Instagram as @johnsowers and lives in Oklahoma City with his wife and two daughters.