In the three year hiatus I took from blog of manly, I noticed something. I noticed it first in the writings of others sharing blog of manly’s lane. It didn’t long, once I spotted the trend before I realized my own writings often shared the same characteristics.
I’m not here to speak harshly to men for speaking harshly to men.
The majority of writing from men to other men – speaking particularly about the Christian writers to male audiences, but certainly not exclusively – is extremely negative and harsh.
I’m not here to speak harshly to men for speaking harshly to men. That would be pathetically ironic and/or hypocritical. But I do want to talk about it.
I’m generally sympathetic to the approach. And as I explored my reaction to the trend, I came up with some perfectly reasonable and healthy explanations:
There’s a connection between training the body and training the mind. If I was really serious about getting in the best shape of my life, I’d find someone like Coach Frank. I’d visit The Cave every morning, and I’d let him kick my ass until I couldn’t take it anymore. It makes sense to apply the same determination and discipline to my mental fitness as I would to my own physical fitness.
We all agree that there’s a war going on. So, the battle metaphor works. Military basic training is pretty rough, so why wouldn’t training for spiritual, emotional, intellectual, relational, and societal warfare be equally rigorous.
The Pastor/Accountable Tough-Love Friend/Mentor/Coach
I’m combining a few categories here because the motivation is similar. We occupy specific roles in other people’s lives. I’ve been a pastor. I’ve been a mentor. I have friends with whom I exercise ass-kicking tough love. I’m sure I’ll coach one day soon. In those roles you must say hard things at times. Telling the truth is always preferable to lying. Telling the truth in an unmistakably clear way toes the line between ego and super-loving, but it’s usually well-intentioned and, ultimately, more kind than being subtle and misunderstood.
Every good blog or article needs a problem to solve. Otherwise, we’re just women talking for talking’s sake. So, let me see if I can maintain my sympathetic disposition of towards men-blogging-to-men while creating a compelling argument.
There. I win.
Because of the sheer volume of voices, any man using the internet for self-improvement is going to be overwhelmed by just how weak, lazy, selfish, addicted, irresponsible, immature, worthless, fat, disloyal, unqualified, adulterous, neglectful, and worthless he is. And that’s just looking am the articles I’ve written.
Men absolutely need to hear hard words. Men also absolutely need to tell the truth to each other.
But as much as men need to have boots to asses, they also need a damn break.
8-10 hours a day at work they’re told what to do, what to do better, and what they’re failing at. Sadly, in many cases that’s probably preferable to the nagging they get when they get home. A “good” man is probably engaged for 16-20 hours a day. Even if his wife isn’t a nagging shrew, he’s still got a home to maintain, kids to raise, cars to service, community obligations, and more.
And for relaxation, he turns to strangers on the internet to beat him up some more? Seems great.
Or how about this:
Men are awesome.
There. I win again.
They build amazing stuff: from the pyramids to buildings that soar above every other building.
They develop technologies that change the world daily: from the wheel to the ability to write a blog entry at 15,000 feet in the air in a flying metal tube.
It’s heavy, yes, but if we let the heaviness outweigh the wonder of it, we’re missing the joy of it all.
They have a fierce instinct to protect. At the risk of being blasted for using the C-word, most men become… cops… and soldiers and firemen to protect people. From running into burning buildings to paradropping across the globe.
Men are a lot of fun. We can turn anything – literally anything – into a sport that will entertain us for hours and days. Don’t tell me that’s not a super-power.
Men raise men. How freaking cool to be a hero to a son, to know that you’re the walking embodiment of what he wants to be when he grows up. What an awesome privilege to teach a boy how to interpret and respond to the world around him. It’s heavy, yes, but if we let the heaviness outweigh the wonder of it, we’re missing the joy of it all.
And I think that’s about it: we get so intentional sometimes. So heavy. So laden with guilt or obligation. So caught up in self-improvement. So overwhelmed by obligation. So burdened by responsibility.
And we miss the wonder of it all.