A roll of the eyes. A side-ways glance. A secret gesture. A behind-the-scenes mocking. Blowing off a request. Ignoring. Slighting. Avoiding.
Some people have made the above a modern art-form of spousal warfare. It may be done in public, for the approval of other men or women, or it may be done in the privacy of your own home. It may even be done in front of one's children. The question is...why?
As a business person I see this quite a bit in my day-to-day dealings with employees. You make a simple request as their employer and you get a snicker, a roll of the eyes, and later you learn they were complaining to another associate about the request. "I am not going to clean the restrooms...I am a licensed professional...I didn't go to school so that I would have to clean the bathrooms!" Later, you will discover that either they "sucked it up" and cleaned the restrooms or they just refused and will wait to see if you hold their feet to the fire. It seems that the art of avoidance has reached epic proportions! Of course this happens both from the rank and file to the leaders in management.
I have always appreciated people that were straight-forward and "frank". While some may be put off by this directness and bluntness, I have always preferred the more direct route. This of course has caused me no little trouble, but it has also been a great blessing. My team, my children, and of course my wife, all know exactly what I am thinking and know what to expect from me (most of the time!). I have been nicknamed the hammer for being so direct and blunt, unfortunately, this can also be seen as conceded, prideful, and egotistical. I continue to learn how to be a better leader, while at the same time being clear and forthright.
This desire for "frankness" has also led me to question why so many spouses willingly "throw their spouse under the bus"? Why do we attempt to make our spouses look bad, silly, and out-of-control? I see this quite a bit when I am mulling around with other men. Some men have developed the idea that it is somehow manly to belittle their wife in public. (I also have seen many wives do the same thing, so ladies, you are not off the hook!) I have been part of uncomfortable discussions that are revealing disturbing details of homes that are less than ideal Christian homes where there are constant passive-aggressive power plays. Why would any man (or woman) want their spouse to look bad? What about the whole, two in one flesh thing? Isn't your spouse a reflection on you?
In business I hear many managers complain of troubling associates. They complain that Suzie isn't doing her job, or Tommy never comes in on time, or Joe refuses to learn a new program. Then comes the question, "Well, what are you doing about it?" You get the shy, "Well, I yelled at them." or "I told them once about it...but they just won't so I gave up." or better yet, "I wrote them up and stuck it in their file!" (Of course, they never showed the associate the write-up and never discussed it with them...how helpful is that!? All of this is avoidance, the inability to confront a wrong. Ultimately, it is a fear of disapproval and a lack of compassion for the person. Leaders must learn true compassion, that is, to suffer with the person, while at the same time confronting the bad behavior, and coaching them to the established goals.
It is no different in the home, albeit, when you add love, you add a whole new dimension. As men and fathers we must always have true compassion for our charges, that is our wife and children. We must learn to suffer with them, but that doesn't mean taking their place. Sometimes we must allow our spouse, (or children) to go through a time of suffering in order to grow as Christians. Pregnancy is a time when the mother must suffer, and yet the father is often powerless to "change" anything. This does not lessen his need to be compassionate to his wife. He must suffer with her internally. This compassion does lead to better leadership and he can then serve in his manly capacity to alleviate what suffering he can. This compassion also has a very important role in leadership.
Compassion in leadership, particularly in the home means that the husband and father will have a solid understanding of the suffering taking place in his domain. He will not slough off the little battles that his wife goes through every day to cook, clean, and tend to the children. He will understand how much she does, how hard she works, and how much she suffers. This compassion helps him to know just how much his manly leadership is needed. His exclusive devotion to his wife leads him to be a bastion of strength, fortitude, and decisiveness. She needs him to make decisions, set goals, and guide the family through the turbulent waters of the modern world. She needs him to be bishop, doctor, manager, friend, mentor, guide, and of course, totally devoted to her. What she doesn't need is someone that mocks her and tries to make her look bad in front of his friends.
Ultimately, when a spouse belittles the other spouse in front of others, he or she is flaunting their own failures. They are bragging about how poor of a spouse they are and how sickly the home current is. They are saying that leadership in the home is lacking, both spiritually and physically. The be-littler is saying, "I am a failure and my home is a mess, isn't that funny?!" No, I am sorry, it is sad...let's pick up the reins and try again. After all, practice makes perfect and giving up accomplishes only failure.
So, I am entering a new phase in life. No, it isn't middle age, although it isn't far off. It is that stage when I watch my oldest son throw my youngest son up in the air and am finally learning not to panic. It is the stage when I honestly can't believe my son will soon start to shave. Yes, it is the stage of being a newly christened father of a teen, or as I prefer to say, a new adult man!
This stage is a whole new world that other parents have been prepping me to dread for years. "Enjoy them when they are little" I was told over and over again. "It goes by fast!" I was reminded throughout the past 14 years. Of course the pessimists always added, "It all goes downhill from here!!!" I always took this to mean that teenagers were horrible, wretched beasts that tormented even the best Christian home. They were vile, smelly, selfish goblins sent to punish the sins of my own youth...right?
Well, now I am here, watching my son become a man. He has not had to go through many of the horrible experiences I went through that formed me into a rebellious teen. We are not having to go through the fights over hair, clothing, music, and friends that tore my relationship with my own parents asunder. In fact, so far, so good, as the cliche goes.
As this blog is about manhood, I would be remiss to not include some thoughts on fathering a young man. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I already see so much of myself in my son. What else will he imitate? Am I providing a good model for him to imitate? Am I myself imitating Christ, so as to model true Christian Manhood for all of my children? Let's face it, at some point we realize that we are soooo much like our own fathers, for good or ill. It is tied to the way we learn. Sure we can choose to live differently, especially if we were raised in a less than ideal family. But most of us, will at some point come to the conclusion that much of what we do as a knee-jerk reaction is based on what we learned from our own parents.
So, will my son learn to be a coffee fanatic? Will he enjoy homemade guacamole as much as I do? Will he be struck by motorcycle flu every spring, and yet fight his way through until the weather finally gives up the ghost? Will he love jazz? Will he love to paint? Will he love his spouse more than life itself? Will he pray ardently for his children? Will he love to read and learn something new everyday? Will he pray? Will he learn to love?
The biggest question on my mind these days is: Do I give him enough to imitate to truly live a life given over to Christ and to love God with his whole heart, soul, and strength?