Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Glimpse into the psyche of a half-decent guy (for the ladies; reposted)

Repost from 4/23/2007, slightly edited

PREMISE: What follows all depends on whether you can imagine that I'm a half-decent guy. If you can't... well... maybe I'll post something of value to you later on. I move from there; whether you move with me is your call.

NOTE: this was written ten days ago.

BACKGROUND: It's been another brain-frazzling week. I think I've managed a couple of posts at the Greek site, one at Pyro, and one here. Something like that.

Last night at Karate I re-injured my knee. I've been limping around since March 19, when I injured it dealing with four "assailants." It's taking me forever to get into the doctor's office. Meanwhile, I've re-injured it three times now, just doing normal things. (What did it last night wasn't actually any Karate move; it was just the reckless, wildeyed, irresponsible act of turning around. Yeah; getting older is great!)

So I'm hobbling around in my house with a cane. My wife very sweetly went out to get me a leg brace. So I go to my pc to check a couple of things, one of them being the Pyro blog. On that blog, I see this sweet post from Phil, wishing Darlene a happy birthday.

I was glad to see it. Usually, Thursday is one of "my" days at Pyro, but I really didn't have anything in my brain worth giving, so I was happy to see Phil posting a couple of times. And I think it's about Frank's turn, perhaps to go on with his promised series on apologetics. So I was a bit relieved — because, as I said, I didn't have anything. Besides, it was about bedtime, and there wouldn't be any time to do anything, anyway. Bedtime for me is a firm time, since I have to get up at 3:30am.

But then I see this:
Ay yi yi.

Oh boy, so what do I do? I had nothing. My brain is an empty coffee can, without the nice aroma.
I looked where I keep my under-development posts. Is anything ready to go, or close to it? Ohh, wonderful. Nope. Nothing.

So what do I do?

Well, I think very highly of Phil. His confidence in me means a lot to me; it matters to me. He's depending on me to come up with something. He's trusting in me to deliver.

So I take a breath, I pray, and I start thinking hard. Then I come up with something, off the cuff, on the spur of the moment. I typed fast and furious last night, then woke up at my usual time, and finished it this morning.
Why? Because Phil expressed confidence in me. That it was so public honestly didn't matter at all. It would have been the same in an email, a phone conversation. He was trusting me to come through for him. He honored me. I had to deliver. (Whether what I came up with is any good is for God and you to decide.)

"And this is 'for the ladies,' how, exactly?" Every woman will have some sort of tension with her man. She'll have some desire to dominate him in some way (Genesis 3:16), to disrespect him. He won't live up to every one of her expectations. He won't conform to her will in every regard.

So, what to do?

I'll put this positively, for whatever degree I'm representative of my species.

What gets the most out of me? Respect. Trust. Confidence. When someone expresses confidence in me, shows trust, shows respect, that is when I feel the most driven to give 110% or more. Both of my bosses at work have done so recently, and it really made me want to justify that confidence. And that's just my bosses. The more a person means to me on a personal level, the greater the effect. It unerringly has that effect when my dear wife gives me a "You'll do great"-type pep-talk, for instance, before a challenging situation. Her confidence and trust mean more to me than any other mortal's.

I think all at-least-half-decent men are basically the same. Trust spurs them to do more. By contrast, expressions of mistrust, disrespect, evil-eyed suspicion are likelier to tear down, dishearten, and crush men. Or if they're absolutely convicted that they're on the right course, they have to dig in their heels and grimly trudge on (to mix metaphors). But they're less likely to be hearing a critic who has already so severely misjudged them.

Isn't this along the lines of what Peter says in 1 Peter 3:1ff.? Remember, he's talking about a situation of actual sin. And in such a situation, he doesn't encourage the wife to tear her husband apart with her sharp tongue, nor to berate him, disrespect him, unman him, rip him to shreds. No, he urges her to shush, and show him quiet, devoted respect. (Read a lot more about that here.)

And that is in cases of sin — which, if we're honest, isn't where most marital friction arises.

For a half-decent man, do what Peter says. Express respect, trust, confidence. As far as you honestly can, cheer, don't boo. Build (Proverbs 14:1), make him feel like a king (Proverbs 12:4). The Proverbs 31 lady's husband didn't end up in the gates with the Big Dogs, by his wife telling him what a loser he was. It was because he could trust her goodwill towards him completely (31:11-12).

Be your husband's cheering section. A half-decent man will knock himself out living up to it.


Rachael Starke said...

Okay. I'll take the radio silence as a sign I should ask the question that I've been pondering all day on this one.

What if he doesn't currently isn't doing any of what you'd dearly love to be cheering him for? I'm not talking about taking out the trash. I mean things like praying with you spontaneously, praying with/admonishing/exhorting the children, generally living out Deuteronomy 6:7. What if you've done the "presumptive close" on things like devotions, and prayer and gotten, well, inertia?

Not that you would disrespect him and actively berate him. But you can't cheer for a guy who's still sort of standing at the starting blocks, looking out at the view.

Wendy said...

I certainly have no qualifications to answer that question, but maybe you could a) pray that God would show you a specific way to cheer your husband on - maybe there is something he's doing that you haven't noticed, or something else that would reach his heart and b) pray that the Holy Spirit would encourage him onward and upward.

And then just leave it to God to change both your hearts.

(I obviously haven't a clue though :)

Susan said...

(And then there are husbands who are so stubborn and set in their ways that they take every decision-making question from their wives and children as a challenge to their authority. They refuse to listen to their families' concerns and insist upon doing what they themselves want. And then they wonder why their loved ones are upset at them or have stopped talking to them all together.

But you did say "half-decent" guy. I hope I'm not being too offensive when I say that when men are in the perpetual state I described above, they aren't exactly being too decent.)

Susan said...

(And perhaps I should clarify: I'm not saying that the kind of men mentioned in my first comment don't deserve one iota of encouragement. It is hard, however, to cheer them on and encourage them when they remain so bullheaded. They can sense the lack of encouragement from their family keenly, but when they are exhorted to change, they refuse or pick fights, at which point anger mounts and a blow-up eventually occurs, and they sometimes cave in begrudgingly, but not before they've hollered and complained that they're not being respected and treated with dignity. It's really a vicious cycle.

And I'm typing all this within the parentheses to show visually that I'm not trying to shout. I'm just quietly spilling out thoughts that have accumulated over the years from situations hitting too close to home.)

Lisa said...

Mr. Phillips, I have the utmost respect for you as a writer, and I have extreme confidence that you will soon publish a kindle version of your book, God's Wisdom in Proverbs. :)

Rachael Starke said...

Oooooh. Lisa FTW! :D

Susan said...

I was going to let Rachael have the last word, but I just can't get over how dense I was. When I read Lisa's comment earlier today, it didn't click. Thanks for clearing it up, Rachael, and Lisa FTW indeed! :)

Z said...

Don't forget respect and encouragement for a half decent kind of gal.

DJP said...

Oh my gosh, I'm so dense I didn't even get what Lisa did until the chorus came in. Nicely-played, sister. (c:

Rachael, I'm forced to disagree courteously -- and my regard for you is such that I wonder if you're deliberately serving me that pitch, so I can take this swing.

If a woman's husband has NOTHING for which to commend him, then that means he isn't even keeping the bare minimum of the marital covenant's requirements, and we're looking at a whole different picture.

Look: here's a guttering spark. But you want a blaze. What do you do? Well, of course, you are so enraged and frustrated at it for being just a guttering spark that you either pour a bucket of water on it, just to shame it and show it for being such a pathetic excuse for a blaze; or you ignore it, and watch it sputter and die. Right? Because that makes the best sense. Right? And besides, it deserves it. Stupid old spark.

No, of course you don't. I speak as one who's tended many fires. You get down on your knees, and you blow gently, gently but steadily, until it grows. You feed it more fuel, but only the size that the existing flames will consume -not large enough to crush it.

Actually, you're feeding two flames at the same time, because whatever God's commands to your husband, His commands to you are to respect him and subordinate yourself to him. They are no more negotiable than God's commands to your husband. (I use "you" generically, of course.)

The alternative is the subtly destructive endless treadmill of increasing demands. Because NO man is EVER doing EVERYTHING he should, except the man sitting at the Father's right hand. So women who think they have a note from God authorizing them to be implacable endless nags because of their husband's many shortcomings have (in their imaginations) a lifetime ticket to authorized sin.

Which actually ends up serving neither, to say nothing of that whole shaming-the-name-of-God thingie.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

DJP, That was a beautiful response. That analogy--the whole thing. Could be an entire blog post, or at least a "devotional" to be read, digested, applied.

I sometimes have the tendency to watch the spark, or wish it to be more of a blaze, but do little or nothing to help it. (More like wanting my husband to read my mind rather than for me to open my mouth.) Submissive ends up being passive, which is not helpful and sometimes not respectful either. I need to spend more energy thinking on ways I can actively be of help to him rather than ways that he can be of help to ME.

Thanks for this reminder. Re-posts are very much appreciated.

DJP said...

Two addenda:

On Kindle: I just asked, and it's being considered but I've nothing definite to report. It isn't up to me. I really recommend the hard cover, though. It has a lot of footnotes.

On fires: when I say I've tended a lot, what I meant was literally, as in fires with wood and stuff in the Sierra, for cooking fish and beef and S'mores.

Staci Eastin said...

Not a Greek scholar like some of us here, but in my experience, 1 Peter 3:6 is the key:

as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

I am most tempted to usurp my husband's authority when I am fearful. It's an "if I give an inch, he'll take a mile" kind of thing.

In my personal experience, my desire to nag isn't borne out of a true concern for the greater good, but out of a fear that I'll be inconvenienced or stretched in an uncomfortable way if I don't seize control for myself.

threegirldad said...

Re: a Kindle edition of God's Wisdom in Proverbs, anyone who's really interested should go cast a vote (left side, below the book cover graphic). That's no guarantee, of course, but without enough votes, it simply won't happen.

Regardless, this is a clear case where the "dead tree" version is vastly superior and worth having (for the reason Dan mentioned).

IMO, of course. YMMV. ;-)

Paula Bolyard said...

DJP, the fire analogy is superb!

I have a friend who has faithfully and gently prayed for her husband and with her children for the 20 years I've known her. He's a believer, but is rough around the edges. He's been out of work for much of the time I've known them, but she has been a joyful, patient prayer warrior and it is reflected in the faithfulness of their children. I shudder to think where the husband would be without his wife's faithful prayers and influence. I sometimes think, well...I would do this or that if my husband was that way....but I know that God gave him exactly the wife he needed.

We've recently worked through some of these issues with our DS, who decided to end a relationship with a young woman he had hoped to marry. We (the parents) were really not on board and he eventually came to see the things we were seeing. One was our sense that the girl loved who she wanted him to be or hoped he could be rather than who he is - the romantic notion she sees on The Bachelor...the flowers, the romantic dates...which is not his personality. Those things are nice, but they're not the building blocks for a solid Christian marriage.

Preventive medicine is an important aspect of this problem for half-decent guys.

Unknown said...

I think there is a ground between the naggity berating nag and the encourager who reaps an enthusiastic response, and if I may presume, I think that is what Rachael is talking about. Deeply convicted *not* to berate or nag, rather to encourage and cheer, yet *still* (I'm talking years here) inertia. As Rachael said, I can't cheer for the guy who remains in the starting blocks, and I can't believe it is *entirely* because I haven't dialed myself back far enough.

Guys: give me the five best lines (regarding spiritual leadership in the home) your wife has ever used that have moved you to knock yourself out in order to live up to it.