When I was a young boy, I had the privilege of spending some time with my Great-Grandfather. He was a hard-working farmer who had raised nine kids and built a house with his own hands. He never lived to see smart phones, but he probably would have thought grown men playing PokemonGO were wasting their lives! He was a tough man. His individual knuckles were each the size of my fists. Even in his late eighties, he still had the strength to take down a young whippersnapper if he had wanted to. Despite his rugged strength and grit, he was tenderhearted and kind. He was quick to play with his grandkids, laugh with his friends, kiss his wife, give a dog treat to his old mutt and he’d shed a tear every time he talked about Jesus.
We live in a generation where his brand of manhood might seem antiquated, but I believe we have a lot to learn from his approach because there are many ways that we as modern men are missing the mark. I’m not saying we all have to fit into a narrow definition of masculinity or all be able to handle power tools (My wife Ashley is actually MUCH better with tools than I am). What I am saying is that we need to refocus on some timeless values and guiding principles that will help us become the men we were created to be.
I believe these seven key areas below represent some of the most important areas where we as modern men tend to be missing the mark. If we will be willing to refocus on these areas and humbly make course corrections where needed, I believe we could improve our lives, our families and our legacies.
As an important note, just because you might be currently “failing” in one or more of these areas DOESN’T MEAN YOU ARE A “FAILURE.” That is not a label you ever need to wear. This post isn’t to assign labels, but to call us all to action so that we can make important corrections in our perceptions and our actions to live the most meaningful life possible.
Seven areas where modern men tend to be missing the mark include (in no particular order):
1.We prioritize career and/or hobbies ahead of family.
As men, we tend to be drawn to places that “make sense.” In other words, we like our world to have clear rules, roles and rewards for our actions. This is part of why we love sports. Sports make sense. There’s a scoreboard. There’s a winner and a loser. In family life, it gets more complicated. We don’t always know if we’re measuring up. We don’t always know what our role should be. It doesn’t always “make sense.” Because of this, many men make the tragic mistake of retreating into their hobbies or careers and trading quality time with family for other pleasures or pursuits. Men, in the end, your family will be all that matters to you. Please don’t wait until then to discover this truth and give them the place of priority they need and deserve in your schedule. They don’t need you to be perfect, but they desperately need you to be present!
2. We value our pleasure ahead of our purpose.
We have started valuing porn more than true intimacy, sex more than commitment and playing the field more than marriage. We’re undisciplined in our finances. We’re sloppy. We don’t want to delay our gratification. We don’t want to pursue anything that might cost us something. This daily temptation has the potential to rob us of our very purpose.
We have to ask ourselves, “What do I want my life and my legacy to be about? Do I want to only live for the moment or do I want to make an investment with this moment that will outlive me? Do I want temporary pleasure or do I want a permanent, positive impact?”
We used to live in a society where we could have civil discourse around issues that mattered. Now, whenever someone disagrees with our position, we attack with spiteful vengeance by reducing their argument to an internet meme and reducing their dignity by name-calling and “un-friending.” We are far too quick to label people or put them in boxes. When we refuse to have respectful dialogue (and even debate) around our different convictions and beliefs, we give away a piece of our own humanity, we destroy relationships and we miss out on the opportunity to ever learn from anyone who doesn’t think and feel exactly like we do.
4. We care more about “getting credit” than having character.
In our success-obsessed culture, we have lost sight of the value of true integrity. Character is measured by what we do when nobody is watching, but we don’t value anything if nobody is watching. We think we can have a closet full of dirty secrets as long as we protect our reputations. We’ve taken on a shallow and selfish mindset deserving of the condemnation Jesus gave the Pharisees of his day when he said they were “White-washed tombs that looked good on the outside but were filled with dead men’s bones.” We need to start valuing integrity over income, character over charisma and reality over reputation.
5. We value our own agenda above everyone else’s.
While there’s something to be said for having a sense of personal responsibility and work ethic, many of us have taken this too far. We have such a need for control that we push everyone away (including God) if they get in the way of our agenda. Our need for control creates unnecessary stress or inflated ego (often both). We need to be humble enough to know that there’s a God and we’re not Him. We need to trust His plan instead of always forcing our own.
6. We value ourselves ahead of our wives.
One of the main reasons why modern marriage isn’t working like it should is that men have redefined what marriage should be using selfish criteria. We often use our wives or make selfish demands of our wives instead of truly loving them. Our wives deserve better. Our kids deserve better. If your marriage is struggling and you don’t know where to start, start with this new resource we’ve created specifically designed to help struggling couples.
7. We value “networking” over genuine friendships.
In our quest for personal and professional achievement, we’ve tended to see other people as commodities and assets instead of friends. In the process, we’ve lost sight of what friendship even means. We find ourselves surrounded by people who owe us favors, but we don’t know what it means to do something kind for someone with no thought of repayment. We need to get back to basics. We need to invest in meaningful friendships. Relationships are what give meaning to life.
When you and I are on a deathbed someday, our faith, our family and our friends will be all that matters. Please don’t wait until then to discover what matters most.
Don't give up on your marriage. It is worth the effort and investment. If you feel like your marriage is struggling, or even failing, there is hope. There is healing.