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Men and Fear

Last week I met with two very successful, Christian men, both workaholics and made this statement to test their reaction;

Most Christian men are more afraid of failure, than they are of God.

Their immediate reaction confirmed what I’ve known for years. “It’s true! And, we fear failure even more than death,” they chimed in.

Some of you women are shaking your heads in disbelief right now. I need to make it clear that this attitude is not true of all men, but of many many men, even Christian men and here’s why.

Emerson Eggerich, points out in his wonderful book on marriage, Love and Respect that the need for respect is a man’s deepest value. In the military and when in battle, men would prefer to die than risk losing the respect of their buddies. Soldiers don’t really die for their country. They die for their friends in their unit. While dying for another person is virtuous, the fear this blog addresses, isn’t a biblical virtue. It’s driven by pride – a sin.

Most men spend a good share of their lives trying to prove to their peers they have value. They don’t always consciously think of it, but it’s there. We long to be admired and even envied by others. But, if we can’t be admired, at very least, we don’t want to be seen as a failure. This is particularly true in our vocations.

Many men would prefer cancer to being fired. In cancer there is no judgment, no failure. You didn’t do anything wrong. It just happened. But when fired, someone is saying to you, “You failed to meet our expectations, you’re no longer needed here.”

Redefining failure

Failure for a follower of Jesus is not accomplishing the mission you were put on earth to do. The story of the talents in Matthew 25 isn’t really about money. Jesus is teaching that he expects us to use whatever we’ve been given, time, money, or ability to serve the king – God, for his glory. However, if you’ve been gifted at making money, selling things or administrating others, that gift cannot be exercised to the deterrent of others – your family for instance.

We men tend to sanctify our hard work by thinking it’s for God, when it’s really about us. Personally, I always have been driven. It just looks more spiritual now because I call it ministry. My wife once asked me what percentage of what I do is out of love for God and others as opposed to simply wanting to be admired for being talented or a super Christian. The truth is, more than I’d like to admit. So, I don’t have this problem licked yet. Pride is the occupational hazard of gifted people.

I meet with successful people, working 60 hours a week who believe the lie that they are in the will of God because they’re using their gifts or their talents. In the meantime, their wives are lonely, and their children and God are getting whatever time and energy they have left over. They’re often too harried to pray or read the Bible, or too busy to appreciate God daily. They are failures making six figures.

Redefining success

“If I’m failing in life, how do I find my way back?” I’m often asked. The answer is you’ll have to redefine success, from God’s perspective. A successful Christian is one who is known by his/her friends as someone who loves God and the things of God, more than anyone, or anything. Secondly, they love others as much as they love themselves.

An attorney friend of mine was working 60-65 hours a week, the norm for his big firm. He finally woke up one day to his wife begging him for more time for the family. So, he went to his partners and said this;

“I’ve decided that to be the kind of man, husband, father and Christian I want to be, I can’t spend this much time working. I’m failing in the most important relationships I have. Therefore to be successful, as I define it, I cannot work more than 1,800 billable hours a year. You’ll have to decide if you still want me in the firm and what you’ll pay me. Then I’ll have to decide if I can work here for that. In any case, I need to get my life, and my priorities in balance.”

He courageously redefined success. His firm did cut his salary, but wanted him to stay. Today he has a life – and a wife and children who loves and respect him now, more than ever. He redefined both success and failure.

Henry Theroux was right, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” God says you don’t have to! “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” Luke 9:25

Because I sold my business almost 30 years ago and have not needed a job, a man once said to me, “That’s easy for you to say – you no longer work for a living.” I responded to this well compensated man with this, “Neither do you. You’re working for a lifestyle – not a living.”

Is that true for you? What really drives you? Are you working for the admiration of others or of God – the admiration of your peers or your family? So, how do you find your way back? On April 23 and 30, 2012, I blogged on how to spend a day with God and how to begin writing your personal mission statement. Look on the left side of my Home Page, near the bottom and click on “April” to find them.

Please don’t buy the lie many in Jesus day did. “For they loved human praise more than praise from God.” John 12:43

Following Jesus in Real Life

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