Why Men Don't TalkRelated Media
I read a book a couple of months ago that really changed my thinking on a few things and helped me understand a lot more about myself. The book was The Silence of Adam by Larry Crabb. It was so good, that I read it twice. It is called The Silence of Adam because he starts off by asking where Adam was when Eve was talking to the serpent.
Tradition has always taught, and I had always assumed that Eve was alone at that time, and that after she was deceived and ate the fruit, she went in search of Adam and gave him some to eat. But Crabb pointed out that Adam was right there with Eve during the conversation with the serpent. When I read that, I immediately got off the couch and went to get my Bible to read the verse for myself.
Genesis 3:6 says,
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, (imah) and he ate.
Wow! Adam was with her! I don’t know about you, but that blows away my categories. We always talk about how Eve was deceived, (In fact we read that three weeks ago in 1 Tim 2:14 right here in class.) And I think deep down, we sort of blame Eve for getting us all in this mess in the first place, even though we know technically that Adam was responsible.
But what if Adam was standing right there the whole time that Eve was talking to the serpent? I think this sheds new light on just how responsible Adam was for what happened. What does this say to us about not doing anything when we are not sure exactly what we should do or say? It sure makes inactivity look more sinful to me
If Adam was there, then why didn’t he say something? Why didn’t he tell the serpent to get lost? Why didn’t he correct Eve when she misquoted the command not to eat of the tree? Why didn’t he suggest they go somewhere else to talk about the situation? Why didn’t he stop Eve when she reached for the fruit?
Why Adam was silent? I’m not going to answer that right now. The answer will become obvious as we work through several concepts.
We are going to divide our study into the following topics:
- The Search for Real Men
- Man’s model—God’s role in creation, because man is created in God’s image and we need to see what that entails.
- Man’s responsibility—to walk in God’s image.
- Man’s natural tendency—to be silent.
- What Speaking is Not.
- The Reasons for Silence
- The Solution
- Woman’s responsibility
The Search for “Real Men”
I think the first time I ever heard any talk about “real men” was in college when someone said, “Real men don’t eat quiche.” I think there was a whole string of “real men” jokes going around then, but that is the only one I remember.
The traditional view of a real man is one who is broad-shouldered, self-confident, tough, unemotional and successful. If you ever read any Louis L’Amour books, the main character was always tall, dark and invulnerable and he didn’t talk much. John Wayne and Clint Eastwood always played that kind of man in their movies.
But for the past ten years there has been a call for men to be more sensitive, to be vulnerable, to share their feelings, to cry more. Men are supposed to be more concerned with connecting with others than with trying to achieve and conquer the world. I remember my dad once making the comment that there didn’t seem to be any actors rising on the scene to replace John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Maybe that is the reason. Their character type was out of style. John Wayne has been replaced with Billy Crystal.
I think the John Wayne tough guy image is a warped model of what a man should be. But I also think that the soft, vulnerable, almost homo-sexual image that we are bombarded with in the secular media is a pendulum swing too far in the other direction.
There is obviously a problem, but what is the solution? What constitutes a real man?
In the Christian world, we’ve been trying to come up with the answer. We have Family Life Seminars, Promise Keepers conventions, hundreds of self-help books on how to be a good father, how to be a good husband, how to be a good whatever. The list of self-help books is endless.
I think that phrase “self-help” is significant. I don’t mean to discredit any of those things I just mentioned, because they all have their place. In fact, many of them were started because people felt like churches weren’t dealing with the issues. But our tendency, when we realize there is a problem, is to go find a book written by some expert with the answers or go to a “professional counselor” or go to some conference to learn some neat steps to follow or principles to apply, to get motivated to work hard, and then we go home and try really hard to follow those steps. We do them for the next few weeks or months. But eventually, we slip back into our old habits and wait for the next conference. Perhaps that is why the Promise Keepers have to come back each year. We don’t keep our promises. The problem is that we were doing all these things out of our own energy, not God’s energy.
In our day, too many men are seeking more diligently for their manhood, than for God. However, if you read the biographies of the great Christians of the past, like Dwight L. Moody, Hudson Taylor, etc., it becomes obvious that they sought God first. They spent hours in the word and in prayer. They were very godly men. And look what God did through them. They are remembered as great men. Therefore, I think it is safe to say, “The only way to be manly is to be godly.” (Crabb, p. 32)
How do we become godly? By reflecting the image of God. We can’t do that unless we know what God is like. So we need to study what God is like. That by the way is theology. I almost hesitate to say that because most people think of theology as booooooring, but you will see that is very relevant. It is relevant because if we are to be godly, we have to know what God is like.
The Model: God’s Role in Creation
Genesis 1:2 says that the earth was formless and void and darkness was over the surface of the deep. In other words, everything was chaos. Then, while everything was darkness and chaos, God spoke into the darkness and He created life and beauty.
For years, people have argued about the “Gap theory” or “Restitution Theory” which proposes that there were two creations. After the first creation, Satan messed up the earth and so God had to rebuild. All this was supposed to happen somewhere between Gen. 1:1 and 1:3.
I think one reason this idea became popular was to try to explain why there was chaos. The question people asked, was “Why would God create a chaotic earth on his first pass, and then have to come back and fix it up later?” The gap theory also gained popularity when science started saying that the earth was millions of years old. A “Gap” between a first and second creation left room for that. The fact that the earth appears to be millions of years old can be explained without a gap theory. If God created a tree, and we cut it down the next day, how many rings would it have in it? 50? 100? God created trees, man, everything, including the earth, with apparent age. So we don’t need a gap theory as an answer to evolution.
Also, a good understanding of Hebrew shows that there is no reference to a gap in time in Gen. 1:3.
So, why the part about the earth being formless and void in vs. 2? Let me propose another reason—a theological one.
When Moses wrote Genesis, he left out lots of stuff. He covered 6000 years in just a few pages, and then focused in on Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. I think Moses was very selective in what events he recorded. He only recorded what he did because they make a theological point. Therefore Gen. 1:2 is as much a theological statement as it is an historical one. It is not just giving us a chronological order of events.
When I say it is a theological statement I mean that, the part about the earth being formless and void is there to make a statement about God—to let us know what God is like. What it is saying about God is that God moves in darkness and chaos and creates order and life. The statement is there so that man, who is created to walk in God’s image will know what that involves. It involves moving into the chaos and creating order and life.
That brings us to the next point.
Man’s Responsibility: To Walk in God’s Image
Genesis 1:26 says that man was created in God’s image and one purpose was to rule over the rest of creation. Man was to help keep the order. One of the first things Adam did was to name the animals. That did three things:
- It demonstrated his superiority over them, and fulfilled the command to rule over creation.
- It helped fulfill his role of being in God’s image and taking part in creating order out of chaos.
Lori and I were talking about that the other day. If animals didn’t have names, you would find yourself saying things like... I saw one of those yellow, furry animals down by the creek today. The other person would say, “The one with the long neck?” Then you would say, “No, it had a short neck..” Then the other person would say, “The one with stripes?” “No, the one spots...” And on and on it might go. That definitely would be a chaotic situation.
- Adam was also “like” God because naming the animals involved speaking into the disorder.
I imagine that naming all those animals was not easy. Imagine if someone brought a few hundred species of animals to you and asked you to name them. Would you be overwhelmed? Sure you would. It was probably all you could do to think of a name for your baby. And if you’re like us, you didn’t decide untill they were rolling mom and baby out of the hospital.
So, Gen. 1:3 says God spoke and then in Gen. 2:19-20 man spoke. There is a logical connection between the two. Man was reflecting the image of God by speaking into the chaos and creating order.
That is the theological basis for our study. God spoke into chaos and created life and order. Man is created in God’s image and part of man’s responsibility is to speak into chaos and create life and order.
How does that apply to us today? We don’t need to name the animals.
For me, that means that when life is chaotic, I need to speak. I need to say something and I need to do something. I need to get involved. I should not remain silent. If I remain silent, I am like Adam in the garden. I am sinning.
But man’s natural tendency is to remain silent. That takes us to the next topic.
Man’s Natural Tendency: To Be Silent
If Adam were the only man in the Bible who was silent, then perhaps one could say that this conclusion is doubtful. But, there are several examples in the Bible of men who were silent. Let’s look at them and see where it got them.
The Example of Adam
We’ve already looked at this one, but I just wanted to make it a part of the list so I could ask you what were the consequences of Adam’s silence? The result was that billions of people have lived miserable lives and then died and most have gone to hell.
The Example of Abraham
Everyone probably knows of God’s promise to Abraham (Gen 15)—that he would have a son and be the father of a multitude, through whom God would bless the world. After ten years, and no children, Sarah comes to Abraham and says, take my slave, Hagar, and have children with her so that God’s promise can come true. What did Abraham say to that? Nothing. Gen 16:2 says He listened to the voice of Sarah.
Then later after Hagar has Ishmael, Sarah is jealous and Abraham tells her to do what she wants to her slave. And he lets her treat Hagar harshly.
So, Abraham was silent and did what Sarah said. What was the result? The Arab/Israeli conflict that still rages today.
The Example of Lot
We know from 2 Peter 2:7f that Lot was a righteous man, but you would never know it from the Genesis account. He stayed in Sodom and Gomorrah and was silent about the evil around him. When he offered his two daughters to a crowd of men to protect God’s messengers, that was not the action of a strong man. At the end of that account, when they are fleeing the city, and Lot’s wife looks back at Sodom and turns into a pillar of salt, it becomes obvious who it was that wanted to live in Sodom and Gomorrah and who was in really running the family. If Lot was tormented in his soul by the evil around him (2 Pet 2:8), then why didn’t he leave? Because his wife didn’t want to. Lot remained silent and passive.
Some time later Lot’s daughters commit incest with Lot while he is drunk and they get pregnant. So, we see further damage result from Lot’s silent passive life.
The Example of Bethuel
Do you remember the story of how Isaac got his wife? His father, Abraham, sent a servant back to the home country to get a wife for his son, Isaac. In the account in Gen. 24, the servant goes to a well, meets Rebekah, follows her home, and then proceeds to bargain with her brother Laban for her hand in marriage for Isaac. At the end of the account, (24:50) it says Bethuel agreed to the arrangement. It seems to me that Laban was the one who was involved, and Bethuel was along for the ride. I can’t swear to it, but nothing is said about him, and he doesn’t speak until the end of the account.
What was the result? He had two very controlling children. Laban and Rebekah. We know that Rebekah was very involved with the deception of Isaac when Jacob deceived his father out of the family blessing. And we know that Laban made life miserable for Jacob when he tried to marry Rachel and got Leah instead. So, by being a silent and uninvolved father, Bethuel helped create at least two manipulative and very controlling children.
The Example of Isaac
We don’t have to read much further in Genesis before we come to the next silent man -- Isaac. He was a very passive man. If you read through Genesis, you see that he didn’t do anything right except allow his father to almost sacrifice him.
Isaac knew the prophecy of God that his older son, Esau, would serve the younger son, Jacob, but he preferred Esau who appeared to be a strong, manly man always out hunting. And at the end of his life, he was going to go ahead and bless Esau in spite of the prophecy. Why? I think it was easier to go along with the tradition of blessing the oldest son than to trust God and bless Jacob. Why? Perhaps he was afraid of Esau’s reaction? After all, Esau was the hunter. Perhaps he was afraid of what others might say when they found out. Because he was afraid to act, his wife tried to take over and handle the problem. It backfired and the family was split up and Isaac and Rebekah never saw Jacob again.
Here we have five examples of men who were silent. In each situation the result was much harm to others. We might say the result was chaos.
When God spoke, He made order out of chaos. When man fails to act in God’s image, and speak, the result is more chaos. And very important to recognize: It brings the severing of relationship. And that is what this is all about - relationships. How is my silence going to affect my relationship with others? The Bible shows that it wll definitely destroy them.
- Adam’s silence destroyed his relationship with God and his wife.
- Abraham’s silence resulted in the Arab/Israeli conflict.
- Lot’s relationship with his daughters and his wife was not good.
- Isaac had almost no relationship with his wife or son, Jacob. This is obvious when you read the story of Isaac’s deception at the blessing. Isaac never talks to Rebekah. He never talks to Jacob (except when he thinks Jacob is Esau). Rebekah never talks to Esau. And Jacob never talks to Esau. You see a family divided right down the middle.
Notice also that in each of these situations, when the man was silent, the women stepped in and took control. God said that was going to be the woman’s natural tendency in Gen. 3:16, and we can see it happening over and over again.
So, man’s natural tendency is to be silent. But what we’ve seen so far ought to do away with the description of a man as “The Strong Silent Type.” When you understand these principles, it makes you want to change it to “The Weak Silent Type.”
- What we’ve seen is that God speaks into disorder and creates order and life.
- Man is created in God’s image and should also speak into disorder and create order and life.
- But man’s natural tendency is to avoid the chaos and to be silent.
- When he does that he creates even more chaos and destroys relationships.
What I want you to do for homework this week is to be aware of your actions and inactions. When life presents you with some confusing or chaotic situation, what do you do? Do you shut down emotionally? Do you withdraw and go do something else? Do you get overbearing and try to control the situation? Think about how you react to disorder in your life, and then next week when we discuss the reasons for silence, it will hit a lot closer to home.
Last week we began our study on why men don’t talk.
- The first thing we saw was that there is a desire among most men to be “real men.” but what we usually do is go looking for a list of things to do or steps to follow which will help us become real men. We often are trying to do these steps out of our own energy and it usually fails. We concluded that in order to be a real man we needed to worry less about following a bunch of steps and instead strive to be godly men.
- Being godly means being like God, so we needed to look at what God is like. In Gen 1:2 we saw that God moved into darkness and chaos and created life and order by speaking.
- If man is created in God’s image then man needs to do the same. Men need to move into chaos and darkness and create order and life. We do that by speaking or doing - by getting emotionally involved.
- But man’s natural tendency is to avoid darkness. Our natural tendency is to avoid messy situations. We saw five examples from Genesis of men who were silent, who avoided messy situations—Adam, Abraham, Lot, Bethuel, and Isaac. In all of our examples, the men were presented by a situation that was chaotic or messy. Actually it was just real life. But they didn’t do anything, and so their wives stepped in with suggestions, or deception or took over. In every example, the result was more chaos and broken relationships.
- So, to sum up last week: When God spoke, He made order out of chaos. When man fails to act in God’s image, and speak, the result is more chaos. And very important to recognize: It brings the severing of relationship.
This week we are going to talk about why men are silent.
The Reality of Mystery
There are many things in life which bring pleasure, such as power, influence, money, status, connections, achievement, success, possessions, food, sex, recreation, etc. All these things are good in their place, but we have a tendency to think that they are the source of happiness. They make us feel good, but they don’t bring true happiness. They do not bring contentment.
? If you are looking for happiness in money, you can never get enough. I know you’ve heard the illustration about when John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money is enough, and he answered, “Just a little more.” We can’t believe that if we were millionaires, we would want more, but if that is what we are looking to for happiness, or security then we would.
? If sex is where you are trying to find happiness, your spouse will never satisfy you.
? If power is where you are seeking to find happiness, then you can never get enough.
? If possessions are where you try to find happiness, then your house is never big enough and your car is never new enough.
? If this is where you are looking for happiness, when these things are taken away, you will be devastated.
God wants us to enjoy these things, but enjoying these things is not the reason God put us here. God has created us with a purpose. The whole Bible is summed up with two commands - Love God and Love your neighbor. And Paul sums up the whole Law with the statement - Love your Neighbor, so God's purpose for us is to love others - to build relationships, to move into other people’s lives and help them move towards God. We will find the most joy in life when we are doing that. But relationships are messy. We talked a lot about chaos last week. Messy = chaos. Relationships = chaos. Relationships involve mystery.
We hate chaos and mystery. What we really want is certainty in life.
? It's true in relation to our religion. We want certainty in our religion. We want everything black and white. We want to think there are knowable right answers and so we argue about points of doctrine and split churches so we can hang out with those that believe the way we do and who will reinforce our opinions making us feel certain. It is too hard for many people to recognize that God is infinite and we are finite and there are just some things we can't understand. There are some things in the Bible that just aren't clear.
? It's true in the decision making process. We want to know if the decision we are about to make is the right one. We want God to show us exactly what we should do. But decisions are full of mystery. There is mystery involved in deciding who to marry, which job to take, whether to remodel our home, which car to buy, which stock to invest in, etc. Many of us are paralyzed by the process of making decisions and making a mistake. We can't decide what to do, so we do nothing.
? It's true in our relationships. There is no certainty in relationships. There is only mystery and chaos in relationships. People disappoint. They let us down, they hurt us... How will the person react if I do this or that? Will my wife still love me when she finds out I'm afraid of ...? Why is my wife depressed? Why is my son a bully at school?
So what we try to do is find a way to eliminate the mystery. How do we eliminate or dispel mystery?
The Search for Certainty
Many people have a recipe theology. Recipe theology holds out the false promise of certainty. By recipe theology I mean the belief that if we can just find the right set of steps or principles, and then follow them perfectly, then they will make life work. We really like steps to follow. That’s one reason why self-help books, the promise keepers conventions and family life conferences are so popular. We usually walk away from them with a list of things to do. Some people read the books, go to the conferences and come away convicted of their sin and a new resolve to trust God more as they move through life. But others just come away from the conferences with a new set of steps to follow. Recipe theology says, “If I pick up my socks, clean the kitchen for my wife and give up Monday night football, then my marriage will be great.” When that doesn’t work, then our conclusion is that those were the wrong steps and so we go in search of another list. We never realize that what we really need to do is learn how to relate to our wives.
I think one of the best passages and most misused passages on this is Eph 5:25. It says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. I’ve heard people teach on this passage and what they get from this is that we need to sacrifice ourselves for our wives. Then they give their list of things we can do to sacrifice ourselves. But, the whole concept behind this passage is that Christ came to earth to build relationships with men. We rejected Him and killed Him. What this means to a husband is that he needs to move towards his wife to build a relationship with her. In the process, she is going to reject him, argue with him, disappoint him, not respond to him, hurt him, etc. That is where the sacrifice comes in—in being willing to be hurt in the process of moving toward his wife. The sacrifice comes in being willing to enter the chaos and mystery of relationship.
Getting on With Life
Another way we can try to dispel mystery is by trying to ignore the need for relationships and concluding that we might as well "get on with life." So we run away from people and devote our energy towards manageable things, things we are good at. Often abilities surface like athletic talent, academic gift, or mechanical knack that give us a feeling of power, competence, appreciation, etc. When relationships are too confusing, too disappointing, we turn to the things that bring us those fleeting pleasures we talked about earlier. But they are fleeting, so we spend more and more time at work or buried in our hobbies, or in the garage fixing things, trying to satisfy the longing in our souls.
For example, if you are a computer programmer, I think it would be accurate to say that your job is never done, and if things are bad at home, it would be easy to always work late. You could honestly tell your wife that you are behind, because in that job, you are always behind. And to make it even more attractive, computer programming is a safe place to hide from people. A computer is just a dumb box that does exactly what you tell it. So you are in control. And when you are programming or designing a graphic or whatever, you are being creative. It appeals to and fulfills in a false way what God intended man to be.
Or maybe your solution is to go play golf or go fishing. Those activities are fun, challenging and most important, don’t require much in the way of relationships.
Be a Tyrant
Another way to try to dispel mystery is to be a tyrant. If your are overbearing and dogmatic, you can often beat others into submission where they won’t question you or you can at least keep them at a safe distance so that you don’t have to deal with the issues.
Dull the Pain
Others try to dispel mystery by trying to dull the pain through alcohol, pornography, etc. Of these four ways, this one is the least socially acceptable, but the other methods are just as evil and sinful.
Can you think of other ways we try to dispel mystery?
Three Styles of Relating
We must understand the principle that every man is moving. Movement defines a man's existence. If we are not moving in a good direction, then we will move in a bad direction. Good movement, means moving through personal unhappiness toward God. Bad movement is movement aimed at nothing higher than relieving personal unhappiness. The things we just talked about, dulling the pain, being a tyrant, getting on with life, and recipe theology are all examples of bad movement - of an attempt to relieve the pain.
Because men are fundamentally relational beings, all movement will be seen most clearly in the way a man relates.
The Needy Man
The needy man knows that he needs relationships to be happy, but his is a distorted view of relationships. What he wants is for others to come through for him and meet his needs, without them requiring good movement from him. He is actually looking for happiness in people and not from God. He is expecting people to provide those pleasures we talked about earlier.
This is the man who comes home every evening and lets out a heavy sigh when he walks in the door so that the family will know how hard he has been working all day for them (That’s a lie. He is working for himself.). He wants them to take care of him but he is sending out his signal hoping that they will not expect anything from him.
This is the man who feels like a martyr because he’s married to a woman who has no interest in sex. The reality is that she doesn’t respond to him, because he is not moving toward her and so there is nothing to respond to. When she doesn’t meet his needs, he feels like a martyr and feels justified in lusting after other women or having an affair, because it is his right to have his sexual needs fulfilled and his wife isn’t meeting them.
What this man needs to do is see his bad movement—see his evil—and repent. But the needy man doesn’t see it.
King Saul is a good example. He had a need for respect. When he failed to kill all the Amalekites and their animals as God had commanded (he left the king and the cattle and sheep alive) and was caught by Samuel, he starts scrambling and says that they saved them for sacrificing to God. When Samuel says it is better to obey than to sacrifice, Saul says, I have sinned, but then immediately asks Samuel to return with him to the capitol city and stand beside him in public worship. When Samuel turns to leave, Saul grabs Samuel’s robe and it tears. Then Samuel says, that the tearing of his robe is an illustration that God is going to tear the kingdom away from Saul. Saul again says, “I have sinned,” but quickly adds, “but please honor me now before the elders and the people of Israel ...” He was more concerned with appearances and keeping the respect of the people than with his sin. 1Sam 15:13-30.
Read p. 130
The Tough Man
Shallow but stable describes this man. He has the “get on with life” attitude we discussed earlier. This is the “strong silent type” we talked about last week. He rarely talks about personal struggles and tends to quickly "resolve" whatever relational tensions he can't avoid or dismiss. He focuses his energy on things he is good at and is unwilling, even for a moment, to entertain involving himself in something he is not good at—i.e. relationships. He wants to stay where he is comfortable. He wants to dispel the mystery.
Being tough doesn’t necessarily mean being mean or cruel. He doesn’t have to be abusive. He can be cordial all the time - and usually is. He is nice, above reproach, just emotionally uninvolved. He has lots of acquaintances, but no close friends.
He just doesn't let himself feel anything. The needy man feels the pain, and is preoccupied with it. The tough man ignores it.
The Godly Man
The godly man is sensitive, but it does not lead to self-preoccupation or complaint. He is hurt by broken relationships, but instead of demanding others to come through for him or running away, he uses the hurt to more sharply define and energize his call to move toward relationship. He is willing to sacrifice his pleasure (legitimate or illegitimate) so that he can help others. He releases other from his control and encourages them so that they are free to struggle with their loneliness and selfishness and pain. He’s been there through the struggles and has made it through to the other side—to God. He wants to help them find God too.
So, there are three styles of relating - You can be a needy man, always pulling on others to meet your needs. Or you can be the tough man and ignore your feelings and the feelings of others and focus your energy on things you are good at. Or you can be a godly man and feel your pain and the pain of others, but use it to grow personally, and then use your growth to help others grow.
What Speaking Is Not
We began last week by talking about the silence of Adam. By now you’ve figured out that being silent is not good. Running away from relationships is not good.
You’ve also probably made the corollary conclusion that this means we need to speak up.
As is usually the case, when we learn what we shouldn’t be doing, we jump up and decide that we are going to fix the problem. But, we usually go to the opposite extreme. So, we need to understand what to watch out for. We need to understand what speaking is not.
Speaking is not just meaningless talking.
You can talk a lot and never touch real issues. Maybe you talk about sports or about computers all the time and never have any meaningful conversations. I mention computers because that’s my weakness. When we do this, we are still being silent about the important things, even though our mouths are wide open.
Paul says in 1Co 13:1 that when we speak without love, then we are a noisy gong and a clanging cymbol. The ultimate goal of our study last week and today is really about how to have better relationships. It is about how to love. So Paul’s statement in 1Co 13 is very appropriate. Eph 4:15f is also related where Paul talks about speaking the truth in love.
Speaking is not just talking.
I say it again, because this time, I want to point out that for the purpose of our study, speaking involves actions, too. It involves both words and deeds. If you just say you are going to do something and never do it, then that is worthless. James talks about that in James 2. Speaking means getting involved. And I think I should stress that it means getting emotionally involved.
Speaking is not domination
Speaking is not controlling a situation through shouting the loudest or shaming the other person into submission or obedience. That just turns a person inward and away from God. You will either deaden others into conformity or incite them to self-preserving rebellion. You can see this in your children. If this is how you relate, one child might be complacent and compliant and the other one always in trouble at school.
What I want to make clear is that I am not saying that men should start dominating every situation and relationship around them. I’m not saying that we need to be dogmatic and just tell our wives to shut up when they disagree with us.
When you do that, you are not being a strong man. You are really just trying to take control (through your flesh) and force order on the situation and get others to back off so you don’t have to deal with the issue. You are hiding again as Adam did in the Garden.
All of these things are examples of what speaking is not. So what is speaking?
Speaking is saying or doing whatever is necessary to move myself toward another person and moving myself and that other person toward trusting God in the midst of the life, in the midst of chaos.
What Silence Looks Like: Some Modern Examples:
Witnessing is a good example of chaos. When you are in the middle of a conversation with someone and the topic turns towards something that you could easily use to ask the person about their personal beliefs, what do you do? Do you speak? Do you ask them? Or do you ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit because you fear their response might be to reject you? What you need to do is go ahead and ask them the question and trust God for the results. You need to move into the chaos and speak. But too often, we are afraid and we are silent.
I was reading another book recently about shame based relationships and I realized that what I was reading in that book related to our topic. The book said that if you grew up in a family where you heard things like, “you’re not going to wear that are you...” or “I can’t believe you did that...”, etc. Then one of the ways your parents controlled you was through shame. Some call that a shame based relationship. Someone who grows up in that kind of environment is going to have a very low opinion of his ideas and capabilities.
With that in mind, think about the following situation: A husband and wife have different opinions about something. What does that mean? It just means they each have different opinions. It doesn’t mean one is wrong and one is right. If a man is married to a woman who has strong opinions and convictions, then she may come across with the attitude that the husband is wrong whenever his opinion differs from hers. If the husband grew up in a shame based relationship, then he will feel that his opinion is wrong when it differs from his wife’s. If he follows his natural inclination to be silent, then he will just shut up and let his wife’s opinion dictate family policies. That is not leadership. I’m not saying that the husband needs to always go with his opinion because he’s the leader. I’m saying he need to evaluate both honestly and openly and then go with what he thinks is the best one for his family.
But what will happen if the husband stands up to his wife and says, “Honey, I don’t think we should do that. I think we should do this instead.” She might follow his lead. She might also argue with him or get mad, or act hurt and avoid him. What if his decision turns out to be a bad one? Then she might say, “I told you so.” Even if she doesn’t say it, she will certainly think it.
That is real life and it is chaos. That might describe why Lot went along with his wife’s wishes to live in Sodom and Gomorrah.
What do you say or do when your kid’s school teacher or Sunday school teacher comes to you and says Johnny was being mean to another kid or cheating on a test, etc.? Do you give him the spanking of his life when he gets home or ground him for a month? Or do you talk with him to try to determine what’s going on in that immature brain of his that makes him want to do those things? Maybe he is searching for attention that he isn’t getting at home. He may need to be disciplined, but only doing the discipline is often simply an effort to control the situation and the child as long as he is under your roof. You can discipline and never really be involved. If you never work on the relationship and find out why he misbehaved, then when he leaves home, he is going to do what his heart wants.
That is chaos. Those kinds of situations make many men freeze up, remain silent, and run away to something they are good at, or they lash out in anger and try to force others to get with the program.
I can’t give you any steps to follow. You just have to understand your tendencies and recognize when you are slipping into that mode and then turn to God and move forward. The solution is to trust God and move towards others into the chaos.
There is often truth contained in lists and steps. But we put the cart before the horse. Lists and steps are actually a description of what a good relationship looks like more than they are a means of getting there.
It is the godly, manly man who, in the face of chaotic situations says, “I don’t know what to do God, but I think this is best for my family and I’m going to do it and trust you for the results.
The Woman’s Responsibility
Understand this struggle in men and in yourselves.
- Understand the natural tendency to want to step in and take over (Gen 3:16).
- Don’t try it, it will seem to work for a little while, but in the end, chaos will rule. (The message of Judges).
- Trust God and wait.
- That is the opposite of man’s responsibility which is: Trust God and move (speak).
- Your responsibility is to trust God and be silent.