Pain & Prejudice
- Tuesday, July 05, 2011
While returning from teaching at an Iron Sharpens Iron men’s conference in Hartford, CT last weekend, I chuckled out loud while on the long plane ride home back to the West Coast. I recounted in my mind some of the hilarious comments men made during the question and answer portion of my seminar about how important emotional engagement is today in marriage.
We discussed a lot of topics during the seminar: How wives, not husbands, are more likely to begin a serious conversation more harshly, so be prepared. Why responding in anger is the wrong way to get to a win-win in marriage. How childhood trauma causes many adult men to be passive and timid when it comes to emotions, and how important it is for such men to do the soulwork necessary to overcome this problem in order to meet the emotional needs of our wives.
But what sticks out most in my mind are the “Amens” and “Say it Brother” I heard when I talked about the tremendous prejudice against their male nature. When I embarked on my unusual ministry to Christian men, I assumed that it would be the younger Christian men who saw this problem the clearest, and who would be willing to undergo the hard work to correct it. Turns out, it’s men in their 50’s and 60’s who express the most disappointment, resentment, and anger toward well-meaning messages that have mishandled their masculine nature. But it makes sense to me now: they are the group that bought the propaganda the longest, tried to live by it, and who, along with their wives and children, have paid the largest price.
Here are some of the messages Christian men have been told, some for decades:
· If there is a major problem in a couple’s marriage, whether or not it leads to divorce, it is ultimately the husband’s fault.
· Women are more moral and spiritual than men.
· Women are more sensitive to the Holy Spirit than men.
In addition, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are an opportunity in many churches to tell men how to be better fathers instead of honoring them as fathers. One man said he no longer goes to church on either day. “The pastor’s wife preaches on Father’s Day and tells us how bad we are. Then on Mother’s Day we have to get on our knees and beg our wives for forgiveness.” Ask yourself: What would happen if women were told how to be better mothers, or told to beg for their husband’s forgiveness during these special days? You know the answer.
To drive a better understanding of this prejudice home, I point out how one popular Christian author said that in 30 years of counseling, he has never seen a divorce that was not ultimately the husband’s fault. Let that radical statement from a traditionalist sink in for a moment, because this man represents much of what we hear on Christian radio, what we read in Christian books, and what he hear from guest speakers at church, supposed “experts” on marriage.
To say that in three decades of marriage counseling that you have never seen a case where the husband was not to blame for the divorce is to go through life seeing what you want to see. It is a form of spiritual delusion. Such a person should have his counseling license pulled and he should apologize to the men he has wounded.
I saw this wounding in a man who sat in my office, his foot twitching. He was told by a Christian man who claims to be a counselor that his wife’s battle with depression was really his fault. “I was told that I wasn’t the spiritual leader that I needed to be,” he told me, face turning red, anger swelling his throat. “He told me that if I would just get ‘back up on the cross’ that my wife’s depression would go away.” He no longer goes to church, yet he speaks about the church with the passion of a spurned lover. He stopped reading Christian books and listening to Christian radio long ago because he feels double-crossed.
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