“This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.” – Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister, 1874-1965
If I could summarize the goal of my earlier years it would be thus: to live a life of ease. Oh, how I wanted to have it easy, and how ashamed I am to admit it. My job was going to be easy. Marriage, easy. Kids basically raise themselves, right? Of course, I never spelled it out like this, but if I boil it down to what I really wanted, and what kept me hedged in as a young man, it was a desire to take the easy path. Thankfully, this didn’t last long. I realized that if I wanted to be a man I could be proud of, I was going to have to start taking the difficult path. That’s not to say I have this all figured out, which is why I am writing this article.
Modern men live at a high point of ease. Really, we live at a disgusting point of ease. And it’s not just affecting our health, it’s affecting our relationships, our families, and our communities. The desire for ease and comfort, for the broad and beaten path, should be a warning for all men who desire to live a manful life.
Recognizing the Red Flag of Ease
“The world owes all its onward impulses to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, American Novelist, 1804-1864
A life of ease has become so commonplace that it can be hard to recognize. We have been sold on “easy” for years and many of us, at some time or another, have paid good money to have it in as many areas of our life as possible. What I am talking about is more than just modern efficiencies, it’s a mindset that makes us hate work and anything that can slow us down, inconvenience us, or, heaven forbid, challenge us. This also means we miss a lot of opportunity for growth because we avoid those heated paths that stretch us and shape us into the men we ought to be.
Here are a few fruits a passive man might see in his life:
We often put off doing work of all kinds because the thought of taking it up, bearing the weight of responsibility, and generally doing something we don’t feel like doing at the moment, sucks. Putting off something here or there isn’t a big deal, but if this describes your lifestyle, it’s time to evaluate what you want in those moments when you could be getting things done but chose not to.
Poor Finance Management
If you don’t know where your money goes, and it seems like you are always in the red, it may be due to a love of ease. This is an easy one to figure out. Does your money go to things that make your life more comfortable? Going out to eat instead of taking your lunch. Having an expensive cable package? Buying the latest gadgets? Or, maybe it’s just easier to ignore your finances instead of managing them responsibly?
You’re Fat and\or Out of Shape
When I think about the effects of passivity on a person’s life, I usually think of the effects on their health. In a world that is constantly selling you on delicious, quick food, eating healthy is the harder option. Getting off your duff and scheduling your life around fitness goals is the harder option. Waking up at 4:45am so you can work out with your F3 buddies is the harder option. But man is it worth it!
I think for us men, this is the hardest area to battle. Being in a healthy and happy relationship, be it marriage, parent, or friendship, means dealing with things; having those hard conversations that may offend someone, but for their own good. It also means having the hard conversations with ourselves. Why do we blow up in anger at our kids? Could it be because it’s easier than being patient with them? Or, rooting out our own issues? I think so. Why don’t we call our mom and dad more often? Could it be because it’s easier to not deal with their input in our lives rather than having a conversation about boundaries?
“Any nation that thinks more of its ease and comfort than its freedom will soon lose its freedom; and the ironical thing about it is that it will lose its ease and comfort too.” – W. Somerset Maugham, British Playwright and Novelist, 1874-1965
That quote by Maugham is just awesome. Unfortunately, this describes America far to well. The reason we will lose our freedom is this: Being a man of ease means to be a man who does not participate in life. Life comes to him, he doesn’t seek it out. He will choose to wade in the shallows and never develop the strength required to face the waves head on. And, when he is finally tested, he will fail. This is serious business, fellas.
Learn to Love Hard Work
There is a great quote by John Crotts which I may have used before on the site:
“A man who learns to love hard work, will love all of life.” – John Crotts, Craftsmen
That quote rings so true with me. I am happiest when I am working. I don’t mean at my job, I mean when I doing something that needs to get done. That can be with my family, by myself, or with others. It’s so rewarding it almost seems strange that I would want to avoid it.
Here are a few ways to develop this character trait:
If a friend needs help moving and you don’t feel like doing it, say yes anyhow. Does the church need men to help stack chairs or move things around at the end of a meeting? You’re the man for the job!
Do Things Manually
Dishes can be washed by hand. You can change the oil in your car yourself. Mow your own grass. Grind your coffee by hand. Heat a meal on the stove instead of the microwave (it will taste better anyhow).
How much better would the world be if every man knew the feeling of busting a log with a piece of stick and steel? Answer: a whole lot better! There is a pleasure in seeing a cord of wood split and stacked by your own hands that draws you back to it time and again. Hard work pays off in ways we seldom realize.
Learn to Love Tough Conversations
I recently had to have a tough conversation with a guy. Not a particularly close friend, but close enough that I felt it needed to be had and I should be the one to do it. I still get that queasy feeling in my gut before these kinds of things. The strange thing is, it won’t go away until the talk is had. It just transforms and moves from a fear of man to the guilt and shame of cowardice.
Tough Conversations with Your Wife
Most couples have no problem spouting off their pet peeves to one another. The trouble comes from those conversations that are intentional; the ones that have the tendency to hurt and disrupt the relationship if not delivered with care and well received. This includes a willingness to hear from her the areas in your life where you need her input but don’t particularly want it.
Tough Conversations with Your Kids
How many men are going through this world who never heard their father say to them “I Love You” simply because it opens the door for what Ron Swanson calls “Feelings Territory“; a place many men aren’t comfortable going? Far more have never had a dad sit down and talk to them about girls and how a man should treat a lady or about what it means to be a man, love God, or, heck, even tell them in love when they are being foolish.
Tough Conversations with Your Friends
It’s hard to tell a friend they are wrong on an issue. It’s far easier to talk about that person behind their back — with the best intentions of course — than to confront them on a sensitive topic. You might be thinking of a conversation you need to have with a buddy as you read this. It’s like a sickening feeling down in the pit of your stomach. Have that conversation. Regardless of how it goes, you’ll be a better man and a better friend for it.
Tough Conversations with Yourself
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9 NIV
Many times it’s the Come-to-Jesus conversations we need to have with ourselves that are the hardest. Looking our self in the mirror and recognizing just how out of shape we are or recognizing just how much we are parenting like our parents did, which we swore we would never do. Realizing that the reason we have stayed in our dead-end job is because it’s easier than the hassle of finding a new one. How much of our life would change if we sought challenges instead of hid from them?
The passivity of men may be one of the biggest failures we have brought to the world. There are some things in this world that can only be addressed by men of action. When we abdicate our responsibility it increases the burdens on our families and on society. Many of us are waiting for the day to come when we are “needed” and we can rise the occasion: financial disaster, war, terrorist attack, zombies…choose your apocalyptic poison. But, we are needed now! How can we expect to handle ourselves in a chaotic world when we can’t find the will power to get out of bed?
Slowly and steadily, that man of passivity within you can be conquered.