Man Up: Initial Reflections On Passive Men & How We Can Move Forward

Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in our campus fellowships: we have fewer men involved, fewer male leaders and more passivity among guys who do come out.  In my area this year, for example, we have about two women leaders for every guy leader.  (Hat tip to the women here).

Wondering if my observations were just a result of the bad take-out I had last night, I’ve asked my colleagues if they’re seeing similar things.  While not every one had, one leader, familiar with many medical campuses, said, “Oh yeah.  I am surprised when I have a majority of men leading a campus group.  Rarely does this happen.”  Other ministry leaders in our city have seen a similar dynamic.

As in healthcare, it’s relatively easy to see that the patient is sick, but much harder to make an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.  So, what’s going on and what can we do about it?

The answers, no doubt, are incredibly complex.  I do have some initial theories, though, and want to share them with you.

Possible diagnoses –

  • The fall.  A lot of bad things were set in motion when Adam & Eve, our first parents, decided to disobey God.  (Interestingly, Adam sat passively by while Eve ate the forbidden fruit – see Genesis 3:11).  While it’s hard to decipher precisely what God meant, it’s clear that part of the consequence for their choices would be conflict between them as man and woman (Genesis 3:16).
  • The fall today.  It seems that this original tension and struggle continues to play itself out today.  The packaging looks different depending on time and culture, but it’s always there to some extent.  In America, many of us had grandparents where the man worked and ruled the roost.  Mom raised the kids, kept a tidy home and had dinner ready at 4:37 each day.  Men were more aggressive, with women tending to be more passive.  Since that time, various cultural dynamics have brought much-needed change, but also encouraged a reversal of the previous imbalance.
  • Culture of divorce.  Today, about half of all marriages end in divorce.  In most cases, the kids stay with mom for the majority of the time.  This means a lot of young men don’t have an up-close example of what it means to be a man, leaving them unsure of themselves in that arena.
  • Pop culture.  On TV shows and commercials, if someone gets made fun of, chances are it’s the adult male.  In a recent Microsoft commercial, mom is trying to get a decent family photo while Dad is (ineffectively) trying to stop the kids from fighting.  Since mom can’t get the photo she needs given the circumstances, she goes “to the cloud” and proudly announces that “Windows gives me the family that nature never could.”  We laugh, but this has many of the ingredients we’ve come to expect: a smart, resourceful woman solves life’s problems while an incompetent, passive man (himself a large child) is thankful he doesn’t have to do more than show up.

Possible solutions –

  • Becoming aware.  A good first step is recognizing that a problem exists.  Guys, do you see passivity as an issue in your life?  I know I do in mine.
  • A third way.  It’s important to see that our (and every other) culture tends to distort what God intended.  I’m not advocating for a return to a “Leave It To Beaver” family dynamic, but neither am I suggesting that today’s examples are largely healthy, either.  As in every area, authentic Christianity gives us creative solutions that explode our traditional categories to give us something infinitely better.
  • Return to Scripture.  We discover this sort of authentic Christianity in the bible, so we need to study it much more closely.  Two quick examples – Jesus’ model challenges guys to exercise real leadership, but in a way that puts others first (see Ephesians 5:25-33; Philippians 2:4-11).   The woman in Proverbs 31 is a successful businesswoman (verses 13-19), but still very much concerned with her family (verses 11, 27-28).
  • A bigger vision.  Sports, TV, Facebook and video games all have their place, but they’re largely passive and we can overindulge them.  The only way to say “no” to lesser things is to have a greater “yes” (like the Great Commission, Matthew 28:18-20).

I could write more, but I’m going to stop there… this is a blog, not a book.  Guys, I want to challenge you to join me in getting before God and asking Him if being passive is an issue in your life.  If it is, tell Him you’re committed to growing in this area even if the way ahead looks hazy.  There are others (like me) who are on the journey with you, and we can count on His help moving forward.

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