By Greg Primm
“When all is said and done, I think most men . . . believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy. The problem with men, we are told, is that they don’t know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children. But, if they will try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming . . . a nice guy. That’s what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Really Nice Guys. We don’t smoke, drink, or swear; that’s what makes us men.
“Now let me ask my male readers: In all your boyhood dreams growing up, did you ever dream of becoming a Nice Guy? (Ladies, was the Prince of your dreams dashing . . . or merely nice?) Really now-do I overstate my case?
“Walk into most churches in America, have a look around, and ask yourself this question: What is a Christian man? Don’t listen to what is said, look at what you find there. There is no doubt about it. You’d have to admit a Christian man is . . . bored. At a recent church retreat I was talking with a guy in his fifties, listening really, about his own journey as a man. “I’ve pretty much tried for the last twenty years to be a good man . . . ” Intrigued, I asked him to say what he thought that was. He paused for a long moment. “Dutiful,” he said. “And separated from his heart.” A perfect description, I thought. Sadly right on the mark.” (John Eldredge, Wild at Heart , 7)
This passage by author John Eldredge strikes a chord with me. I spend most of my days trying to be the Nice Guy — making the peace, finding the common ground, pushing away the desire to fight the battle. It’s impossible to keep it away for too long, though. I’m wired – all men are – to fight. To battle. To win. Nice guys don’t go to battle.
When I was 7 years old, the battle involved me, a firehat, and my bike. My friends and I would ride the neighborhood with our plastic firehats, some jumpropes (improvised hoses) trailing behind us to some imaginary fire down the street. We got chased from more than a few front yards by little old ladies thinking we were going to vandalize their houses.
When I was 16 years old, the fight was on the sports field. Mini-epics, each game a chess match of strategy and strength. You always knew at the end of the night who was the winner and loser. I came out on the losing end more than I won, but at least I knew where I stood. And there was always the next game . . .
Sometime after college, after we’re married, we get told to settle down. Find a good job, nice house in a great neighborhood with good schools. Mow the grass on Saturday mornings, watch football on Saturday afternoons, take the family to church on Sunday — that’s the American dream, right? Not for me it isn’t.
We’ve lost our fight, many of us. Where’s the battle we’re fighting? It’s still there — it may be hidden, but it comes out sometimes. Maybe as that recurring argument with your wife. After too many days of suppressing our instinct to fight, it comes out in all the wrong ways. Maybe as the weekend warrior who attacks the golf course in the never-ending quest for a lower score. For me its physical labor. Give me a home improvement project and I’ll attack it with a vengeance.
Not too long ago, I was helping a friend with a project at his house. He mentioned how he loved doing it more than his job. I asked why and his response? “Because, unlike my job, I can look up at the end of the day and see what I’ve accomplished.” This is a guy with a great job, advanced degree, and he prefers the feeling he gets after a day of manual labor to the way he feels in his job. Why?
Because deep down, we don’t want to be the Nice Guy. We need to find the thing it is we can fight for. What’s the thing you need to battle for each day? For my friend Mike, it’s for people in need. Another friend, John, has a passion for the environment and showing people how to make a positive impact. What’s yours?
Photo credit: Steve Kay