I have often stated my contention that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the institution of marriage, but there is plenty wrong with how we have put it into practice. Today's column should shed some light on a better way to view and conduct marriage.
For the past several Wednesdays, I've been attending an early morning men's group featuring the teaching of Kenny Luck. Luck is the men's pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and the founder of Every Man Ministries. While he certainly writes from a distinctively Christian viewpoint, I believe all readers will appreciate his insights.
I felt like an arsonist at a firefighter's convention.
Two hundred women were seated in front of me. I did not know any of their stories. I did not know one of their names. I did not have any insight into their relationships with men. I could only assume that there was plenty of painful chapters connected to a man, some man, or multiples of men whose character or conduct had impacted them negatively. When you are a "men's expert" and you are talking to women knowing this makes every discussion an uphill battle from the start. The topic? Gender wars, the failure of "traditional" masculinity, the lies of "reactive" femininity and the emerging "third wave" of men and women blazing a new trail of respect, honor, partnership and family that will be changing the world. I am shaking inside. Never fails. But I know what's coming and they don't.
Fast forward two hours. It's over. We (my audience and I) are victorious.
I was right. There was a lot of hurt in the room connected to broken male character and conduct beginning with myself. I told them my story of an alcoholic father whose absence made me feel like one big accident as a young boy. I invited them into my own journey, my own broken quest for sonship and all the unhealthy but culturally endorsed ways I was trained to "be a man," (i.e. ways I was trained by broken male culture to separate my heart from head in order to achieve validation). Sexual conquest, physical toughness and net worth as the observable "end zones" of masculine glory do that to young men by the millions. Missing role models and mentors in our first community of acceptance (the family) forced us to look outside our family systems for a way to be, believe, and behave that will secure worth and belonging. Unfortunately, the "ways" of masculinity that were culturally approved doomed us to creating a lot of suffering for the women and children who would eventually connect with us. Self gratifiers, self-servers and self-preservers make horrible husbands, dads, and partners for women of all ages. Pretty dark and gloomy right? What to do? What to do?
Reactive femininity was to be expected and welcomed. The voice, vision and value of women as more than pawns and trophies of the broken male vision was absolutely needed and necessary. Dignity in and discrimination out were both solid results. The problem with reactions to suffering and injustice is that they are never solutions. In fact, riding a wave of both real and imagined injustices, the message to women became "be the man and be a better man than men themselves can be."
For the 90 percent of women who will marry a man and have children with a man, this message stops being helpful and starts being hurtful the second the wedding ring goes on and babies start arriving. A cluster of younger women approached me after my presentation to tell this exact story. Reactive femininity and the quest for independence from men ended up creating massive conflicts emotionally and relationally in the marriage and family zones of their lives. The feminine power message of "be the man" and "be better at being a man than men" failed to help them and confusion set in while, in their hearts, they knew this was the man they loved and wanted. Pretty dark and gloomy right? What to do? What to do?
Traditional masculinity is out. Reactive femininity is out. "The Third Wave" of masculinity and femininity is here, growing and rising above the gender war. It's not a reaction, it's a solution because it doesn't seek to garner power and control or create distance to accomplish the important goals of life and living. It explains things. It is a breath of fresh air. It eliminates competition and creates connection. It heals wounds and brings unity. It's a different dimension traditionalism and feminism cannot touch. Unity and victory are coming together.
Are you ready, ladies, for your world to be rocked?
It's me again, and I think you'll agree that the staggering number of children growing up without a mother and father in the home is having a hugely negative impact on our society. If you think otherwise I challenge you to check with a school teacher or juvenile probation officer and ask them if that statement is accurate. I'm intrigued by Kenny Luck's approach that both men and women have to come to terms with what marriage is and how they can make theirs successful.
I'll share more of Luck's thoughts next week, but in the meantime you may want to check out his "Third Wave Playlist" for individuals, groups, organizations and churches at www.everymanministries.com/playlist/pastor-kenny-luck. You'll find lots of resources there, including a free mini course for men called "Be Her Hero."
I am certainly not a man-basher, but I absolutely believe men have largely dropped the ball when it comes to fulfilling their roles as husbands and fathers. But all is not lost. With the right education and direction men can succeed well in these vital roles and we will all benefit when they do.
Luck will be sharing more helpful thoughts on ways to better connect in marriage when he will be my guest on Twogether as One heard on KLJH 107.1FM tomorrow at 6 p.m.