Most young men today have grown up without fathers.
The father may have been in the home. But there was no masculine presence.
There was no one to teach him to follow his own conscience. He never learned that it was okay to be rejected in order to do what was right.
He never learned how to stand up to a woman.
Instead, he was taught that his mother’s approval is the standard. “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
This craving for female approval carries over into this young man’s life.
He wants a girlfriend. What do women say they want? What does his mother say women want?
They say women want a “sweet guy”. A man who’s kind and considerate.
This poor “nice guy” finds a girl he likes. He ups the “sweetness” factor and all those things he was told women want.
He works up the courage to ask her on a date. He gets turned down. 2 weeks later she’s dating a “jerk.”
Now he doesn’t know what to do with himself. His worldview has been shattered. He retreats to the lonely world of wanking off to hardcore pornography.
Eventually, he gets a girl and, after several years of dating, she decides she’s finally ready to marry.
Now his wife has replaced his mother as the central source of female approval in his life.
What will make his wife happy?
He’s determined to be a great husband. He helps with chores around the house. He’s doesn’t push too much for sex. He always gets her flowers on all the appropriate dates.
But after awhile, this illusion ends.
His wife is not happy and no one knows why.
He was hoping for a blissful marriage. Instead, he gets something like this:
Surviving as a 21st Century Man
Young men today face at least 4 difficult challenges. None of which they are adequately prepared for.
- The middle-class life script no longer works. And housing is priced based on double-income households. Plus inflation. Plus student debt payments. Good luck figuring out how to make enough money!
- He doesn’t know how emasculated he is. You don’t know what you don’t know. And it’s a painful process to wake up. And it’s difficult to figure out what to do. A man has to piece it together from random strangers on the internet.
- Feminism has infected all women. Even if a man knows what to do, he can expect his wife to resist his attempts to regain his masculinity.
- Ingrained habits. It’s difficult enough for a boy to become a man under the guidance of a strong father. It’s at 3x more difficult for a weak man to overcome his ingrained habits on his own, without the luxury of childhood, and with practically every force in society against him.
If the “obstacle is the way”, I predict that the millennial generation will end up with a small number of extraordinary men, contrasted with a large number of men who simply give up on life (either literally or through apathy.)
Perhaps this has always been the case though. I don’t know. The world of men has always been unequal.
In the meantime, if you want series of steps to build yourself up as a man, this is what I’m using for myself:
Level 0: Philosophy – Understand and accept the nature of women. If you want to take this in quick-hitting style, I recommend starting here.
Level 1: Virtues – The four virtues of men are courage, strength, mastery, and honor. Or, to put it negatively, don’t think it’s okay to be a weak, incompetent coward. Here’s a quick test I devised to check myself on these virtues.
Level 2: Presentation – The virtues are what makes you a man on the inside. But everyone else judges you based on what they see on the outside. Hence, you must learn to present yourself properly to be taken seriously as a man. Pat Stedman’s “3 Pillars of Attraction” is the most useful framework I’ve found for this. When you’re ready to improve your bedroom “presentation” there’s Don of Desire.
Level 3: Judgment – Once you have perceived power, your wife (and others) will value your opinions. She will believe what you approve of and become whoever you expect her to be. It’s basic psychology. People (and especially women) conform themselves to perceived power. So think carefully about your values and opinions.
Level 4: Art – This where you think about how you will present your values and judgments. Use whatever medium is appropriate for you. Use contrasts. Show that you care and have her (or whoever’s) best interest in mind.
Level 5: Ask – After you’ve built yourself up as a man, you have the power to make requests that will be readily complied with. Ask for small commitments before larger ones. Physical action changes people’s identity.
This isn’t a strictly linear process. I’ve gone through several iterations of this throughout my marriage. But if you’re having difficulty on one level, check the lower levels.
Yes, it’s a long and difficult process. But it’s necessary. And it’s all up to you. No one is going to push you through this process.
Stay strong soldier!
- Are you willing to face rejection now to live the life you truly want later?
- Are you willing to lose money now to have an abundance of wealth later?
- Are you willing to endure physical pain now to become stronger later?
- Are you willing to endure being wrong and confused now to become wiser later?
- Do you give up when you “fail” or double-down on your effort?
- Do you pick goals that are rewarding and difficult… or adequate and easy? Are you hunting antelope or field mice?
The final question is the most important. A man must hunt what will truly satisfy his hunger.
I recently came across a fascinating piece of propaganda called “Men as Providers.”
It was an article published on the Council of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (CBMW)’s blog several years back. Their stated mission is to “set forth the teachings of the Bible about the complementary differences between men and women.”
So far so good.
But as I delved into the article I realized that the advice given, as noble as it sounded, was precisely the line of thinking that almost shipwrecked my marriage a few years back.
Since this rhetoric is so pervasive in conservative church culture, I thought it’d be worth a quick analysis here.
The article opens with the claim “Christian men are called to provide for their families.”
Hard to disagree with that.
Then 1 Timothy 5:8 is used as authoritative backing of that claim:
“But if any man does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
There are two red flags here.
One is that shameful rhetoric is entirely unnecessary. You should always be suspicious of an argument that opens with shame.
Shame is a fear trigger. Being shamed means you are rejected by the group. And when your mind is in a state of fear, it cannot think rationally. And the elimination of rational thought is the necessary condition for making people receptive to false ideas.
Shaming can be used for good, of course. That’s what Paul does. But that brings us to the second red flag:
The author is using Paul’s words in an entirely different context!
If you look up Paul’s argument in context, it goes something like this:
Do not scold your elders.
Honor (true) widows:
- A widow’s children or grandchildren should learn to reciprocate love by providing for their own mother/grandmother (i.e. the church should not intervene)
- A true widow is a woman who has no family to provide for her
- A woman who squanders her resources is as good as dead
- A man who refuses to provide for his own [widowed relatives], and especially his family [mother, grandmother] is worse than an unbeliever.
Qualifications for a true widow:
- Not under 60 years old
- Remained married to her husband
- Known for good works
So we see that the point of Paul’s rhetoric was to shame men who refused to provide for their poor old mothers.
But this context is not even hinted at in the article. Instead, the rhetoric is re-purposed for something entirely different:
One of the most God-glorifying pictures of the gospel is when a man puts his childhood dreams to the side, steps up to the plate, gets a job, and valiantly cares for his family.
Now we see the true intention of this article: to motivate men to give up on their dreams and settle for a job that is less desirable to them.
The author says that “this is a man dying to self and living for another.”
Finally, the author concludes with this:
Our hearts break when we see a man who selfishly refuses a job because it does not align with his dreams while his wife and kids suffer. We are not alone in condemning this man. Scripture condemns him too. He is worse than an unbeliever.
By “suffering”, I’m assuming the author means having a smaller kitchen than her friends, having to shop at a thrift store, and not being able to travel. 21st century life is difficult.
Kill the Dream, Kill the Marriage
The irony of this advice is this is the exact line of reasoning that got my marriage in trouble in the first place.
I married my wife while in college. During my junior year I realized I was wasting my time and wanted to drop out and go into business.
But my wife didn’t want me to because she valued college degrees and the economic security it represented. So I stuck with it and got my degree.
When I graduated college, I had no marketable skills. And these supposed jobs that hire anyone with a college degree didn’t exist.
But I realized one thing about myself: I was an entrepreneur at heart. I knew that, with the right skills and perseverance, I could make money on my own.
But it took longer than expected. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
So my wife begged me to get a regular job with a steady paycheck. So I found a writing job that paid $12/hour.
I absolutely hated that job. The company was dishonest and constantly took on clients that we couldn’t help. I was instructed to lie to get writing opportunities and had to write about topics I had no real-world qualifications to write about.
I wanted to quit the job. But my wife wanted the steady paycheck.
I told myself I was doing the right thing by gritting my teeth and “providing for my family.”
I felt like a trapped and emasculated man. I began to despise both myself and my wife.
I began to vent my frustrations on her. Our sex life dried up. I started making stupid financial decisions out of desperation to escape my hated situation.
It wasn’t until I quit that job and reclaimed pursuing my mission that our marriage got back on track.
Don’t buy into the shameful rhetoric.
A must do what he was created to do.
Today, I’d say that I’m a confident guy.
I scored a 99% for “assertiveness” on my personality test. Provided that I don’t die, I have no doubt that I will lead a successful life in one form or another.
I certainly have moments of fear or hesitation… particularly in live performance situations like talking in public or doing nature’s duty in the bedroom… but I never doubt my ability to ultimately overcome any challenge I face.
But I wasn’t someone who was naturally confident.
Throughout junior high and high school, I had zero confidence with girls. In fact, I hardly knew any girls. Because girls didn’t hang out in my social circle… because I didn’t really have a social circle.
I managed to make one Japanese friend in elementary school. But after a couple years of trying to tag along with the Japanese crowd in junior high, I realized they didn’t like having a greasy white boy contaminating their group.
In retrospect, my low social status at the time was obvious. I had poor hygiene and grooming habits. I also had the habit of making subtle but derisive remarks to people’s faces which tended to go unappreciated. As one girl summed it up after I made a rather rude comment to her: “Nobody likes you, know.”
I cleaned up my act quite a bit for high school and became more of a “nice guy” in hopes of doing better with the ladies. But we all know how well that works. I just got a bad case of oneitis, worked up the courage to ask her out, then got rejected. Like most modern guys, I was not trained in handling rejection so I spent a good couple years wallowing in self-pity.
I also had zero confidence in the money arena. I doubted that I could ever make any serious money. I felt sincerely grateful that someone allowed me to shovel alpaca shit for $6/hour. And I didn’t envision my career prospects getting much better.
However, in spite of my incompetence and complete lack of confidence in these two essential arenas of manhood, I had two assets that eventually triumphed over my inadequacies:
- A vision of what I wanted
- Confidence in my ability to learn
I wanted two things in life: a beautiful woman and wisdom. So I earnestly prayed for these two things.
And I did not judge my ability to learn based on my school performance (which was mediocre) but rather my ability to understand and apply what I read in books.
The written word is an amazing gift. It allows cowering orphaned boys to lift themselves up and become a man.
It was the written word that introduced me to entrepreneurship, sales, and marketing. I learned that with the right skills and perseverance, anyone can make money. We don’t have to live our lives with a poverty mindset or compete for low-wage jobs.
It was the written word that taught me the truth about women’s sexuality and how I could adjust my behavior to better align with reality.
Today, I have confidence that if there is a problem I have or something I don’t know, someone, somewhere, has figured it out and written it down… or at least the vital clue I need to figure it out myself.
My inner confidence came from the process of learning, not from my present performance or being “right.”
My learning process is simple:
- Research until I find something that looks like it might help me solve an interesting problem
- Skim the content until I have an epiphany
- Go on a walk and try to internalize the new insight. How does it fit or conflict with what I already know?
- Immediately update my mental models (i.e. worldview)
- Immediately make any necessary behavior changes
For me, the key to learning is the epiphany. If someone turns on a light, I don’t need to waste time examining the character of the person who turned the light on, asking what kind of light bulb he used, what mechanical motions he went through to turn on the light, or any other superfluous details.
I know when I’ve been exposed to the light because the light drives away the darkness. Likewise, the truth drives away confusion.
But we’re conditioned to believe that truth is difficult to grasp. That we’re not “qualified” to recognize truth. We’re told there are many complexities and contextual details that require special training to grasp.
So instead, we rely on teachers who do nothing but spread confusion and instill a sense of inadequacy in the student. We become like the silly women spoken of by the Apostle Paul:
…always learning and yet not at any time able to come into a realization of the truth. (2 Tim 3:7)
Yes, there are different degrees of intelligence. Some may need to spend longer processing a new idea before they “get it.” That’s fine.
But if you’ve been facing the same problem for years and haven’t found any real solutions from the “official” sources, then the problem is not you, it’s the teacher, the idea, the framework.
A man who can learn on his own has confidence. The man who relies on institutions to teach him will always doubt his ability.
Truth creates clarity. Falsehood creates confusion and guilt. Every man is fully capable of recognizing the difference.
You have a brain. You’re made in the image of God.
You don’t need other men to teach you. You just need someone to flick on the light switch so you can see.
Your wife is not “doing you a favor” by having sex with you.
It is the field that needs to be plowed, not the other way around.
You CHOSE to invest your valuable time into this woman.
She needs you more than you need her.
There’s always another woman who would be glad to be yours.
Don’t waste your time with an uncooperative woman. There’s always something more productive to do.
You are the leader that will guide her to her desired destination: a beautiful and precious diamond… pulled from the ground that hid her, cleansed from the dirt that tainted her, and polished to glorious perfection.
Every woman needs a man to find her, cleanse her, and make her beautiful.
Lately, my 3-year old daughter has been testing me.
It’s the classic won’t-stay-in-bed test.
First, she kept coming out of her room with various “needs” or would try to talk to my wife and me while we were trying to relax.
Like a good conservative parent, I tried the approach I was most familiar with: stern warnings and spankings.
But that approach did not work at all. All it did was work her up into a hysteria. Plus, she has OCD tendencies (like I did as a child) so when she gets fixated on something she feels she “needs” she can scream about it for an almost an hour straight.
So the spankings weren’t helping.
Then I tried the “nice” approach.
I’d lie in bed with her. Pray with her. Try to help her relax.
But that didn’t work either.
She only saw my kindness as an opportunity to increase her requests. And the result was the same as before: not falling asleep until 2 in the morning.
As you might have guessed the effective approach was the third option: neither indulgence nor coercion.
Instead, I just calmly laid down a clear boundary.
Every time she’d leave her room, I’d just pick her up and put her back to bed.
The first night she repeatedly ran out of her room for about an hour and half straight. Then lied in bed and cried for an hour. Then went to sleep.
Next night was half-hour of resistance, then an hour or so of crying.
Third night she didn’t try to get out of her room at all. Instead she just screamed, cried, and whined for a couple hours.
Recently, she’s been testing the boundaries again. She’s not getting out of bed, but she’ll stay awake in her room until 2 or 3 in the morning and then wake up at 8 in the morning. A sleep-deprived little woman makes for a miserable day.
So I decided it was time to set another boundary: lights out after half-an-hour and no getting out of bed.
Similar situation as before: tried to get out of bed for over an hour. Cried for an hour. Went to sleep.
I expect tonight will be a shorter period of resistance.
So what’s the point of all this?
Well, I’ve noticed that principles in human relationships are transferable. What works with adults works with children and vice versa. We’re all human. Some are just more mature than others.
I’ve noticed that we tend to apply one of two ineffective strategies when dealing with people: coercion or indulgence. And it all centers around the dynamic of demands.
When dealing with his wife, a man tends to follow one of two approaches:
- Appease his wife’s requests (The Nice Guy Approach)
- Request that his wife change her behavior, usually backed by a “threat” (The Wife Discipline / Classic Red Pill Approach)
In my experience, Option 1 leads to a dead bedroom. Option 2 leads to resistance (though admittedly more sexual attraction.)
But I think I’ve found a third option that works better:
I enforce my personal boundaries. She can do what she wants so long as she doesn’t infringe on my happiness. I improve myself and stay busy with my mission. I invite her to grow with me. And she follows.
Not a popular topic among Bible study groups, but well-worth noting.
Paul’s final exhortation to the remaining faithful few in the Body of Christ was to suffer hardship like a good soldier (2 Tim 2:3).
Paul didn’t tell us to be like a soldier in all ways. He didn’t say go about waging physical warfare or capturing kingdoms from neighboring nations. He instructed us to have the mindset of a soldier.
Like a soldier prepares himself to suffer in battle. So must Christians (particularly men) prepare themselves to suffer for the sake of the truth.
Because those who stand for truth in this age will suffer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be burned at the stake, imprisoned, or tortured. But it does at least mean the present establishment… the churches, the schools, the mainstream media, and maybe even your employer… will not like what you are doing and will attempt to silence and shame you.
This age calls for a certain kind of man. This age calls for a man who embraces suffering… or, to paraphrase Ryan Holiday, this age calls for men who embrace the obstacle as the way.
This age calls for men who choose not to feel harmed by this persecution, because they were expecting it.
We need men who can steady their nerves in the face of adversity.
We need men who can control their emotions rather than react with passion to provocations.
We need men who can stay standing after being attacked, because they realize it’s not as bad as it felt on the first blow.
We need men who can embrace persecution as a meaningful part of their story rather than seeing it as pointless suffering.
We need men who can let go of the things they cannot change, and get to work on the things they can.
We need men who can look at the work in front of them instead of worrying about some future conspiracy.
We need men who can recognize, from the Scriptures, what needs to be done and put it into effect.
We need men who can turn persecution to their advantage by finding the upside of every attack.
Unfortunately, this kind of man is a rarity today. Men today are not trained to endure hardship. Instead they are trained to grow up to be Nice Guys who do everything can to avoid hardship.
But you can train yourself for battle. It all starts in the mind. I recommend starting here.
(As an aside, a man who can endure hardship is sexually attractive to a woman. So it is possible to both obey God and get laid at the same time! Score.)
I think this is why most Christians struggle to find the truth today:
The fact that scholars disagree among themselves does not change the fact of our own accountability to God. Conversely, we must realize that understanding is ultimately the gift of God (cp Prov.25:2; Col.2:3; 1 Cor.3:5-9). If understanding is not granted to certain scholars, that does not mean that neither will it be granted to us. Let us earnestly seek the truth, endeavoring by God’s grace to become competent workers in His Word. Faithfulness is developed through our own efforts; yet it is achieved solely by and in God’s grace (1 Cor.4:7; 15:10; cf John 3:27).
– Excerpt from “Scripture Translation Principles” by James Coram [emphasis mine]
Most people want to outsource their thinking. This is a bad idea. Even the most educated cannot agree. Use experts when helpful, but do not depend on them to give you the whole truth.
If you truly want to know the truth, pray to God for understanding. You will find what you’re seeking… one way or another.
So you still haven’t gotten around to improving your diet, eh? Still haven’t gotten yourself to the gym? Still haven’t been “digging into the Word” like you know you should?
It’s because you suck at self-discipline.
But don’t feel bad. We all suck at it. It’s because we approach it the wrong way.
I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read this recent “tweet storm” by Alexander J.A. Cortez on self-control. I give my take on it below as it relates to Christians.
Self-control or discipline is one of the fundamental spiritual virtues of mature Christians. There are two aspects of discipline:
- The “good” things you practice
- The “not good” things you avoid
Most people focus only on the second part. Christians, specifically, tend to focus on avoiding sin (or self-defined “sins”). Christian men think “I need to stop looking at porn… I need to quit masturbating… I need to quit lusting after women… I need to stop losing my temper with my wife… I need to quit being afraid of my wife…”
But what you avoid is only part of discipline. And it’s not the foundational part. How you want to live determines what you need to avoid.
To have self-control, Christians must be aware of the following four things (adapted from Cortez’s original list):
- Recognize what the blessed life looks like
- Recognize what robs you of that blessed life (i.e. sin, worldliness, immaturity)
- Be grateful for the blessings you have now
- Reframe self control as living the blessed life every day, as opposed to focusing on “what’s not allowed”
Once you can accept these paradigms, the application of self control becomes simple (not necessarily easy, but more effective). There are four questions that lead to results:
- What do I need to do or change to make my life more blessed? (i.e. behaviors, environment, learning)
- What do I need to stop doing? And why should I stop doing them? (the “why” question leads you to confront your underlying beliefs, many of which are incorrect)
- What am I sacrificing for? What’s the prize at the end of the struggle? (prompts you to address your identity and motivations)
- What will my life look like after I do these things? (prompts you to clarify your mission and vision for your life)
It does you no good to simply say “I need to be more disciplined.” There’s no why behind that. There’s only a what. Your motivation will be depleted before you make any progress.
Don’t tell yourself you need to “work out” or “eat better” or “read the Bible more.”
Those aren’t reasons. They’re just applaudable sound bites that we substitute for thinking and action.
You need a reason why.
You can go to the gym to “get in shape” …or you can go to the gym because you want to become a beast in the bedroom.
You can eat healthy foods because you “need to” …or because you want your sperm to be healthy so you can produce strong, beautiful offspring.
You can read the Bible because you’ve been “falling behind” in your spiritual life …or because you want to become a mighty prince in God’s eternal Kingdom.
Whatever works for you. Find your reason why and this will compel to do all those those things you “need” to do but haven’t gotten around to doing.
You dip your hand into the bowl hoping to get an orange one.
There are 9 other flavors… so you might not get an orange one when you first try. But the bowl is huge and you can dip your hand in as many times as you want (no penalty for “double dipping.”)
This is the essence of the abundance mindset.
Life is a big bowl of jelly beans and you can get whatever you want if you just keep plunging your greedy little hands into the bowl hoping for the right flavor.
There’s thousands of new insights and ideas you haven’t had yet.
There’s thousands of people that could give you money.
There’s thousands of women who might be willing to marry you.
There’s thousands of more opportunities to initiate sex with your wife.
But those thousands of perfect beans you’re looking for are mixed in with millions of beans of a different flavor. So keep digging. And don’t panic if you make a blunder and drop one of the good ones on the floor.
Hopefully this makes sense. I’m going to end this analogy before it gets out of hand.