I passed by the field of the sluggard
And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,
And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;
Its surface was covered with nettles,
And its stone wall was broken down.
When I saw, I reflected upon it;
I looked, and received instruction.
“A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest,”
Then your poverty will come as a robber
And your want like an armed man. (Proverbs 24:30-34)
Last week we talked about nice guys.
A nice guy is a man who thinks that if he is approval-seeking enough, women will desire him, men will respect him, and he’ll get the things he wants in life.
A major theme we drew out of this was the people-pleasing nature of “sacrifice” that nice guys engage in, and how inverted it is compared to biblical service.
Nice guys serve in the hopes of getting something for themselves from others (often their wives).
Biblical men serve because they are giving of themselves for others.
Nice guys have a neediness mentality.
Biblical men have an abundance mentality.
But something we didn’t talk about was a big reason that this abundance mentality is so difficult for many men.
Put another way, why is it so hard for men to produce valuable output?
It has to do with what psychologists call “locus of control.”
Proverbs is a book that repeatedly shows us that our real life output is a product of our spiritual state. It reminds us that there is an undeniable relationship between our heart and our hands, our attitude and our actions. Anyone that reads a single chapter of this book should walk away concluding that our inner lives and our outer lives are intimately intertwined.
And yet, how many times have you heard someone claim that our behavior has nothing to do with our internal state? (How many times have you claimed it yourself?)
We are like the mother of a man who has committed some horrific crime. No matter how terrible his acts were, the mother will always insist that deep down he really was a good boy.
This is how we treat ourselves.
No matter how disordered our home is…no matter how poor our health is…no matter how messed up our finances are…no matter how friendless we are…it isn’t really our fault. These things aren’t a reflection of our soul. Deep down we really are a good boy. We meant well, but we were thwarted by circumstances beyond our control.
The extenuating circumstances of a fallen world.
This is classic nice guy mentality. We place the locus of control for our lives on external things. Things in the world. Things beyond our ability to change.
By doing this, we can see ourselves as a victim. Perhaps we wouldn’t use that particular word (again, we don’t want to think of ourselves in negative terms). But our starting mindset is that if there is a problem, it is out there somewhere. Never inside us.
This feeds our neediness and prevents us taking the first steps toward correcting it.
How can you have an abundance mentality when the control over what you have rests outside yourself? How can you take responsibility for the wellbeing of others’ lives when you aren’t responsible the wellbeing of your own? How can you give of yourself when remote forces determine what you have in the first place?
An external locus of control destroys a man’s ability to follow the biblical model of service.
This is why the unbiblical servant-leader model is so widely accepted — and so fiercely defended.
While this mindset isn’t new by any means, it used to be comparatively rare. Men have dominion built into their DNA, which means they have self-responsibility and self-determination built into their DNA. It is natural for us, in varying degrees, to tend toward an internal locus of control.
A strong external locus of control is a naturally feminine mindset. Woman was made for man, not man for woman (1 Cor 11).
It therefore takes consistent training to condition most boys to have a strong and consistent external locus of control. Yet that is what we are now doing as a culture, and have been for some time. This mindset is a predominant feature of the West.
How? Largely thanks to public schooling. The consistent and relentless enforcing of feminine modes of thought and behavior for 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for the 13 most formative years of a boy’s life — then reinforced by feminine social conventions in the rest of public (and most private) life, throughout adulthood.
Thus, we are all victims — no one is ultimately responsible for the output of their lives.
Well, Proverbs smashes this mindset into a million tiny pieces. It absolutely destroys it. The state of your life is a clear indicator of the state of your soul. And, yes, by and large, you are responsible for your current reality.
You are the central cause of your problems.
There are certainly other factors — but usually you are the main one.
This should be our default way of analyzing our lives. It should be our go-to when interpreting our problems. Other people shouldn’t need to work at convincing us that, maybe, we are just an itty bitty part of the problem. We should assume that. They should need to work at convincing us that other factors are more influential than we tend to assume. (And they should only succeed if they are right.)
This should be our default frame.
It is a hard truth for modern men to embrace. We have become blamer-shifters, pity-seekers, and excuse-makers. Yes, there are things outside of our control. Yes, there are ways in which we truly are victims. But personal responsibility is the clear teaching of Proverbs — and of the rest of Scripture.
The only way to escape neediness, to escape being a nice guy, and to develop biblical manliness, is to start assuming that our problems begin with us — and that, by the grace of God, they can be solved by us.
Talk again soon,
Michael & Bnonn