In our last email, we broke down a kind of chain of connections:
- The moral ailment that leads to nice guy syndrome is neediness;
- Neediness is a product of having an overly external locus of control;
- An external locus of control is what happens when you refuse to take responsibility for yourself.
This leads us to a deep question we must answer as we live in repentance of being nice guys:
Why do men so naturally resist taking responsibility?
This isn’t just a failing of nice guys. Rather, unwillingness to take responsibility naturally affects men in general — and nice guys are one result of this failure.
Consider how you see the same lack of responsibility in people reacting against being nice guys — they will stop being approval-seeking, even becoming quite disagreeable…yet continue to avoid taking the blame for anything.
Same thing with the hyper-patriarchalists. They will react against servant leadership by becoming Barney Fifes who insist on authority…without the accompanying responsibility.
In fact, from our observation, there’s a natural “cage stage” that men go through when they come to a biblical understanding of gendered piety, and this cage stage consists largely in trying to correct whatever mistakes they were making by simply talking about them being fixed, rather than doing anything substantial that really fixes them.
Sadly, many men never get out of that cage. Red pill forums are full of men who gather to excuse their ongoing sorry state, by daily casting anew onto women all the responsibility for their problems.
A huge amount of the discussion we have with other men, and a huge amount of the difficulty we face personally in living out what we know to be true, revolves around how to be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves.
Why is it so hard to take responsibility? Why is it so hard to be doers?
The answer, as usual, is in Genesis:
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
This is often called the creation mandate. It is call to rule and reign over the earth. It is a call to produce and build a household under God, and eventually a household of households — a polis, a society — using the raw materials God provides in the earth.
This mandate is given to Adam immediately upon his creation. It is his vocation as a man. And sin does not remove this vocation; it is repeated to Noah after the flood. It remains in effect. It is what we are made for.
But sin does complicate and impair it. After eating of the forbidden fruit, God pronounces a curse:
Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.”
In The Story of Sex in Scripture, William Mouser explains:
In addition to the sentence of death, God curses the work of man and woman, that is, the productivity of their specific domains. Since Adam comes from the ground to work the ground, God curses the ground. It will be unproductive; labor will be hard. His own body will sweat as he struggles to make a living from a rebellious earth even as he journeys toward death, to return to the dust from which he was made.
In other words, we find in Genesis the reason that avoiding responsibility is such a temptation to us as men. To understand how this works out, let’s return to the paradigm responsibility-avoider, the sluggard, and what Scripture says about his domain:
And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. (Proverbs 24:31)
Here are the results of his sluggishness. He didn’t repair the wall when an animal kicked it over, or when the rain eroded it. He didn’t remove the thistles and nettles when they were little weeds, and now they have overtaken the vineyard.
He simply left it alone, and the earth reclaimed it…
Think about that. The earth is ruling over the man, not the man over the earth. The dominion is backwards. It is an inversion of the creation design, on account of sin — the natural consequence of Adam inverting the creation order of dominion between himself, his wife, and God.
The temptation to sluggishness, to avoid responsibility, is a natural outworking of the curse. We are made to exercise dominion and be productive — but it is hard to take responsibility for that vocation, because being productive is cursed!
The world pushes back as we push forward.
We must toil at it. We know in our bones that there is a futility and pointlessness to it that can never be overcome.
You can’t mow your yard just once. You can’t discipline your kids just once. You can’t weed your garden just once.
It must be done over and over again.
It must be maintained.
It must be a habit.
Because weeds…because sin…they come back.
Remember the temptation of Jesus. He was tempted three times. Then the devil left Him — but not forever:
When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.
He hadn’t given up. This wasn’t over. He intended to tempt him again.
The ease of the pre-fall world is no longer. We live in a fallen world that is cursed, and therefore full of difficulty. We naturally hate this.
In the past, most men had no choice but to exercise dominion. If they weren’t productive, they died.
But today, we are so wealthy, and our governments take so much of that wealth to give to those who didn’t earn it, that this problem barely exists.
And so we naturally have many men simply failing to start. We have many men allowing the world to reign over them.
That is why the nettles and thistles are everywhere. That is why so many modern men see themselves as victims of outside forces.
Because they — we — refuse to be diligent and fight back.
Understanding that this is a result of the curse has a huge benefit that we will talk about next week: namely, a clear view of how to solve the problem.
How do we reform men? How do we reform our society?
There is only one answer.
Bnonn & Michael