“Pain & Prejudice” by Paul Coughlin

While returning from teaching at an Iron Sharpens Iron men’s conference in Hartford, CT last weekend, I chuckled out loud while on the long plane ride home back to the West Coast. I recounted in my mind some of the hilarious comments men made during the question and answer portion of my seminar about how important emotional engagement is today in marriage.

We discussed a lot of topics during the seminar: How wives, not husbands, are more likely to begin a serious conversation more harshly, so be prepared. Why responding in anger is the wrong way to get to a win-win in marriage. How childhood trauma causes many adult men to be passive and timid when it comes to emotions, and how important it is for such men to do the soulwork necessary to overcome this problem in order to meet the emotional needs of our wives.

But what sticks out most in my mind are the “Amens” and “Say it Brother” I heard when I talked about the tremendous prejudice against their male nature. When I embarked on my unusual ministry to Christian men, I assumed that it would be the younger Christian men who saw this problem the clearest, and who would be willing to undergo the hard work to correct it. Turns out, it’s men in their 50’s and 60’s who express the most disappointment, resentment, and anger toward well-meaning messages that have mishandled their masculine nature. But it makes sense to me now: they are the group that bought the propaganda the longest, tried to live by it, and who, along with their wives and children, have paid the largest price.

Here are some of the messages Christian men have been told, some for decades:

· If there is a major problem in a couple’s marriage, whether or not it leads to divorce, it is ultimately the husband’s fault.

· Women are more moral and spiritual than men.

· Women are more sensitive to the Holy Spirit than men.

———-

Christian men don’t like the prejudice against them, they complain–sometimes bitterly–in private, but they keep going, though something happens to many of them beginning in their late thirties. Church becomes a chore. And a bore. They go out of duty, not because they receive much inspiration there as men, or truly helpful instruction regarding marriage and gender differences. They go because they feel they have to.

If you question this prejudice against men, then ask yourself: Why do men have “Accountability Groups,” at church, yet women have “Fellowship Groups”? Men are treated as if they are one step away from committing felonies. So they require constant monitoring, constant “accountability,” as if they are at risk of jumping a form of spiritual bail.

Bigotry robs people of dignity and value. It frustrates common and healthy human desires, creates dark psychic storm clouds, and unless a man is unusually robust, creates spiritual fissures. Bitterness, anger, and resentment seep into men’s souls, as I heard during the question and answer portion of the conference. One man used some words that I can’t restate here regarding his wife’s behavior and how handcuffed he felt defending himself and his children against her wicked tongue. He’s been told that a “good Christian man” does not confront his wife about her behavior. His spiritual training has told him that accepting abuse is synonymous with sacrifice, so he sits there and takes it. He doesn’t feel right protecting his children either.

But the biggest problems aren’t that such bigotry takes place and those who are guilty of it get away with it. The biggest problem is that with enough intensity and duration the group under fire believes the propaganda against them.

Minorities believe they are feckless.

Blondes believe they are stupid.

Christian men believe they’re spiritually deficient.

No wonder they don’t lead as they should. Or they lead, but with the unsure footing that accompanies fear, inspiring confidence in no one. Or they lead, but with ambivalence, inspiring no respect in no one either.

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