Coping

April 16, 2017

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The Male Coping Mechanism (the myth) (it’s a pun)

There are many things in life which bring pleasure, such as power, influence, money, status, connections, achievement, success, possessions, food, sex, recreation, etc. All these things are good in their place, but we have a tendency to think that they are the source of happiness. They make us feel good, but they don’t bring true happiness. They do not bring contentment.

? If you are looking for happiness in money, you can never get enough. I know you’ve heard the illustration about when John D. Rockefeller was asked how much money is enough, and he answered, “Just a little more.” We can’t believe that if we were millionaires, we would want more, but if that is what we are looking to for happiness, or security then we would.

? If sex is where you are trying to find happiness, your spouse will never satisfy you.

? If power is where you are seeking to find happiness, then you can never get enough.

? If possessions are where you try to find happiness, then your house is never big enough and your car is never new enough.

? If this is where you are looking for happiness, when these things are taken away, you will be devastated.

God wants us to enjoy these things, but enjoying these things is not the reason God put us here. God has created us with a purpose. The whole Bible is summed up with two commands – Love God and Love your neighbor. And Paul sums up the whole Law with the statement – Love your Neighbor, so God’s purpose for us is to love others – to build relationships, to move into other people’s lives and help them move towards God. We will find the most joy in life when we are doing that. But relationships are messy. We talked a lot about chaos last week. Messy = chaos. Relationships = chaos. Relationships involve mystery.

We hate chaos and mystery. What we really want is certainty in life.

? It’s true in relation to our religion. We want certainty in our religion. We want everything black and white. We want to think there are knowable right answers and so we argue about points of doctrine and split churches so we can hang out with those that believe the way we do and who will reinforce our opinions making us feel certain. It is too hard for many people to recognize that God is infinite and we are finite and there are just some things we can’t understand. There are some things in the Bible that just aren’t clear.

? It’s true in the decision making process. We want to know if the decision we are about to make is the right one. We want God to show us exactly what we should do. But decisions are full of mystery. There is mystery involved in deciding who to marry, which job to take, whether to remodel our home, which car to buy, which stock to invest in, etc. Many of us are paralyzed by the process of making decisions and making a mistake. We can’t decide what to do, so we do nothing.

? It’s true in our relationships. There is no certainty in relationships. There is only mystery and chaos in relationships. People disappoint. They let us down, they hurt us… How will the person react if I do this or that? Will my wife still love me when she finds out I’m afraid of …? Why is my wife depressed? Why is my son a bully at school?

So what we try to do is find a way to eliminate the mystery. How do we eliminate or dispel mystery?

THE SEARCH FOR CERTAINTY

RECIPE THEOLOGY

Many people have a recipe theology. Recipe theology holds out the false promise of certainty. By recipe theology I mean the belief that if we can just find the right set of steps or principles, and then follow them perfectly, then they will make life work. We really like steps to follow. That’s one reason why self-help books, the promise keepers conventions and family life conferences are so popular. We usually walk away from them with a list of things to do. Some people read the books, go to the conferences and come away convicted of their sin and a new resolve to trust God more as they move through life. But others just come away from the conferences with a new set of steps to follow. Recipe theology says, “If I pick up my socks, clean the kitchen for my wife and give up Monday night football, then my marriage will be great.” When that doesn’t work, then our conclusion is that those were the wrong steps and so we go in search of another list. We never realize that what we really need to do is learn how to relate to our wives.

I think one of the best passages and most misused passages on this is Eph 5:25. It says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. I’ve heard people teach on this passage and what they get from this is that we need to sacrifice ourselves for our wives. Then they give their list of things we can do to sacrifice ourselves. But, the whole concept behind this passage is that Christ came to earth to build relationships with men. We rejected Him and killed Him. What this means to a husband is that he needs to move towards his wife to build a relationship with her. In the process, she is going to reject him, argue with him, disappoint him, not respond to him, hurt him, etc. That is where the sacrifice comes in—in being willing to be hurt in the process of moving toward his wife. The sacrifice comes in being willing to enter the chaos and mystery of relationship.

GETTING ON WITH LIFE

Another way we can try to dispel mystery is by trying to ignore the need for relationships and concluding that we might as well “get on with life.” So we run away from people and devote our energy towards manageable things, things we are good at. Often abilities surface like athletic talent, academic gift, or mechanical knack that give us a feeling of power, competence, appreciation, etc. When relationships are too confusing, too disappointing, we turn to the things that bring us those fleeting pleasures we talked about earlier. But they are fleeting, so we spend more and more time at work or buried in our hobbies, or in the garage fixing things, trying to satisfy the longing in our souls.

For example, if you are a computer programmer, I think it would be accurate to say that your job is never done, and if things are bad at home, it would be easy to always work late. You could honestly tell your wife that you are behind, because in that job, you are always behind. And to make it even more attractive, computer programming is a safe place to hide from people. A computer is just a dumb box that does exactly what you tell it. So you are in control. And when you are programming or designing a graphic or whatever, you are being creative. It appeals to and fulfills in a false way what God intended man to be.

Or maybe your solution is to go play golf or go fishing. Those activities are fun, challenging and most important, don’t require much in the way of relationships.

BE A TYRANT

Another way to try to dispel mystery is to be a tyrant. If your are overbearing and dogmatic, you can often beat others into submission where they won’t question you or you can at least keep them at a safe distance so that you don’t have to deal with the issues.

DULL THE PAIN

Others try to dispel mystery by trying to dull the pain through alcohol, pornography, etc. Of these four ways, this one is the least socially acceptable, but the other methods are just as evil and sinful.

So we find ourselves often coping by not coping. If I had a dollar for every time in counseling I heard a woman say; “if only my husband would……

God bless and have a blessed Easter, from scumlikeuschurch@gmail.com

 

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