We are told to love one another and in this simple act we will show God to those around us. Sounds easy enough but, as we know, loving someone is never easy, relationships are harder and marriage virtually impossible. So what is it that makes it so hard when we get close to someone? Maybe we should ask a different question - what is the opposite of love?
I am going to suggest that, rather than hate, the opposite of love is fear. That makes sense of the verse, 'perfect love drives out fear' (1 John 4:18). I have no doubt that fear is one of the major factors that blocks our ability to relate.
Many of us men carry a negative view of ourselves, even if we are able to put on a front to hide it. When we get close to someone whatever lies beneath becomes exposed and a mirror is held up. We naturally don’t like what we see and withdraw. It takes a brave man to look at who he is and embrace the changes that are suggested to him. A fearful man has too much to lose, can’t afford to look at anymore possible negatives so reacts, defends and possibly goes on the offensive.
Years ago a request of help from my wife caused an adverse response. She simply asked if I could hang out the washing. It seemed a little outside of my normal remit and I am pretty sure there was a slight exasperation in the tone. Therefore I heard, 'you need to start pulling your weight around here'. That in turn set-about a devastating internal chain reaction - 'do I do enough?', 'am I lazy and therefore useless?', 'does my wife have a negative view of me?'
When we worked through it I realised that, at the heart of it, was a genuine love for my wife. I wanted to be the kind of man that got jobs done without having to be asked. Being asked translated into missing it and failing and caused the fearful reaction. Nowadays I offer and, if asked, reply with, ‘of course I can’.
Perhaps we should ask where these fears stem from? Unanswered questions, unresolved issues, insecurities show themselves as low self-worth, negativity and defensiveness. If we can be brave we can work through these with those that know and love us.
Perhaps this knowledge will enable us to approach our journey differently.
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John wrote: Tim is right to highlight the role of fear as a major obstacle to good relationships. As he points out, this takes us right back to the view of ourselves that we carry in our thoughts and feelings. The tragedy is that the person we are trying to relate to probably has a far higher view of us than we have of ourselves. They believe in us - it is time that we started to believe in ourselves and not disappoint them.
Stephen wrote: 'One-word answer' is a great start to the first Men’s Day article leading up to the next ‘meeting of the men’. I am sure the ladies Tim is thinking of are very used to one-word answers from men, but not answers that carry the weight of meaning that his suggestion of ‘Fear’ has for us as men.
With my wife, I will celebrate 40 years of marriage at the end of this year. Now there’s another word, ‘celebrate’. Actually I will celebrate because I have learnt and I am learning to celebrate each day of my marriage. Why? My faith in Jesus Christ has led me where I am not sure I would have ever chosen to go for myself. Yet, at the heart of following Him, is the fact that I have genuinely wanted to understand why I feel the way I do about everything, especially as it seemed that it conflicted so much with the warp and woof of life. The predominant share of the warp and woof being within my marriage and subsequently with the fruit of that relationship producing six children, six equally potential conflicts.
In my experience fear has been the greatest single cause of conflict between myself and the world in which I live. For the most part of it, I believe that it has been and remains an unconscious fear that lays undiscovered and yet a lot of my responses are made under what I perceive to be unfair pressures. Unconscious it may be but unfair it isn’t, in the main. I have learned that we have to wake the unconscious, root it out and confront it. Just as Tim suggests that perhaps fear is a better opposite to love than ‘hate’. I believe that perhaps courage is a better opposite to fear than ‘love’ when that fear is driving our responses as men, a propulsion that serves powerfully to widen to what can become an unbridgeable gulf, what was once the wafer thin gap between us and our wives that existed on the day that we married.
We need not fear because God, in our searching Him out with purpose, will strengthen our courage to go down into the depths of ourselves and discover that, what we thought was there, never actually existed. That is the key. The Men’s Day is for those of us with the courage to dare to discover that we might have been wrong about ourselves. Being wrong about myself has led me to beginning to enjoy more than ever my marriage to my wife and my relationships with my daughters and my sisters in Christ. It is a journey worth the taking and I can say that this has been an incredible surprise for me because I don’t think my experience of life had prepared me for something this positive.
Outstanding thoughts from all - as always... I remember hearing about how Jesus, in the wilderness, was like 'running water'... Satan could not get his claws into Him. The Lord, for my money, clearly is like running water in that he does not mind what people know about him or think of him. His identity is so clear to Him that He refuses to give into that fear which Tim so superbly describes.
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