Fear of failure. That’s why men are so angry all the time. Men are constantly striving to protect themselves from being perceived as a failure. Why is dad so anal and OCD about stuff? Why is Mr. so and so always grumpy and grouchy? Why is he so critical and negative? Why is that guy jaded, bitter, and cynical? How come dudes who are married with kids feel guilty for enjoying a day away with their friends? …because we are deathly afraid of being viewed as a failure. We are always scanning the radar for threats of being accused of irresponsibility or incompetency (a.k.a. failure).
But what, exactly, are we of afraid of failing at?
Being God. Men arrogantly impose on themselves the expectation of being God. That’s why we must know everything. That’s why we must control everything. That’s why we must never allow ourselves to appear surprised by anything. That’s why we must always feign competence, and avoid things we’re not good at. Men feel that they are responsible for all kinds of stuff that they are not in fact responsible for. For instance, when a man is invited to go on a day hike with some friends …deep down he is giddy with excitement, like a little child; but then God’s gift and command of childlikeness (and the enjoyment of an occasional day-away) is suffocated and smothered by his personally-manufactured, self-imposed, expectations to “Grow Up” and “Be Serious” …and he coerces himself to put away childlikeness, and instead be a “responsible, respectable, reputable man!” And now he gets to lord his responsibleness over his wife’s head and say, “I never choose to do anything for myself, so you and the kids can never accuse me of not working as hard as possible to be The Provider!” and “I have preemptively made myself miserable, so you can never say anything to make me feel bad about myself!” Our flesh contracts and collaborates with Satan to develop stout and steady lies about masculinity – lies which imprison and oppress our imaginations and rule us by means of intimidation and fear. Jesus dealt with this lie, and pride, head-on in His disciples. At various moments in His time with the disciples Jesus confronts them on how they take themselves too seriously. For example, the disciples were habitually preoccupied with competing for status and position against one another (sometimes they would even brazenly debate each other about which of them was “the greatest!”). On a few occasions Jesus would take a CHILD and put him in the midst of the disciples, and Jesus would scoop up the child in His arms (an undeniable picture of helpless dependency) and He would heartily commend and invite the disciples to receive the gift of becoming childlike! This was the invitation to guys like King Saul, and King David (men appointed to occupy positions of inescapable respectability and responsibility). The contrast between these kings couldn’t be more striking …King Saul was a man marked by a severe self-seriousness and unbridled insecurity; Saul afflicted and tormented himself with pressure to perform and incessantly bullied everyone to approve of him. While King David on the other hand, publicly danced like a carefree, happy-in-his-Father’s-love, little child – without falling into the slavery of always having to protect himself from the terror of looking like a fool, or failure, in the eyes of others.
Perhaps the two most consistent analogies God invites us to embrace about ourselves are: sheep and children. That’s what, and who, we are! It is undeniable that – most of the time – we are angry because we desire to transcend or graduate from these positions. At the end of the day, sin is the simple, insidious, desire to be something bigger than small; and the liberation of the Gospel is found in the invitation to receive lavish, utterly-unearned, gifts from our Father as we enter His joy like little children.