Men have had enough of ‘not enough’

Feelings of inadequacy start early in life, continue through adulthood and culminate in heavy regret as the battles wage on

Men have been getting a bad rap in recent years. They are blamed for almost all of society’s problems. Triple that if they are white men. Double it again if they are conservatives or Christians.

I think we need to cut men some slack.

Much of the problem with men is that they are exhausted – emotionally and physically – because they really don’t know what is expected of them. The bars for achievement are routinely raised like he’s an Olympic pole-vaulter, and the goalposts defining success are pushed further and further back.

Let’s not overlook that the paradigm is also shifting to hold men accountable in 2018 for things they did as teens and young men back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Deep inside, men know that whatever they are doing now isn’t enough, it hasn’t been enough in the past, and they will likely fall short in the future.

That feeling of inadequacy starts early in their life, continues through adulthood and culminates as heavy regret in their later years. Let’s look at the life of a typical guy, starting in elementary school when he is told he is not:

  • Studying enough
  • Quiet enough
  • Polite enough
  • Artistic enough
  • Organized enough
  • Athletic enough
  • Listening enough
  • Clean enough

He is told that because he fidgets too much, he really needs to be medicated. He gets the impression that if only he’d behave more like the girls in school, he would be considered successful. But, his genetics don’t allow that to happen and his best attempts to meet expectations fall short. It’s a rare boy who doesn’t enter his teens thinking he is incapable of doing anything right.

Eventually, he winds up in high school where all the prior inadequacies are multiplied. He also discovers he is not:

  • Attractive enough
  • Smart enough
  • Creative enough
  • Practicing enough
  • Thin enough
  • Tall enough
  • Hairy enough
  • Serious enough
  • Funny enough
  • Friendly enough
  • Tough enough
  • Helping enough
  • Learning enough

By the time he graduates, his feelings of inadequacy are firmly established — especially if he doesn’t think his father is on his side. To escape the pain, he turns to pornography, alcohol or drugs and begins to isolate himself from others, which further fuels his sense of inferiority.

If Satan hasn’t already wounded him badly enough to take him out of the game, he continues trying to prove himself to others, and especially to himself. The only way society allows him to do that is at work, where he hears the message loud and clear every day that he is not doing:

  • Enough contributing
  • Enough planning
  • Enough prioritizing
  • Enough selling
  • Enough reporting
  • Enough traveling
  • Enough fixing
  • Enough recruiting
  • Enough emailing
  • Enough budgeting
  • Enough prospecting
  • Enough projecting
  • Enough producing
  • Enough writing
  • Enough calling
  • Enough scheduling
  • Enough collaborating
  • Enough research
  • Enough supervising

If he has any commitment to any of the above, one thing is certain, he is told he isn’t committed enough to doing it fast enough to make everyone happy.

So, after the stress of working 50 to 60 hours a week in a glass gerbil cage running on a treadwheel going nowhere, he visits his doctor and the “not enoughs” start all over again. His physician reprimands him for not:

  • Eating healthy enough
  • Exercising enough
  • Walking or running enough
  • Relaxing enough
  • Sleeping enough
  • Flossing and brushing enough
  • Medicating enough with vitamins and supplements
  • Drinking enough water
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking too much
  • Eating too much high-fat food

After stopping at the pharmacy on his way home to pick up a stronger blood-pressure medicine, which only makes him more tired and gives him less energy, he arrives home and his doubts pick up steam. From the moment he walks through the door, he feels he is not:

  • Earning enough
  • Listening enough
  • Speaking enough
  • Caring enough
  • Cleaning enough
  • Mowing enough
  • Shoveling enough
  • Weeding enough
  • Raking enough
  • Picking up enough dog poop
  • Cooking enough
  • Romancing enough
  • Washing enough
  • Folding enough
  • Sorting enough
  • Carting enough kids
  • Spending enough
  • Investing enough
  • Visiting enough – especially the out-of-town relatives
  • Parenting enough
  • Playing enough
  • Repairing enough
  • Disciplining enough
  • Teaching enough
  • Coaching enough
  • Reading enough to the kids
  • Helping enough with their homework
  • Remembering enough – especially the details of the exact words he wrote on the card he presented to his wife with a specific type of flower on their first date at the certain restaurant twenty years earlier

When he tries to follow doctor’s orders to relax more, he discovers he is:

  • Watching too much television
  • Fishing or hunting too much
  • Playing too many video games
  • Spending too much time with his friends
  • Not committed enough to quality family time

When he seeks sex from his wife as a reaffirmation that all is right in his world, that he is loved, and that all of his battles are noticed and appreciated, he is told that sex is all he thinks about.

And we wonder why men walk away from their families and look to start over hoping for an opportunity to redeem themselves. But, that never works out the way they expect and only serves to bury them in more problems, more debt, more work and more feelings of inadequacy.

By the time Sunday rolls around, the pitiful, wounded warrior limps into church (or, in some cases, is dragged in) and crawls to a seat where he learns just how inadequate he really is, especially with helpful elbows to the ribs from his wife and children. He is told he’s not:

  • Worshiping enough
  • Praising enough
  • Evangelizing enough
  • Attending enough
  • Giving enough
  • Serving enough
  • Reading enough
  • Studying enough
  • Praying enough
  • Fasting enough
  • Singing enough
  • Thankful enough
  • Committed enough
  • Leading enough
  • Growing enough
  • Helping enough
  • Loving enough
  • Meeting enough
  • Sponsoring enough
  • Forgiving enough
  • Teaching enough
  • Spending enough time “in the word”
  • Spending enough time with his wife
  • Spending enough time with his kids
  • Spending enough time with his parents
  • Spending enough time alone with God

Through sermon after sermon, he is reminded he is:

  • Too angry
  • Too lustful
  • Too selfish
  • Too sinful
  • Too broken

to be of any real use to God’s kingdom. If only he would slow down the hectic pace of his life, then he would find “genuine rest.” The fact he doesn’t make time to enjoy a Sabbath rest is further proof as to how depraved and worldly he really is.

By the time he gets into his sixties, the idea of eternal rest is tremendously appealing.

Do you want to know why women tend to outlive men?

Really?  It’s ugly!

I firmly believe that men get so tired of fighting one battle after another and having life-long feelings of inadequacy reinforced at every turn that they finally give up. They bow their heads and utter “It is finished.”

We need to do a much better job of affirming men, believing in them, and supporting them through all the trials and tribulations they face.

They need to be told that success isn’t defined as a fat wallet, beautiful home, fancy car and perfect children, but rather by the long-term impact they have on people closest to them.

For heaven’s sake, let’s stop giving men the impression that a happy wife leads to a happy life. Nobody can be responsible for another person’s happiness and it is only adding to his stress if he senses his wife is unhappy and the world — and church — blames him.

We need to understand men are human, not supermen — and help them understand that, too.

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Greg Gerber

Splitting his time between Texas and Wisconsin, Greg Gerber is a DODO - Dad of Daughters Only - who has traveled to every state except Hawaii. An experienced journalist who covered the recreation vehicle industry for years, he released his latest book in October 2018 titled Pornocide: Why Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life. I don't allow comments to my stories because I don't want to mediate flame wars. But, you can email your comments to greg@greggerber.com.
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