The need to talk honestly about the real issues facing Christian men has never been greater. Though they may feel reluctant to seek help and embarrassed to admit it, many men are fighting secret wars against stress, burnout, unhealthy relationships, temptation, and sexuality. What many don’t know, however, is that these battles can be won. Men don’t have to struggle alone and become casualties.
The book looked at several of the most destructive battles that can erupt in the life of a Christian man. Men from all walks of life are under unprecedented pressure— and more and more are falling on their swords, either literally or figuratively. The suicide rate for men is two-and a-half times higher than that of women. And the incidence of stress related diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease is two to four times higher for men than for women. Even church leaders fail to realize that their pastor needs pastoring as well.
MEN AND THE HERO SUBCULTURE
The “walk on water” syndrome that Bill Self described is one reason that many men experience killer levels of stress. We take on too much and try too hard to play the Hero role in all our responsibilities. We’re expected to be successful breadwinners, loving husbands, devoted fathers, good sons to our aging parents, and to do all this while actively involved in the church and community. Multiple responsibilities might not, in themselves, be bad. But many of us find it hard to accept anything less than perfection from ourselves in each of our roles. This push toward perfectionism is fueled by society’s emphasis on men being successful.
But there is no grace in society’s hero subculture. You must win every time, or you’re labeled a loser. But there’s a high cost to being a winner. For many men that high cost is fatigue and burnout. These are not only dangers to us physically, but they also rob us of the joy of living and dull our effectiveness in all the roles we play. High levels of stress carried for long periods of time can eventually lead to burnout.
The implication was clear: “Normal” Christians don’t ever struggle with anything serious. This attitude minimizes the negative power of our dark side. So we continue to feel shock and disbelief when “good” people do bad things when seemingly wise, mature, gracious Christian leaders are caught in behaviors that are terribly inconsistent with their callings.
Far too often in the Christian community we over-focused on strength and external success and scorn weakness and failure. If we ever do struggle with temptation or failure, we’re expected to replace it with instant victory. A popular book sold in Christian bookstores a few years ago was ‘Now Is Your Time to Win!’ In bold letters under the title, the jacket trumpeted: “You can bounce back from failure to success in 30 seconds!” I don’t know about you, but the failures that have troubled me the most are not the kind I can “bounce back” from in thirty seconds.