My favorite TV show ever is Friday Night Lights. Basically everything about it is good. Seriously. I love the main character, Coach Taylor.
Taylor is the classic high school coach who wants to win and shape young men along the way. What I love about it is that while he does give some nice pre-game speeches, he also personally invests into their lives. Nowhere is this more true than in his relationship with a forced into action backup QB Matt Saracen.
Saracen’s father is mostly absent. He is insecure. He loves art more than football. But Taylor is convinced that he can be QB1. Taylor knows that isn’t going to “just happen” and so he invests in this kid. Over the course of three seasons, Saracen grows into a grown up man. He becomes a leader. He doesn’t become a different guy, so much as he becomes the guy that he was meant to be.
What Taylor doesn’t do is say “man up” and then hope for the best. He invests. He takes Saracen to the field at night and works with him. He has him over for dinner. He goes to his house. He speaks into his life in critical moments. He fights with him and for him. He shares his life not just his words.
As I mentioned last week one of the latest mantra’s being thrown at Christian guys is the idea that what we need to do is man up. Now, full disclosure here, I’ve told people that they needed to man up. I’ve said from up front that, “sometimes” you just need to man up. I’ve told people certain people that I’m invested in that it’s time for them to grow up. What I’m saying here is that there are times where this is pretty good advice. But what it isn’t is a good blanket answer for what is wrong in the world of marriage, dating/courting, and singleness.
When it starts getting put out as a generic answer it leads to all sorts of problems. Here are a few, in no particular order.
1. We are terrible at linking it to singleness. Do you have to get married to man up? What if you’re called to celibacy? Should you man up and be celibate? Did Paul not man up? What does man up mean for my sexual desires?
2. When it comes to dating we are completely confusing to men. Does man up mean ask everyone out? Or do I man up and “wait for God” to bring me “the one“? Do I man up and pursue the girl that said no or do I man up and walk away? Do I man up and marry someone I don’t want to?
3. The man up people almost always assume its the guy that is the problem. Women in the Church aren’t typically told to woman up so to speak. What if the guy is doing everything right – or at least really trying to? This is huge for both singles and marrieds.
4. Man up is kind of a charge into battle type of saying. That can be good. But what if you are really broken? Do you need to just man up? Can you “heal up“? Am I supposed to just try harder to get healing from my wounds caused by my sin and the sin of others?
5. It seems to me that if you’re not careful you could man up without actually walking with Jesus. Just make it happen. Do, do, do. What about grace? Here’s the best part, most of the people using this line tell us all the time how sinful and bad we are and we can’t do anything good without Jesus. Hmmm. So I’m bad, can’t do anything good, but I should man up. Gotcha.
Now hear me clearly. I’m all for challenging guys to grow. I’m all for having hard conversations. I’m not saying we don’t have guys that need to basically man up. But what I am saying is that as a talking point or slogan, without relationship, it gets into platitude territory in a hurry. Or at the least, ineffective territory.
And this is the ironic part. You know who needs to man up? All the men who should be helping the guys in trouble by investing in their lives. All the men who sit in the pews and applaud because they know that young single guy or the guy who is struggling in their marriage and think, “I sure hope that guy is hearing this – hope he mans up”. All the seminarians and hipster Jesus dudes who sit around sipping premium brews of coffee or beer while sharing about how most men need to man up – and then not actually investing in any of those men. How’s that for some tough man up talk?
When it comes to the single guys between the ages of 22-29 (soon to be 30 . . 31. . .) the main group that needs to man up is the Church. You know why? Because those guys aren’t there to hear the speech. And if they do come and hear it, and we don’t invest in them (read pour out our lives, spend time getting to know them) then they won’t keep coming.
If man up isn’t followed by, “and here’s how we want to help you do it” then we’ve failed. In other words, don’t tell someone to man up, unless you are willing to man up for them.