I am grateful! I had another birthday this month. I am very glad to have…
A Christian Man is Soft-Hearted
In my book, The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make, I wrote, “Men thrive on challenges and competition that make life an adventure rather than a routine.” This is based on the fact men rely on their strength to navigate through their lives. A Christian man, however, is not content to just be strong. He also has a longing to be soft-hearted because he knows this is the secret to having a good relationship with Jesus and a good relationship with others. A soft heart leads to true strength while maintaining relational success “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9). He is on guard because “he who hardens his heart falls into trouble. “ (Proverbs 28:14) Men are aggressive by nature so it is far too easy to get angry, stubborn, bored and manipulative. When God pushes us to do things His way, we can easily push back and try to impose our will on Him, our wives, our children and our friends. A soft heart takes a different approach that leads us to rejoice with those who rejoice, cry with those who cry, laugh when it is appropriate and follow God’s leading because we trust Him to do what is best in our lives every time.
In raising three athletic sons, it was easy to tap into their strength, challenge them to work hard and compete aggressively. I have watched them succeed in football, volleyball, track and competitive cheerleading. I knew, however, that these pursuits are temporary and the skills involved in intense competition are not sufficient to sustain healthy lifelong relationships. It was, therefore, a primary goal of mine to help them develop a soft-heart toward God and toward women. I recently saw evidence of this in my oldest son’s life. He and his wife were talking as the conversation began to grow in intensity. Growing up, tact was not his strong suit. If he disagreed with someone, he would point out that they were stupid. If someone was doing something wrong, he would call that person out and tell them to stop doing what they were doing. This was good when faced with peer pressure but it is not a strategic way to relate to your wife. Well, anyway, he snapped at his wife inappropriately.
In a few minutes, he caught himself and returned to the conversation with his wife. “I am sorry that I snapped at you earlier. I didn’t mean to . . .” He then paused and thought for a moment before restarting his apology. “Actually I did mean to raise my voice at you because I wanted you to stop what you were doing. So, I am sorry that I meant to get upset with you. Please forgive me.”
It was awesome to see him maintain his strength by keeping his heart soft. As I travel through my life this week it is my goal to keep my heart soft as I pursue the strongest life possible.
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I too, have a struggle on getting the proper balance of “steel & velvet” as i heard it referred to once a long time ago in the 80s. It is a daily decision to temper everything I say or ask for with that velvet lining. Our one boy Damian, 18 now, conveys the image that as Tim Allen would do on “Home Improvement” with the animalistic grunt as in “I AM MAN”. It is a challenge right now to keep him focused that being a man does not mean always showing “toughness”. I ask God to guide me each and everyday where this is concerned.
Any man who can ask his wife for forgiveness in such a genuine way will become her hero. And I know he had a good role model.
It seems like all men struggle with the same issue of strength and “softness”. I have a reputation of being a hard task master. In the youth group we have a “gang” of boys 13-15. It seems every week one of them has to challenge me to a contest of physical strength. I can hold each one off using some tricks I picked up along the way. At other times I have to have a soft heart and listen to problems and offer counsel. There is a fine balance between the two roles. Most of the kids come from single parent homes for which I understand the need to challenge a male figure, should be their father. One 15 year-old girl calls me her father for the father she never knew.
Lord help us in the many roles we are called upon to fill.
I have struggled with intense emotion all my life. It didn’t get any easier when I got married. I can be very stubborn and inflexible at times. One of my wife’s biggest triggers is when she does not feel she is being listened to. It has been hard for me to learn to listen in a way that is meaningful to her and the kids. I have to constantly be aware of what I’m saying, the tone I use, my body language, making good eye contact, letting others complete their sentences, asking relevant questions and being interested in what other are saying, being respectful of others opinions, etc… If you asked my wife, I bet she would say that listening is a skill that I need to improve on. However, I know I’ve made quite a bit of progress and I’m better at it than I was in years past.
It seems it’s been harder to have a soft-heart lately. The last couple of years have been the most difficult in my adult life. It’s included:
• watching my mom slowly loose her mental faculties from Alzheimer’s and eventually die a couple of years ago
• helping my dad pack his things and move across the country to live with my sister only to contract lung cancer and less than a year after my mom passed away
• not knowing for sure if either of my parents knew the lord or were really prepared for death
• at the same time watch my nearly 20 year old business’s sales quickly drop about 70% and lose all our home equity
• selling/losing things dear to me to help pay the bills
• eventually go through a chapter 7 bankruptcy
As I ask myself, “am I fully committed to Him?” I think the answer is no, it’s more of a partial commitment. Why? I think one of my biggest challenges is feeling God let me down in not answering the prayer I prayed for nearly 30 years; that namely being the salvation of my parents. I wonder if there was more I could have done or said. Maybe I was too silent or not assertive enough in sharing the gospel with them. If you knew my parents you’d know they were some tough people to reach and at least my dad was not ignorant of the gospel. I know salvation is God’s work and not mine. I still wonder if I could have done more.
I hear many testimonies of others that have prayed similar prayers for their parents and family with a miraculous conversion and a happy ending. I’m left with the sense that God doesn’t answer MY prayers. I don’t doubt his existence or his love for me. My hope is to move to a place where I don’t doubt His listening to me and answering my prayers and to have a soft heart toward him and others.
That said I am grateful for what I do have: my health, a great wife and three great kids; all of whom are healthy and a blessing from God.
I really had intended to make a short reply to this message and I fear I have strayed from the main points of this blog. My apologies if there was some spaghetti in my waffle!
Ken, I hear what you are saying. In most of my adult life I have felt that somehow the “wonderful job” we all aspire to have has eluded me. At the time my wife and I met I was (and still am) a musician. Credit cards are not easily acquired by musicians; at least not for most of the ones I’ve known for most of my adult life. My wife on the other hand was a top producer for AAA and worked very hard for the things she/we have acquired. I was never able to go to college so i had to work very hard at jobs that pay a medium salary. We also are foster/adoptive parents. With all the successes I felt were just out of my grasp, which, has included job loss in the last year and a half and a failed website business due to not enough traffic to the site plus I could not compete with other sites that have lower prices because I could not buy inventory in bulk. Now, after 1 1/2 years of unemployment I can no longer pay the huge COBRA payments are demanded to keep our insurance going. With all these things, I have similar issues where my wife is concerned. It’s nice to know that I am not the only one. All of us are having struggles in these times. I am truly sorry about yours and I can see ourselves in some of your isues such as loosing home equity. I have to really stop and think really hard about how my heart is to my wife and my God. When things seem just a little too hard to bear God throws a little serendipity into our lives to let us know that we are not forgotten. God knows all our strong points and weak points and knows our problems better than we do. Although we have lost a lot over the last 2 years due to the economy, God continues to bless in ways that we both marvel at. Sure I have failed at things at times but I will try again and use the best Christian principles I have. I have Bill’s book “The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make” and I am using this book and the Bible (not necessarily in that order) to help me make the wisest decisions capable for my family. I love my family very much as you do yours and as Masterful Men when can all be a source of encouragement to each other.
Wow you guys. Thanks for being so vulnerable. I know that one of our most frequent struggles is finding the balance between strength and dependence. We all love to be strong and successful. We love to talk about our exploits and the victories we have won. Even though setbacks are as much a part of life as successes we just don’t like to reveal those. I know for me, it makes me feel weak, inadequate and confused. I know the verse well that says, “When I am weak, then I am strong,” but it just doesn’t sit well with my soul.
Like Ken, I have been praying for my parents ever since I met Jesus. That was 35 years ago and I have seen no movement in their lives in that time. I am talked out wtih them and have no new strategies to employ. They are both 81 this year and I just keep begging God to open their hearts before they die. I am not exactly sure how I am going to react if they don’t respond.
I have been fortunate in my career in that I have had options to exercise when transitions occurred. To be sure we have had some tough financial times but I have been able to avoid bankruptcy so I would not pretend to know what that is like. My hats off to you guys for sharing what it is like for you.
The hardest day of my life that tested whether I would keep my heart soft toward God was the day that we lost Caleb for 5 hours. After 2 helicopters, 11 sheriff cars and 1000 people had looked and looked with no success, I was convinced that the story was not going to turn out well. My last attempt was to walk through a small canyon looking for hiding places. As I went into the ravine, a helicopter followed me calling out Caleb and Nathan’s names. After failing one more time to find the kids, I kneeled down at the mouth of the canyon and prayed, “God, if I never see my son again or if they bring me my son injured or dead, will I believe that you are good? Will I still be able to trust you?” I struggled with the answer and finally concluded through tears that I had no better options. I woudl struggle to hold on to my trust in God but there was no one else to turn to.
I was one of the fortunate ones because I got my son back and we have a great friendship today. I have prayed for those who lose children differently ever since that day.
Again, thanks for sharing so openly. We live in a tough world and we have to be tough men to keep up with the challenges. We just need to not be so tough that we lose our soft hearts!