Last post I told the story about Fixing the World by Putting the Man Back Together (I’ll wait while you click on that link or scroll down to refresh your memory).
While a six year old may know instinctively how to put together a photo of a man, most men don’t know how to put themselves back together. So, how do you do it? Perhaps there is an answer in that same story. I’ll propose an alternative moral, which is: “to put the man back together, sometimes you need a map.”
First, what do I mean by being “broken?”
Henry David Thoreau said “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Ben Franklin said “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” I think living only a third of your life counts as being “broken.”
Second, how do men get broken?
When there is a disconnect between what we want and what we have, there is discomfort. Discomfort is fine. We can live with discomfort. But, when we begin to lose hope over ever achieving those things that we want, discomfort often becomes despair. Enough despair can lead to death.
What we want varies greatly from person to person. Small things like security, a good job, a decent softball team to be part of. Important things like a fulfilling marriage and a growing family. Great things like Olympic aspirations or Nobel prizes.
All of us start with dreams. Many of us give them up, surrendering them to the nightmare. Once we lose hope, we stop truly living. We’re just marking days on a calendar and rushing towards death. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (Pro 13:12)
Let’s map out a path to put yourself back together.
1. Recognize that you are lost.
You can’t fix a problem unless you admit there is a problem. Men are quick to deny problems, to justify their current state, to deny, deny, deny. Once we lose hope, we no longer look forward or upward. Our only option is to make excuses and hope that after enough repetition we believe them ourselves. If you have the courage to admit that you are living in quiet desperation, then you can begin to pick up the pieces.
2. Find out where you are.
If you are currently suffering from discomfort or despair or depression, take the time to figure out the source. Most of the time it will be from unfulfilled dreams or from lack of any goals to begin with. This may be hard to recognize, because men tend to place the blame for their own disappointments on the people around them. When a man loses hope of ever achieving some aspiration, his wife will be the first one to suffer for it. Often she will become a source of blame; not for preventing him from reaching his goals, but because she is convenient. A man without any hope for a brighter future will be quick to blame his unhappiness on his wife’s inability to cook, clean, or gratify him sexually. Man up. 95% of your problems are caused by you.
3. Know where you want to go.
Most people are familiar with this exchange of dialogue from Alice in Wonderland:
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where–
Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go
Reassess your life’s direction. Develop some worthwhile purpose or pursuit for your life. Once you can do this, you are already on a path to healing. One definition of success that is shared by many authors of success principle books is “the progressive realization of a worthwhile dream or goal.” Notice, you do not become a success upon the attainment of a dream or goal, you become a success through progression; by simply beginning the journey and continuing the journey.
4. Find a guide.
The easiest way to achieve anything is to find someone that has already done it, then ask them to show you how. A friend that has overcome a marriage problem can coach you on your relationship. A friend that is out of debt can help you to work out a budget and financial plan. But when searching for a guide, be sure not to fall into this trap:
5. Don’t get directions from people that are lost.
You may notice that it is always broke, divorced people that are the quickest to offer their opinions on some of the above topics. Always check the fruit on the tree.
Full disclosure: I am not married, so don’t ask me for specific advice on relationships. But while I’m on the subject, what are your strengths? In what area, would you be able to act as a guide for someone else?