I get it. An author sits down and writes a book about marriage. He takes a moment to pray and consider how he will assist couples through the difficult waters of marriage. He wants to encourage men to be leaders in their homes who are worth following, but he has to be careful. He doesn’t want to encourage an abusive husband to be even more abusive. It would break this author’s heart get a letter from a wife who was beaten by her husband after reading his marraige book.
So he writes his book and it is a best seller. It really breaths life into many a marriage and shows many pushy jerks of husbands how to be compassionate and thoughtful husband who hears his wife. Many marriages are helped by his timely and thoughtful words.
You see, in my marriage, I am the wimp. Many of you who know me are scratching your heads, “What, no way! Chip is pushy if he is anything.” You’re right to say that, but this is true in almost every relationship except with my wife. The way I have learned to work with her is under the very reliable code of “Don’t Do Evil.”
This plan looks really good on paper. The author mentioned above can rest assured that I will never beat my wife or abuse her. In fact, many societal ills would be helped if more guys were passive like me. Much of the crime and violence in the world would be much reduced. Sounds great, right?
It’s fine unless you are my wife. She was hoping to get a husband who was assertive enough to lead in our home. She didn’t ask for a passive husband who simply didn’t make waves. God will not judge me simply on the evils I failed to do, but on the good I did.
So, ever ready with the marriage book, I can hear the real answer, Leadership!
That is a fine answer, I just don’t really know what leadership is. If I were fundamentally more capable at most of life than my wife, it would be easier, but I married the lady who is really good at life and family and just about everything else. She is driven and capable and were she to enter the corporate world, I would soon be working for her.
I am very grateful she has taken all of that superior talent and drive and is an amazing mother and wife. Not every guy is so blessed, but it does leave me in a bit of a lurch. I am not confident in my own abilities and judgement compared to hers. Sure I am competent, but in most of life, she is excellent.
Is the competent guy really going to forcefully challenge the excellent lady?It is easy to just let it ride. Really, peace is much better than being right. Whatever it takes for peace. I may not know what it is to be a leader, but I know that this is not it. So I am back to where I started, trying not to fail. Wouldn’t it be great to be trying to succeed and not simply avoiding failure? Maybe I should read a marriage book.
But every author is so concerned with not setting off Mr. Abuse that many of them don’t have much for me. Where is the marriage book for the wimp? There aren’t any. In addition, many Christian Marriage books seem like manuals for suffocating my wifes wonderful talents and gifts. That can’t be the way marriage was meant to be: the place where my dear wife goes to be less than she can be.
So, to all the wimps out there, I don’t have all the answers for you. I know you are out there because I know many of you. We have bought into the lie that avoiding failure is the most important thing. So here are the few answers I have found in my few years of marriage. I hope that they are helpful to you.
You are Loved by Your Daddy in Heaven
This may feel like a non-sequitor, but I think the most important thing we need to do is be willing to take a risk of failing. It is easy to say, “take a risk” and it is hard to do it. What has helped me? It is knowing that my God will honestly, tenderly, kindly, and sweetly love me if and when I fail. He will not be angry with me even if my wife is. If God is for me, who can be against me.
This has been a source of immense courage. Jesus went to God when he was afraid and asked for the pain to end or the courage to face it. This should be a common prayer for us wimps.
Leadership is the Same Thing as Initiative
Leadership is a painfully vague word that makes me imagine a general commanding an army with confidence and boldness. This is totally unattainable for me. I can’t be that guy, particularly at home.
Fortunately, I don’t think God is asking me to do that. What he is asking is for me to bring my thoughts and concerns forward? To be the first to say something. In fact, I think he is asking me to bring up things when I am not sure I am right and where my motives are clouded. One of the most paralyzing forces in my life is my introspection of my motives. Sometimes, I need to just say how I think and feel and take the risk of being completely wrong.
One of the mantras of leadership is that it takes responsibility for the situation. I’m not sure what the means. I’m responsible enough. I mow my lawn and hug my kids and wash the dishes. I show up to work and come home.
Certainly part of taking responsiblity is to go press on through the requirements of life to care for my family, but taking responsibility is more than that. It is the feeling that the problem is my problem. It is the urge to correct the problem and maintain the solution. It is the drive in my heart to make Earth just a little more like Heaven.
In a real sense, taking responsibility is the same thing as the urge to apologize for the failure and weaknesses of my life, my home, and my community. It is the sense of ownership of the problem that does what is necessary to fix (or at least try). My natural bent is to avoid problems because I can then be blamed for the failure to solve them. If my fingerprints aren’t on it, then when it goes wrong, no one can blame me.
This is yet another variety of avoiding failure and not seeking success.
Recognize the Strengths of Being more Passive
There is a myth that I have believed that passivity is all weakness. Many Fruits of the Spirit give the appearance of weakness: gentleness, kindness, patience, and self-control. Many passive men and women excel in these virtues and far from being weak, they are a serious strength. My family is well-served if I am steady and reliable, gentle and affectionate.
Recognize the Weaknesses of Being more Passive
As with every character quality, passivity has a dark side. Much of maturity is to capitalize on your strengths while blunting your weaknesses. To effectively blunt the harms of my passivity I must know what they are!
I need to face the fact that many times my family needs me to resist my overly cautious nature and do what I think is right. Some men are too quick to act, I am too slow to act. Maturity for them is to slow down and think. Maturity for me is to consider and move forward even when I am uncertain.
Look for Contexts in Life Where You are More Confident
While I am more passive at home, I am much more confident and assertive in certain church contexts and at work. What’s the difference between them?
In exploring why I am more comfortable in some settings has been quite fruitful. It is good to see places where my natural leadership strengths show themselves. It is confidence building to just know that those places exist.
A Few Final Thoughts
I fear that someone will read this article and conclude that my wife is a battle-axe of a woman. She has her sins, but I feel immensely blessed to have her in my life. No, the main problems lay with me. She has been a thoughtful, gracious, forgiving, and wise friend for our marriage.
My hope is that you, the passive man or woman, will be given hope and encouragement. God loves you as you are and he made you to be a gentler soul. He also calls you to be more than just your natural self. He is refining you into something much more than you are today. Jesus didn’t come to make you mediocre. He came to make you a precious and fully redeemed bride for himself. He really loves you. He will continue to work with you and love you.
You may be passive, but he is actively pursuing you. We are so blessed to have him.
The image above is courtesy of Keoni Cabral and is used with permission