How is it that despite looking like we have the things we need, we are miserable, frustrated, even angry? As the world looks to behavioural change programs to deal with tragedies like domestic violence, Guy argues that perhaps, for men who are at risk of 'snapping', an answer is more deeply hidden but oh so easy to get.
I want to introduce you to Jim.
Jim is the unhappiest man in the world.
On the surface, Jim’s life looks great.
Jim has a good job. It isn’t the best paying job in the world, but he gets well above the average wage.
Jim is married with a beautiful, intelligent and hard working wife.
Jim has two kids who have their moments, but like their mum have great hearts.
Jim and his wife Shelley have plenty of friends, a house in the suburbs and their health is good.
So why is Jim the unhappiest man in the world?
How Unhappiness Shows Its Head
Men can hide their unhappiness and wear a mask that says “my life is good thanks”, but like bubbling hot magma under the surface of the earth, something building pressure without a vent can not be contained forever.Sometimes there are little vents …where unhappiness bubbles up. Things like:
But often there are little vents where the signs of unhappiness bubble up. Tell-tail signs like:
Burst of verbal anger that seems to come from nowhere,
A sudden increase in the consumption of alcohol, or gambling or smoking,
An increase in late night hours at work,
The increased used of pornography …
The problem is that these vents may seem to ease the pressure in the short term, but they build up an ever increasing stack of problems that reach to the sky.
And what comes up must come down.
For some men, they simply choose to end their misery themselves. Previous articles on this website have looked at the horrific and growing problem of middle-aged men killing themselves and sometimes their families.
Most unhappy men are not at that point (yet), but there is another incredibly damaging way that their unhappiness shows up:
The Shame Of Men
I read an article this morning , and prominently displayed in the text was this quote:
It is widely accepted by abuse experts (and validated by numerous studies) that evangelical men who sporadically attend church are more likely than men of any other religious group (and more likely than secular men) to assault their wives – Steven Tracy
I don’t know if this is actually true in its exactness. In fact, I doubt whether it is in regards to ‘other religious groups’ because there are some pretty violent religions out there, but I can absolutely see how it would be true in comparison to regular church going men and secular men. That is, I can understand how those men who sporadically attend church are statistically more violent towards their wives than regular church going men or even the non-churched. I don’t have the numbers on this, but I can absolutely see how it would be true. I will leave it to the reader to follow the research links on this quote here.
But coming back to Jim, that is a picture of Jim right there.
Jim had plenty of reasons to be grateful for his life, and seemed to have lots of things to make him happy, but he wasn’t.
And worse still, he verbally abused his wife, threatened her, broke things in the house in fits of anger and scared his kids.
Who is To Blame?
Is Jim to blame? Is his wife to blame? … what about his kids, the in-laws, the church, the government?
In the article I mentioned, the blame was being laid at the feet of the church, so let’s talk about the church for a second. Jim goes to church sometimes, mostly because his wife says it is good for him and for the sake of the kids. Even though Jim goes, he is not really a part of it. Jim puts on a smile and says the right things, but Jim thinks most of the people at church are either religious fundamentalists, hypocrites or looking for their next partner. There is no one like him and certainly no one he will take his mask down for. Just because Jim attends church regularly and pulls out scriptures that suit his agenda, does that mean the church is at fault for Jim’s actions?
Jim has a passing belief in God but doesn’t believe the Bible is all true and he can take it and leave it as it suits him. For Jim, religion is ok, as long as it doesn’t get in his way and stop him doing what he wants to do. It’s more for his wife and kids than for him. In this situation, the church really has very little influence in the life of a man like Jim.
A Bob Both Ways
There is a term in Australia and New Zealand that probably originates from betting on horse racing. The saying is:
“Trying to have a bob both ways”.
It means betting money on more than one horse, or on a combination of horses to minimise the downside of potential loss.
In my trading days, we used a similar approach to reduce risk from our trading strategies. We would directionally have a bias in a trading strategy that we believed in, but we would also implement risk mitigation through products correlated negatively to the ones we were wanting to trade in order to reduce the size of our losses if we were wrong. The cost was that these risk mitigations were not free, and would reduce our profits if we were right in our main strategy. This would work if the risk mitigation purchased actually worked (the correlation was born out in reality) and if the cost would not outweigh the potential profits. Sometimes, the risk mitigation cost was so high that you were left in a lose-lose situation (lose if you were right, lose if you were wrong and lose badly if you were half right). In such a case, you would hope to not execute the strategy, or exit it as cheaply as possible if it had already been started.
This is all well and good in trading, but in a key area of a man’s life – it doesn’t work.
Submit, Damn You!
I had a friend speak to me on the phone some time back. It was a light hearted conversation at first and then he said to me something like this:
“Doesn’t the bible say that wives are to submit to their husbands? … could you tell my wife that?”
This man was not even a Christian, but his wife was, and he was trying to use me and the Bible to get what he wanted from his wife.
He was paraphrasing from Ephesians 5:22-24.
I quickly asked him if he had read the next verse?
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” – Ephesians 5:25 KJV
Not surprisingly, he quickly retreated as he realised that he couldn’t use the scriptures to get from his wife when he was not living it himself.
And sadly, many men like him will hide behind a selection of scripture without paying heed to their responsibilities in it.
They want to get without the give.
They want to lead without the serve.
They want to get more without thankfulness for what they have now.
And they want to have the benefits of God without the sacrifice that He requires of us to follow Jesus.
And this was Jim’s problem too.
Jim wanted the best this world had to offer, and the best bits of being in a socially acceptable religion, but failed to understand that Jesus requires all or nothing.
All or Nothing
The Old Testament prophet Elijah saw that the people were undecided and waving between who would be their God. They just wanted good crops and would worship whoever gave it to them.
“How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word – 1 Kings 18:21
So Elijah organised a contest between the Gods. The God of Ba’al and the God of Heaven.
You can read what happened in 1 Kings 18:20-40
The scriptures are clear that God is a loving God, and very patient with us, “longsuffering” the scriptures call it.
But there are warnings too that we must make a choice. We can not live with one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of God.
James 4:4-5 puts it pretty plainly:
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. – ESV
So to walk with one foot in each camp is tempting fate. God’s season of patience with us will end. Jesus tells us in Revelation 3:15-17:
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”
and in Luke 16:13
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
At some point we need to make a choice. Which is it? Do we choose God and what He promises or the world and what it promises?
The Agony Of Deciding
As I write this I remember my cousin who had a terrible time one day trying to move from one boat to another in the Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand. From dinghy to the yacht, and later from canoe to dinghy. He would move one leg across but not the other. As one boat drifted from the other, he had nowhere to go.
He got to have a swim, but before he did fall in, his life was very uncomfortable as his legs stretched in ways they were not good at.
In many ways, Jim was also stretched between two boats. His life was miserable even before he had fallen in.
Jim was putting off deciding, and it made him miserable.
He wanted the best of what both God and the world had to offer. He wanted his strategy to make money and do what he wanted in life, while having some security from being religious. But the reality is, that in trying this Jim had no peace, no happiness and no power.
Jim was eaten up in his conscience because of the things he did and thought and said that he knew were wrong,
And he had no power to overcome his problems because he didn’t really know Jesus in any meaningful way.
Jim was trying to be a good bloke in his own strength, yet was defeated, frustrated and increasingly angry.
James 1:5-8 tells us what is going on here:
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” – NLT
Unstable in everything they do.
That was Jim. Unstable, unhappy and heading towards even greater trouble – in his marriage, with his kids, with his finances … perhaps even with the law if his violence towards his family continued to rise.
But like my cousin stretched across the boats, the stretch was not even the worst part. If a decision wasn’t made quickly, a fall was coming.
Jim Chooses Hot
My cousin had a split second to decide – dinghy or yacht? Failure to decide meant a certain swim.
Jim also had a choice. His choice was to either humble himself before God and potentially save what he really cared about, or to continue to be proud and fight- perhaps until the choice was no longer his to make.
Would he decide in time before he fell?
Is This You?
What about you?
Are you unhappy despite having many of the good things the world has to offer?
Are you luke warm at best to the things of God?
God promises in His Word that those who diligently seek Him will find him, and he will give them peace .
You won’t have peace if you don’t make a decision. If you try to walk both camps. If you try to stretch across both boats.
If you want to make a decision, here is my suggested way to start:
1.Review, consider and pray something akin to Psalm 51:1-15 as a prayer from your own heart.
2.Consider Romans 10:9-10 as it clearly states what is needed to be saved 
3.Begin reading the 4 Bible New Testament gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) and discover who Jesus really is. Jesus says to follow after him, and so you need to know who you are following
4.Read 1 John and learn the things that Jesus wants you to know about him
5.Speak to a Bible teaching pastor of a church who ‘lives the talk’ in his own life. Tell him of your decision and ask for help
6.Go to your family and ask for forgiveness and your state commitment to seeking God to change, and to them
7.Set some time to read your bible and pray each day
If like Jim you choose ‘hot’, then also like Jim, your life will be transformed from being the unhappiest to one which isn’t always rosy, but one in which you have peace, hope, joy and a new love for God and for your family and for others.
What about this post has spoken to you? Please leave a comment and let me know.
Notes and references:
 Jim and Shelley are fictitious characters made up from a selection of people so as to keep identities secret
 see Deuteronomy 4:29, Psalms 9:9-10, Psalms 14:2, Psalms 25:8-18, Psalms 27:13-14, Psalms 33:20-21, Psalms 40:1, Psalms 77:1, Psalms 145:18-20
 Looking for a guide how to be saved? the “Romans Road” is a good study guide to being saved. http://www.allaboutgod.com/the-roman-road.htm