I grew up as a Grade A certified people pleaser. I needed praise like that prehistoric squirrel in Ice Age needed that acorn. I did everything I could to receive positive, encouraging, uplifting words from those around me. It filled me up. It drove me on. It made everything right in my little world.
When I didn’t receive any sort of feedback, I was disappointed beyond description. Like that poor squirrel staring at his acorn frozen inside a glacier. What I needed so badly was right there inside this other person, yet I couldn’t do anything to get it out of them.
What was worse was when I received any sort of criticism. That brought my world to a screeching halt. It didn’t matter what form it took – a look, a sigh, a body posture, a tone of voice, a word, a phrase, or an action. It was worse than just not getting praise; more than just not finding my acorn. It was like watching the acorn I had worked so hard for be decimated in front of me.
While I have since overcome this people pleasing addiction, I must admit that I still struggle with criticism. That’s the focus of this article – the power of criticism.
Now, I’m about to let all the ladies in on a little known fact. So, listen up ladies. This is the key to the typical man. Yes, I said THE KEY and I’m not exaggerating.
Most men – in fact, I would venture to say the vast majority of men – are praise-acorn chasing squirrels. They want it. They thrive on it. I believe they need it. Praise. Encouragement. Support. Faith. Respect. They collect them and hoard them away like acorns as if facing an impending eternal winter.
Withholding it from him is like freezing the acorn in a glacier. That’s harsh.
But, criticizing him is like destroying the acorn right in front of him. If the criticism is bad enough, then you’re reaching into his stored up stash of positivity and destroying it too.
I’m not exaggerating.
I’m 100% serious right now.
This is the real deal.
Criticism is like kryptonite to a man.
It can show up in a look you give him, in your body language, in a sigh, in your tone of voice, in the words you choose to use, in your overall interaction with him.
This might not make sense to you. You probably don’t think it’s that bad or that you do it that much or that it affects him that deeply. Here’s the truth – it is that bad; you do it more than you think; and it does affect him deeply.
Consider what your acorn is instead. Maybe it’s affection. Maybe it’s compliments. Maybe it’s help around the house or with the kids. Maybe it is time alone with him. Maybe it is actual, meaningful conversation. Whatever it is for you – that thing that drives you, that you crave more of, that you store up like those acorns before an impending eternal winter – bring it to mind.
Picture what it feels like to get one. Imagine what it feels like to have one withheld just out of reach. Remember what it felt like to have it destroyed in front of you or, worse, to have what you had saved up demolished in one shot.
Just because you hunt different acorns, doesn’t mean his are any less valuable.
Quit trying to feed him your kind of acorn and instead realize that you have an endless supply of his kind right inside of you. You have kind words. You have praise. You have encouragement. You have respect that you can give your man any time you want.
The question is, are you willing? Are you willing to be mindful of what your man needs? Are you willing to serve him by giving him what he needs? Are you willing to pause your own fervid hunt for affection-acorns in order to contribute to his hunt for praise-acorns?
In my humble opinion, it really ultimately comes down to what kind of man you want to have – one that is well-fed and confident because of his plentiful store of acorns or one that is angry, defensive, starving and also highly unmotivated to share with you the stash of your kind of acorns that he carries around inside of him.
It is terrible to watch societal trends swing from one extreme to the other like a big pendulum. We moved from total frigidity in the Victorian era to total liberality in our modern era. We went from women having no rights to a brand of feminism that many have taken to the militant degree.
For this newsletter, I want to focus upon the pendulum that has swung in regard to men. Men used to hold all the power and authority. They were the only ones counted as people in a census. They had the money and the property. They made all the decisions for society. We actually still see this attitude in some cultures around the world today.
I will be the first one to stand up and cheer that this particular brand of masculinity is not the norm in America anymore. But, I will also be the first one to stand up for men against the male-bashing that the feminists have acquired as their favorite pastime. Just watch any sitcom and the father is the butt of all the jokes. The mother is the strong one while the father is the schmuck. The wife is the smart one while the husband is the fool.
I believe that God did not intend for either gender to be regarded in a negative or lowly way. Neither gender is superior or meant to rule over the other. Men and women were designed in tandem, to come together as a strong partnership, both equally made in God’s image and infused with natural talents and spiritual gifts.
In honor of Father’s Day, I want to honor the man that God created men to be.
I have heard the arguments that place great significance on the fact that God created man before woman. I have also heard the theory that Adam had no gender until God created Eve because the word adama is the generic term for humanity, not the term for the male gender. I don’t know that I have been persuaded to a particular argument, but the fact that both claims can be made shows that we are applying human wisdom and reasoning to God’s design. Which means we have it wrong no matter what we argue.
There is no argument, however, that God made male and female people just like He made male and female animals and plant-life. His design is for the two elements to come together; to partner for God’s larger plan. Each gender has a part and each gender is to do their part to the glory of God, for the benefit of their partner, and for the greater good of their community.
I believe each gender embodies unique aspects of God’s nature. God is described as both Father and Mother in the Old Testament. He is ascribed both masculine and feminine characteristics. When man and woman come together, they are bringing into union the aspects of God’s nature that they each uniquely reflect.
When that union is centered on Christ, then actual oneness is achieved. He is the bond the keeps the two together. He makes it possible for the two parts to become a beautiful whole. You honor God when you honor man. You honor God when you honor woman. You honor God when you honor His design for bringing them together in harmony and union. Not just in a marriage way, but in a family and community.
Marriage brings together a man and woman and makes them one, so that they are no longer two separate entities with separate goals and separate futures. They have become one, a strong partnership intended for life.
Outside of marriage, men and women still work best together because they bring balance. They see the world differently. They experience life differently. When the genders work together, God’s creation is honored and blessed. When the balance is disturbed, we find oppression, injustice, and even abuse.
I want to highlight a few of the male qualities of this union. I am speaking in generalities, so all men will find themselves somewhere between weakly possessing these qualities and strongly possessing them. The point is to celebrate the way that God made men overall.
Generally speaking, men possess an innate desire to protect and provide for their family. In Genesis 2, it says that God put the man in the Garden to work it. The woman is to help, but the onus of the job rests on the man. All cultures since creation have reflected this quality in men. Anthropology, sociology, and psychology all support that there is a difference between the genders when it comes to working, providing, and protecting – and clearly it is one of God’s strongest qualities too.
Men are more left-brained, meaning they are more logical and systematic in their thinking. Numbers, space, distance, time, and speed are easier for them to understand and to calculate. They are generally less emotionally-driven in decision-making. In fact, most men are capable of bypassing the emotional center of their amygdale so they can focus on the task at hand and not allow emotions to overwhelm what needs to be done. Additionally, they tend to be more action-oriented and competitive. This is why men tend to be soldiers, engineers, construction workers, lawyers and doctors (especially surgeons).
God made men with these natural abilities, tendencies, and talents to complement and work in conjunction with the way He created women. These are wonderfully masculine qualities, without which our world would suffer.
It is obvious that one of the biggest problems in American culture is the lack of fathers. When divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births skyrocketed, so did single-parent homes. We have been living with the long-term consequences of this trend for a while now and it is apparent that we are suffering without men in families.
Adolescents raised in single-parent homes have higher rates of sexual activity, drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, sexual and physical abuse, living in poverty, crime and incarceration.
Clearly, children need their fathers. Men play a significant role in the health and well-being of their families. Not just because they tend to be the protectors and providers, but because of the contributions their gender brings to the family dynamic.
Imagine what life would be like without the masculine qualities of God. What if God didn’t provide for us? What if He didn’t protect us? What if He didn’t think logically? What if He had no clear big-picture in mind? What if God lacked action?
How can we find that reality horrifying, yet believe it makes no difference to raise kids without their fathers?
Children need fathers, but the kind of fathers that love God, love their wives, and live for the good of their families. Wives need husbands who love them as God loves us; who seek strong partnerships with them. Society needs strong, godly men who don’t seek their own good, who don’t seek to win and glorify themselves, and who don’t strive for a position of authority.
God made no mistakes when He made men. God made them in His image. God infused them with aspects of His nature. God designed them to be in relationship with Him, to be one with their wives, and to be a positive influence over their children.
This Father’s Day, let us pause and reflect on how important it is to have our men. Let us honor the significance of fathers. Let us recognize that life is better when men and women come together in strong partnerships, uniting their strengths, and working in harmony. Society is failed when the pendulum swings men into the role of controlling, domineering overlords. And it is failed when the pendulum swings men into being insignificant, unnecessary, and inferior. We need the men that God designed man to be.
Let us honor our Heavenly Father by honoring His creation of earthly fathers. Not just for a day, but for every day.
This week I experienced just how profoundly wonderful it is to have someone that you can call at 4:30 in the morning. Someone who not only answers the phone, but runs to where you need her to be at that particular moment. I write and teach a lot on family and usually I am talking about the parent-child relationship, but today I have been reflecting on the relationships that we have with people that are so strong and so close that they have become family.
I think most of us know a lot of people, even if we just know them in passing. We hear someone mention a name and we have a face and an experience to put with it. I heard once that the brain can recognize something like a thousand different faces. We have the capacity to know a lot of people, but we do not bond with each person that we know. A bond is something much, much more.
The people that we bond with are given pieces of our heart, of our person. The bigger the bond, the bigger the piece and the more irrevocably theirs the piece becomes. When you are with someone who possesses a piece of your heart, you feel complete, loved, known, whole. But, when you lose someone who possesses a piece of your heart, you feel incomplete and not a little bit lost.
I spend a lot of time talking about the bond we have with Christ through the indwelling of His Spirit, the bond that is shared in a marriage, and the bond that is shared between parent and child. But everything that I teach on protecting, deepening, and strengthening those bonds is just as applicable to the other bonds we share with people. And applying such things to these relationships is incredibly important because when these bonds are broken, our hearts are irrevocably broken too.
I have pieces of my heart that I have given away, never gotten back, and thus remain fractured and incomplete over. I still grieve these relationships, but I use this grief as a reminder to protect the bonds that I still have and to use discernment in forming new ones. Discernment is not the same as guardedness. Trust me, I did that for a very long time. I shut people out, kept them at arm’s length, and guarded myself from potential hurt. Unfortunately, I also guarded myself from potential joy in the process. No, discernment is listening to your heart, to your mind, and to your spirit when choosing the people that you spend time with, that you value, and that you give your heart to.
When I stop and listen to my heart, mind, and spirit now, I can sense my kindred spirits, my soul mates, the sisters of my heart. I thoroughly love each one of them. They are sisters that were not born into that role, but who have claimed it nonetheless. They are the ones that I can call in a crisis at 4:30am and know that they will come running. And they are so very special to me.
For them, I dedicate this poem by e.e. cummings.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)