Dear Young Men,
I fear many of you are selling yourselves short by putting off responsibility and prolonging adolescence. Sure, right now it seems like fun, but we both know something is missing. There are only so many video games you can play, notches you can add to your belt, and pubs you can crawl before you’re confronted with the truth that empty calories simply can’t satisfy the hunger you have.
That’s not to say there’s not a time and place for empty calories. Your Creator took a day off. Likewise, I still play Madden on my PS4 to wind down at night. Plus, anybody who's been telling you the sex is over if you get married and man up, well, he must not be married. And though I’m not much of a drinker any more, I still enjoy a college football Saturday in front of the TV as much as I did when I was.
However, dessert was never meant to be the main course. A real man needs solid food, in more ways than one, as I was reminded twice this week.
Confession time — I’ve kind of been in midlife crisis mode these past few months. I’m 44 years old, so I’m the age you will one day be when you will also ask yourself the following two questions: Are you doing what you were meant to do, and are you who you were meant to be?
Many of us as men will define who we are by what we do for a living, so let’s keep it real and go right there. I love what I’m blessed to do here for a living at CRTV. However, on a personal level, the toxicity of our daily politics leaves me wondering most days if we’re still making a difference. Though the money is nice, any real man will tell you that if money is your primary reason for doing a job, it’s likely you’re not really happy doing it.
That’s especially true when your job is standing up for what you believe in, as mine is. Let’s face it: The conservatism I got into this to champion is rarely the topic of conversation these days. Reacting to the latest progressive insanity, with little hope of successfully pushing back against it, dominates headlines whenever petty personality contests do not.
All of which has me wondering all too often if I’m really making a difference, or am I a clanging cymbal? I know many men would love to get to do what I do for a living, which is exactly why I don’t take it lightly. But I want to see my work make an impact, not just an income.
Yet as I watched my oldest daughter perform as the lead in “Hairspray” for the last show on Sunday, I was reminded my work isn’t really who I am, but that I do what I do because of who I am. I watched an adorable little girl sitting next to us acting out the dances while watching my daughter and singing along with her. I watched my daughter go out of her way to treat those in the ensemble part of the production as principal cast members. I’ve watched her remain true to her faith, despite being in one of the most diverse subcultures there is, and still befriend her castmates.
In other words, though Anastasia is a teenager who gives us attitude like any other typical teenagers, through the woman she is becoming, I can see the difference I’ve been allowed to make. And that is some solid, filling food.
Similarly, I saw it again with her little brother this week. I coached his flag football team this season and was discouraged after our game on Tuesday, when most of the team basically tuned me out and did their own thing, and we got crushed. So I did what every middle-aged male should do — I went home and sulked over a fifth-grade flag football game. Yeah, I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth.
The next day I got up, started thinking about our final game of the season on Saturday, and realized that as the adult, this is always on me, so it was time to take initiative. That’s just what I did, and I coached those kids harder than I have all season. Not harder as in yelling and screaming at them, but harder in terms of staying engaged and never letting them get down or lose focus.
We beat a team superior to the one that had just crushed us on the very last play of the game, and without our best player, who was injured. Each player made a key contribution, regardless of skill level. The kids listened because I led, by word and deed. We won that game not because we were the better players, or I was the better coach, but because we were the better team.
And now I find myself as fired up to go to work today as I have been in quite a while, despite the fact it doesn’t look like our politics is going to detox any time soon. Why? Because by embracing my responsibility, my tank was filled just as much as those I was emptying the tank for. I saw I could still make a difference, which you can’t do when your life is simply a set of random occurrences while you wait for your next sensual experience or material acquisition.
I fear too many of you reading this know not of which I speak, and too few of you have the courage to take the risk to find out. But I was once like you, too. My life was once defined by the depth of my music and porn collection. I was living for me, until one day when my wife brought home a baby girl from the hospital, and then suddenly it hit home that wouldn’t cut it any more.
Not a day has gone by since then that I haven’t been scared to death I was going to blow it, for me and for them. But that’s the choice we all must make, isn’t it? Whether to embrace responsibility or run from it? Except as men, we really can’t ever run from responsibility, and all we manage to do when we try is to pass that responsibility on to someone else.
I wish I could tell you I’ve been a perfect husband, father, and employee, but I haven’t. I’ve lost more times than I care to admit, but I’ve never been a loser. See, the loser stays down after a loss and never gets back up. Those we love can survive our failures, but they can’t survive our surrenders.
Frankly, too many of you reading this have preemptively surrendered. You haven’t failed because you’re not perfect, but because you haven’t even tried.
You’re afraid to fail, which is why you won’t succeed. Why you won’t have those moments with your children I’ve had this week. The same children who are eyewitnesses to many of my failures, who have also been witness to all the times I picked my sorry carcass up off the mat and accepted my responsibility once more.
And that’s the one thing I did right — rather than run from my responsibility, I embraced it. And because of that I’ve been blessed beyond what I deserve. And I wanted to write you this letter because I’m not special, so if that can happen to me, it can happen to you, too. Stop settling. Stop running.
Be a man and embrace your God-given responsibility. Trust me when I tell you there’s no greater adventure than that. And in the end it will pay you back far more than you were ever capable of paying in.