Men having a mid-life crisis are searching for meaning in all the wrong places

Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS
Two Air Force JTACs discuss mission parameters prior to calling in CAS

I can always count on my good friend Dina to be even more angry at feminists and feminism than I am – she has to deal with young, unmarried women behaving selfishly and irresponsibly every day, and sees the trouble they cause for others.

So when she sent me this article from the UK Telegraph, and told me that I needed to write about how men are going terribly wrong, I knew it was time to balance things out a little on this blog.

Here are the parts I want to comment on:

Something strange happens to men in middle age.

[…]Aches and pains used to disappear quickly, now they hang around for months. Hair no longer grows on the head, you can’t stop it growing out of your ears. You can’t sit down, stand up, or pick up any object without emitting an accompanying grunt. But it’s not the age, it’s the anxiety; those ‘dark nights of the soul’, staring at the ceiling, pondering the ultimate question of middle age: ‘Is that it?’

[…] Some take up the triathlon and wear unfeasibly tight Lycra. “I want to prove that I can still do it,” said a marathon running friend. “I’m fitter than guys half my age.” Some change their appearance. The jeans grow tighter than their lycra. A tattoo appears. Then there’s the sports car because they think that buying something will cure their sadness. But they end up just as unhappy, but at a higher speed.

[…]Studies show that in our forties and fifties levels of happiness and life satisfaction dip to their lowest levels psychological distress is at its height. Forty-five is the most common age for depression to be diagnosed. This is a complex situation with many factors, but in my many conversations with ‘men of a certain age’, I sensed an underlying lack of meaning and purpose, and a sense of having failed in some way.

Many of them had spent their life climbing the corporate ladder only to find out it was leaning against the wrong wall. At one event where I was speaking, I met a judge. He’d spent his life striving to reach that position, only to find that, when he got there, he felt as empty as ever. Another friend returned from a long career teaching overseas. He saw a TV advert featuring men admiring their DIY handiwork and saying, ‘I did that.’ He burst into tears: he felt there was nothing in his life of which he could say, ‘I did that.’ He was wrong. But it didn’t feel that way.

Men are wrong to think that they can produce meaning by achieving pointless worldly goals. Pointless worldly achievements don’t ward off old age, sickness and death. There is not some judging ceremony when you die where the person who has the most stuff, or who had the most sex, or who ran the most marathons, or who traveled to the most countries, wins anything. No man can really achieve objective meaning or purpose through material objects, pleasure, sex, triathlons, alcohol, drugs, sports, gambling, travel, or any kind of this-worldly achievement. The things you build in this world will stay in this world. If you want to build something that lasts outside this world when you die, then you need to get to work on finding out whether God exists, and what he expects from you. It is only by focusing your life on the bigger picture that you will achieve things that actually count.

So how to get a man thinking clearly about meaning and purpose?

First, you should have a serious conversation with him about his plans and goals, and get him to reflect on whether what he is trying to achieve is going to matter. Men like to think that they are living a good, meaningful, purposeful life. They need to be questioned about this. They get so distracted with the good feelings they have watching sports, playing golf, going fishing, home improvement, working out, etc. that they don’t think about the big picture. This article by William Lane Craig may prove useful (video of lecture). Sometimes, a man can decide that the big questions don’t matter at age 12, after he suffers some minor disappointment with God, and then never go back and re-evaluate until age 90. You need to point out to him how stupid it is to decide big questions as a teen, when he hasn’t uncovered any facts to would help him to draw accurate conclusions.

Second, men are often very impatient and dismissive of spiritual things, because they are very practical and evidential. Practical and evidential are good, and this is how they must be approached – they must be made aware of the areas of science, history and philosophy that touch on the big questions. I will never forget one of the engineers in my office asking me about the William Lane Craig vs Lawrence Krauss debate after I told him I blogged on it. This guy builds stuff, fixes cars, everything manly you can imagine. He asked me “did anyone win?” That’s what men care about. Your first goal in getting a man interested in deep questions is to show him how known facts arbitrate disputes, resulting in real winners and losers.

You cannot tell men the answers in advance, because they are explorers and adventurers. Men must be presented with alternatives, and left alone to explore and adjudicate winners and losers on their own, based on careful reasoning and evidence.

By the way, this MP3 file contains the testimony of one of my favorite 3 speakers, Dr. Walter Bradley – a mechanical engineering professor who reached the highest levels of his profession, and made a huge difference for Christ, speaking at dozens of university campuses. I have listened to this lecture dozens of times, and it changed my life. Really good thoughts about meaning and purpose in life.

Disclaimer

Now, as you all know, I do think men should study hard things and work hard jobs that they hate but that pay well, in order to provide for others. But there is a difference between getting your meaning and purpose in life from climbing a ladder at work, and getting your meaning and purpose in life in a relationship with God. The same thing goes for fast cars – I love them, I bought one the week after I started working full-time after graduating. Don’t confuse fast cars with the meaning and purpose you get from partnering to achieve results for your Boss.

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