In a recent meeting, I heard a man admit that he had failed to do something to which he had committed and added, “I’m selfish.”
Inside, I said to myself, “I don’t buy it. I don’t think men are selfish.”
This is similar—I hear men report that they are lazy and I doubt it. I don’t think that men are actually lazy.
In each case, the label “selfish” or “lazy” is hiding something deeper that is going on inside the man. And these tags only add to the man’s shame.
This morning as I was sharing my thinking, my brother-in-law admitted that he is a procrastinator. Ah, yes, another label. But almost right away Gary admitted that underneath his delay is fear. For him usually a fear that he won’t do the task well enough.
When that man called himself selfish, I invited him to share the truth about himself that is underneath the behavior that he labeled “selfish.” In the moment, he tried, but was stumped.
Of course he was stumped because he had always stopped with that label – selfish — and quit reflecting on what was really going on.
When we talked a few hours later, his face was more peaceful, and he calmly explained that instead of doing what he had committed to do, he chose to do something that he had wanted to do for himself. Without shame, he connected his choice with his growing up experience where the big people in his life abandoned him, repeatedly leaving his needs unattended. In years past, others had not valued his needs. So when he tends to his needs now, he then judges himself as selfish.
In my view, something similar is going on when a man calls himself “lazy.” Ultimately, I don’t think people are lazy. Rather, “lazy men” are avoiding tasks around which they feel some fear — fear of failing or not doing it well enough or being criticized for how they take on that task.
Instead of probing the truth that is underneath their choices, then men make matters worse by judging and labeling themselves as lazy. With such a judgment, they put themselves down and stay stuck in a pattern of behavior that leaves the task undone and their heart heavy with judgment that something is wrong with them.
In the end, I’m writing about specifics and a pattern.
- Do you label yourself selfish or lazy?
- Would you be willing to be quiet and ponder what’s going on inside you?
- What would you like to do differently?
And I’m writing about a pattern where we label ourselves in ways that increase our shame and keep us stuck. I label myself “indecisive,” and the label limits me from growing and changing. In my fear of making an imperfect decision, I delay, frustrating myself and others. How do you label yourself and limit your growth?
Labels add to our emotional load and stop us from looking under the hood.
With love, let’s open the hood, see what we can, and make new choices.
By John Casey
John completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2005, is a graduate of our two-year transformational program and is a weekend leader for The Crucible Project. He enjoys writing about authentic living for men. As a senior pastor for 32 years, he has written and preached hundreds of sermons on God’s character and mission, our purpose and mission, spiritual transformation and effective relationships.
Photo Credit: Tee Cee via Creative Commons