Tuesday Morn / February 19, 2013
My son gets defiant, sometimes. I love him. He’s my son.
“My son gets defiant, sometimes. I love him. He’s my son.”
The first line is me, talking about my son.
The second line is God, talking about me.
In the movie “Cool Hand Luke” a southern warden at a prison farm makes a statement, directed toward the protagonist portrayed by Paul Newman: “Whah wee ha’-av he’ah … is a fay-urr … to kuh-muh’ni-kate.”
Luke’s choice appears to be defiance … against a warden demanding compliance. If you’ve seen the movie, which most of you probably have not, Paul Newman does a good job of being redemptively wild. And yet, there is a paradox here; or as the warden would say “he’ah”. Luke is a man in prison, and he is expected to be compliant. But this system he is in the midst of is notably corrupt. Thus, defiance; and / or redemptive wildness.
Today, men in America struggle with these three dynamics: defiance; compliance; and redemptive wildness. Arguably, one cannot legitimately slam a “Yes Man”. Maybe this is a case of semantics, a choice of words. A “Company Man” has a positive connotation; a “Yes Man” has a negative connotation. From my weathered, less than objective, perspective … I believe there is a difference, but that is not really the point here.
The “Yes Man” could be the wise one: a) he knows how to keep his job; b) he knows how to score points with upper management; c) he will get the promotions and the money; and d) he will avoid conflict. Ahhh, compliance.
Meanwhile, another man struggles with: a) being talked down to; b) the feeling / perception that someone is trying to manipulate him; c) the expectation that he has to jump through hoops like a circus dog; and d) that he must always have the “right answer”, whether its true or false.
In my work with homeless addicts, I sat with men who carried a passionate defiance wherever they went. Another paradox: in “the program”, a residential substance abuse rehab, some could “play” the compliance game. There were two reasons for this. One was that after 30-45 days they were sober from their substance; their mind had a rare clarity; and they saw some logic in compliance. The second reason was that “the program” allowed them to take a vacation from their addiction, spending time getting three square meals daily, sleeping in a warm bed, and getting fresh clothes.
It should be noted that the characteristics above did not fit every man who came into the program. Some men did not last one week of abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol. Some men left the program before their thirty-days goal. Some men chose to break their sobriety, because of cravings, boredom, anger, defiance, or … (check this out) their desire to leave but they wanted to be kicked out of the program so they wouldn’t have to make the decision themselves.
Many of us are fathers with at least one child in the home. Many of us are husbands with wives. Some of us have mortgage payments; bills to pay; the need for medical insurance. Thus, there is a sizeable incentive for compliance; and very little incentive to choose defiance, in any shape or form. This is obviously not a bad thing.
One question on the table: is there any redemptive wildness happening? When I chose to get married, I made a commitment to never be a “Yes, Dear” husband. Over the years, there are times when I drop the ball on that commitment. Most of the time, however, the terror of becoming a “Yes, Dear” husband drives me to keep my eyes on that fine line.
One reason for my continued commitment is my belief that my wife needs a man who will not become a “Yes, Dear” husband. More specifically, my wife needs a man with wildness. That is who she married; not the “Yes Dear” husband.
Living with all of this can be a thick-like-molasses tension. There is no doubt that I have missed opportunities because of my difficulty finding a balance between the three. As a result, I live with some degree of regret: less money in the bank; not much status in the realm of “So, what do you do?”; and the increasingly obvious stamp that other men can see when we meet.
Living without regret; guarding the wildness that I still have; living without self-condemnation; choosing wisdom along the way; and trusting God in this process: its not as easy I would have imagined thirty years ago.
Okay. I’m out. My hat is off to you who are redemptively wild.
Wilder Man On Rolling Creek