“I want a man who’s unemployed, lazy and directionless”, said no woman ever. Here’s why men need purpose, direction, and yes – income.
The last post I did was a response to a very popular ABC article about man drought in the faith community. That post definitely got a lot of attention and a large number of readers in a short time. It’s a topic that really resonated with a number of women who feel like it’s extremely hard to find someone to settle down with. In that post, I tried to rebalance a number of the criticisms aimed towards men, and called for a more realistic look at what’s really happening.
However, it would be remiss of me to dismiss a percentage of men I did identify as the great source of frustration for a number of women. And that’s a percentage of men who are ignorant to something I always hear ladies saying to their friends and longing for in their hearts – men need purpose, direction, and income.
It’s not just the unmarried or uncoupled who are in the boat of this frustration though – I regularly hear of married or dating women who are frustrated their husband/boyfriend/partner just seems to be oblivious to the importance of these three components of what used to be acceptable to attribute to masculinity. To them, there’s just something not right or desirable about a man who wanders and has given no thought to his financial well-being. Multiple magazines and outlets such as Men’s Health interview scores of women about what works for them, and consistently, a passionate man who lives with a sense of purpose and capability is a major turn on. Think about the fantasy of the tall, dark, handsome stranger, who is always also passionate, capable, and rich. Conversely, women often lose heart when their men is lacking these three attributes.
In truth, this topic has been on my “to write about” list for over a year, and I think recent events have revealed that now is the right time to do just that.
So, this may be the least politically correct thing you read today, but there’s enough women out there wishing that the men in their life would just get this one. Let’s talk, gents. Here’s why men need purpose, direction, and income.
Men are struggling
It’s no secret that we live in a pretty messed up world, and men are really doing it tough. While it seems that men rule the world with their privilege and easy lifestyle, the statistics reveal a darker state of affairs. Lifeline reports two thirds of all Australian suicides are men. 92% of people in Australian prisons are male, and I was startled to hear from He-Motions author, TD Jakes, that two-thirds of ex-offenders in the United States are convicted and imprisoned of another crime within 5 years. While the rate is slightly higher for women, approximately one in five men will also experience an anxiety or depressive order in their lifetime (something I also battled with myself).
It’s safe to say that it’s not always easy being a man, and there are many more issues we could go through the stats for – alcoholism, drugs, pornography addiction, lucid relationships, or even some of the “healthy” vices men use to hide from more important issues such as their career.
In truth, rather than allowing these things to be our excuse for why we’re aimless and confused, we should recognise that these are symptoms highlighting all the more why we men need purpose, direction, and income.
Why purpose and direction matter
I should start by saying where I think the line between these two things are. I believe direction is where I’m going, and I think purpose means having a healthy level of satisfaction and significance about everything I do. They usually go hand in hand, and it’s a horrible feeling when you don’t carry either.
The stats tell us that unemployment and a lack of purpose affect men profoundly, significantly increasing the likelihood of substance addiction, self-harm, and unstable mental health. But it’s not unemployment on its own that contributes to a lack of self-worth in men. I mentioned the brilliant book He-Motions earlier which is a fantastic and well-researched look into men. The author highlights that there are many men who are employed and in fact highly materially successful, but have climbed the corporate ladder to enter the same levels of despair because they did not have a sense of purpose in what they were doing.
Theologian D.L. Moody said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter”. J.I. Packer, another noteworthy theologian, rightly adds, “What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance….”. The Hebrew Proverbs say that without vision, the people perish, not just the person. In other words, my lack of vision can negatively impact everyone around me. It is imperative that we as men live intentionally with the appropriate weight to what we do with our lives.
Does income really matter?
I bet this one has triggered a number of people, but hear me out. In our post-modern, post-feminism world, does a man really need to make money to be a man? The answer is… maybe, but there is certainly something important here worth talking about.
In truth, I have observed in the last few years a growing percentage of men who have developed an entitled attitude with regards to how their dreams get funded. They believe that it’s up to the rest of the world, or even more dangerous, their wives, to fund them completely, without them having to give any thought to the sufficiency of the household income. There are single men who go from job to job (kind of), who don’t give much regard to what level of income is required to live the life they want, and there are married men who put the entire financial burden of the household on their wives. Stability is super important to the heart of a woman, and living with someone with a lack of it can be a terrible place to live.
Now, if there is a mutual and agreed upon arrangement in a house for dad to stay at home and mum to be the breadwinner, this isn’t an issue. There are plenty of women who have done very well in their career and are better suited to being the primary or even the sole income of the house, and there are many very capable stay at home dads who are fantastic at keeping the house running.
This is not the situation everyone is in. And unfortunately I talk to too many wives who feel like they’re looking after an extra child in the home, forcing them to look after the kids, the apathetic husband, and the house, and somehow make financial ends meet. This is poor form and a great shame. I’ve also heard horror stories from the women who have been the ones complaining about the man drought who have been dated men who have expected the woman to pay for absolutely everything and refuse to take financial responsibility at any point in the relationship.
I recently attended a lecture with a group of a hundred men by psychologist Peter Janetzki who echoes multiple decades of counselling practice across the earth in labeling this Peter Pan syndrome. He identified that it’s not that Peter Pan didn’t grow up, it’s that he didn’t want to. Another uncomfortable rebuke to this end comes from the usually gracious Apostle Paul who said that any man who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat. Yikes. Clearly this is a bigger deal than we’ve made it out to be.
Men, have you thought about the level of income you and/or your family require to sustain a healthy standard of living? Does the woman in your life feel like she’s doing it alone? Have the two of you even talked about your financial expectations? Hard question – have you chosen a job or a career that enables you to contribute appropriately to the household bottom line, or is she having to pull double time because you’re not willing to think about it? If you’re single and ready to mingle, have you thought about how few women want to connect with a man who isn’t doing anything? I have never met a woman who wants an aimless man or who enjoys being with one.
Everyone goes through seasons of financial ups and downs and if you’re just starting out (studying, starting your own business etc.), it will look quite different, but you can’t build an entire life where you have not given sufficient consideration to your income. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need a six figure salary and a massive investment portfolio, but it does mean that you have enough for the life you want. Money isn’t the only thing that’s important, but let’s stop pretending that it’s not important.
Potential vs. fruit
Singer Danielle Bradbery puts the struggle of many women into words – “I’m not in love with you, I’m in love with your potential”. Many women finding themselves wishing the best and putting up with a ridiculous amount of nonsense because they can see the best version of the man they love, even if he refuses to be that person.
I think it’s a reality check for all of us to balance a person’s potential against where they are currently. Doctor John Maxwell writes that unfulfilled potential “is like dying while the music is still inside you”, and that potential can only be reached by intentional personal growth.
I think this is a great metric for how you know if you’ll see someone’s potential fulfilled or not. It can also help identify what a younger man may look like as he gets older, and especially if you’re a younger person considering what sort of person you want to marry. At the start, he may be studying, in a low paying role, doing an apprenticeship, trying to find his place in life, working things out. It would be unfair to dismiss a man too early on. I think direction, and indeed proven direction in the form of the fruit of a man’s life, is more important than current level of income, and that’s what we both need to focus on. At the same time, we need to be realistic about whether he’s actually putting tangible things in place to achieve those goals he keeps saying he’ll reach, or if he’s all talk and no followthrough.
What sort of man do you want to be?
What’s a man to do?
So, we’ve established how important these things are – what should you do if you’re one of the men who feel like purpose, direction, and income are all issues you struggle with. Here’s a few ideas that I’ve gleaned on my journey.
- Build a winning team. Men aren’t meant to do life alone. Solitary confinement is the ultimate form of torture for a reason. Why impose it on yourself? Get around some good people and keep up regular, authentic and accountable connection with them.
- Learn from successful men who’ve gone before you. The great thing about the age of technology is that we have access to vast amounts of wisdom and knowledge that no generation before us was fortunate to have. Let’s abuse the heck out of that fact. What have other men done to find purpose, to set their direction, to increase their income? Google is a great starting point – just be sure to check the reliability of your sources.
- Get a mentor. Some of the most rewarding and powerful wisdom in my life has come from older men I have intentionally sought out to learn from. Find a man you want to be like, and throw yourself in front of him. Drop the entitled millennial act and offer to buy him dinner and be available to work around his schedule. You won’t regret it.
- Ask the big questions. Have you ever asked yourself what you think your purpose is? Have you thought about where you want to go with your life? Do you know what level of income you need to achieve your dreams? It all starts with the right questions.
- Remind yourself that you were intentionally designed. If you think that you were an accident, that’s likely how you’re going to live. Conversely, if you can grab a hold of the great weight and value you carry, as well as the fact you were intentionally placed on this earth in this time period with your gifts and abilities, your whole life will change.
- Check the budget. As mentioned earlier, how much does your family (or your future family) need to get by? How can you make life better for your wife, your kids, your society? King Solomon said that wisdom and money together are a good defence.
- Ask the woman in your life what they think. If they’ve been seeing or experiencing something they don’t like, it’s likely they’ve already been talking to someone about it or frustrated internally by it. You are called and expected to do all you can for the woman in your life, and I’m sure she’ll have a few ideas on what would help her.
- Take responsibility. This is probably the summary of true masculinity – taking responsibility for myself, and also for the people entrusted to my care. I can’t do that when I’m aimless, unfulfilled, or ill-resourced. We can keep blaming the government, our upbringing, that legal battle, our former addiction, whatever. Nothing will change until we man up and take charge.
I realise that saying that men need purpose, direction, and income is not really a popular thing to say in the current millennium. But the number of frustrated women out there who are dying inside while surrounded by a significant enough percentage of men who aren’t living their best life make it worth giving appropriate attention to. What really reaches their heart is a man who lives with intention and direction. It’s also super important to think about the money side of things. After all, you can change the world through your income, and certainly the world of the people entrusted to your care.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you think men need purpose, direction, and income? Or is there something else missing?