Some men are easily provoked, to the frustration of his family. They must be hyper-sensitive about what, how, when, or if to say something that it becomes easier to withdraw and isolate themselves. Often, this is a welcome relief to the man who would rather be left alone. When he has rare bright days the family beams and enjoys the relief of tension and the return of better days. However, there is still an eye on the horizon for they know that the dark days will quickly return and they must assume the defensive posture. (Of course, a wife can be this way as well but I’ll let a woman write about that on her blog.)
Many men fail to realize how much they set the tone of the household when they are around. The wife and children will adjust to his disposition no matter how strong their personalities are. There may be great joy and playfulness in the house during the day but when the father walks in from work the tone changes as everyone monitors his demeanor to determine how to act. For a man who is usually positive and engaged, the appearance of a beat down and frustrated father will usually arouse sympathy, comfort, and encouragement. For a man who is usually disagreeable, the same behavior will generally result in avoidance. The disagreeable man rebuffs sympathy and refuses comfort, preferring to sulk in the misery of his life. I know. I have been this man before.
There is a better way.
If you are in a disagreeable mood and I say “develop and attitude of gratitude” I know you will grunt and think “If only you knew about my life.” Yes, I’ve been there. Many, if not most, men have been there at some point in their life. However, reflecting on the blessings you have can open your eyes to how good your life is. A friend of mine was unhappy with his job and it was affecting his overall attitude. One day before work, while sitting in the plant parking lot, he took out a piece of paper and listed the pros and cons of his job. After compiling the list, he discovered this job really had more going for it than against it. He put the list in the glove compartment and went to work from that day forward with a better attitude.
When you compare your life to the rest of the world you understand how incredibly blessed you are. A friend who travels to Africa to preach says he is impressed by the brethren who have nothing materially but are happy. It may be that we have put much stress on ourselves because we are trying to purchase our happiness at the mall and electronics store. Don’t compare your life with other people. Enjoy what you have and who you are with. Learn to live with contentment (1 Timothy 6:8 – “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”)
See the Beauty of Your Family
Your spouse has quirks. Your kids do as well. Look in the mirror and see someone else in the family with their own share of imperfections. Now look at them and yourself and see the beauty within. Sometimes we fail to appreciate the blessing of our family. Write down all the good things about your wife and children and what you admire in them. Focus on those things, not the negative things. Tell them of the beauty you see in them (they may not have heard it from you in a long time). Constantly affirm your love for them in ways that are obvious, not just grunting “love you” occasionally. Give them your time, attention, and appreciation. Love them with their imperfections because they love you with yours.
There are men who would eagerly take your place. If tragedy or circumstances separated you from them you would sacrifice anything to be back with them. Do not let tragedy wake you up before it is too late. Wake up while you can enjoy them.
Find the Joy in Life
A long term study of 200 Harvard undergraduate men that began in 1938 and continues to this day examined physical and mental health from late adolescence until very old age. Some men faced great life challenges by turning to alcohol and damaging their careers and family lives and creating financial difficulties. Some ignored their problems, some blamed others for their problems, and others escaped into fantasy worlds. Those who were mentally healthy took a different approach:
“…the other mentally healthy men in the study displayed an ability to take life’s hardship and ‘turn it into gold,’ [Dr. George] Vaillant says. He identified several mature coping skills, including humor, not taking oneself too seriously; anticipation, the ability to foresee future pain and prepare for it; stoicism, to endure hardships; and altruism, a concern for others.” (Kam, Katherine. “Baggage Check” WebMD Magazine)
Develop Friendships with Other Men
A disagreeable nature often arises from our feelings of isolation. The average man has less than one close friend with whom he can confide without fear of judgment or exposure. Without someone to talk about the problems and challenges in life common to men, a man can feel lonely and agitated. Another man can understand the struggle and provide wisdom and encouragement. I wrote an article on “Advice for an Isolated Man” with tips on how to relieve this problem.
Develop a Close Relationship with God
If we live a God-focused life we will carry our pain and concerns to Him in prayer. We will trust that this life is not about us but about “seeking the kingdom of God” first. If we develop the mind of Christ, Philippians 2:3-5, we will be as concerned about the needs of others as we are about our needs and end our self-seeking ways. Living this committed life we know that “all things work together for good” because God is in control. The occasional hat tip to God or uncommitted relationship with God will not accomplish it. When we lose ourselves in God we find what we were intended to be and our purpose in this life: to glorify Him in what we say and do.
You set the tone for your household when you are there. Let your home be so blessed by your presence that it is filled with joy, encouragement, peace, and love. Let your leadership be obvious in positive ways. Living this way, your wife and children will eagerly await your arrival from work so they can enjoy the pleasure of your company. And when dark days come, they can comfort and strengthen you until the sunshine returns.