Man: the Great Fixer? Part 1 (What is it that makes a man tick?)

by Rod Davis

God is God and I am not I can only see a part of the picture he’s God is God and I am man So, I’ll never understand it all For only God is God [1]

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.                            (Psalm 103:13-14 NIV)

Listen up, men! I have some bad news and some good news for you. The bad news is, handymantry as you will, you can’t fix everything. The good news is, try as you will, you can’t fix everything. I know you don’t like hearing this but it’s still true.

One of the milestones in a man’s life is when he finally discovers that he can’t fix everything. It’s a liberating revelation. In addition, it’s one of the most difficult life-lesson for us guys to grasp. You see, men are fixers. In fact, it’s in our job description. It’s right there somewhere between the lines of the wedding vows. “I promise to love, honor, cherish and…ah…fix things around the house.”

When something stops working men see fixing it as something more that just a task on their to-do list. It’s a quest. We’ve got to fix it. Our reputation’s at stake! In fact, we feel deeply insulted when the wife utters those hated words, “Dear, don’t you think you should call the plumber?” Despite the ineptitude, which many of us men suffer from in the handyman department, we still cry, “Dang the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!!!”

“Plumber! We-don-need-no-stinkin-plumbers!!!” we declare. “I can fix it myself. I’m not going to give some plumber my life savings just to fix a lousy leak! Balderdash, I say!!! [That’s such a fun word isn’t it? Balderdash!] This also goes for any carpenter, electrician, pest-control guy or any other home invader who would “dare touch the things in my kingdom that need fixing. As long as I have hands, breath in my lungs and a neighbor to barrow tools from, I’ll fix it!”

After all…WE’RE THE MEN! The home is our castle! Fixing things is what we do. Indeed, it’s expected of us. Everyone in the home looks to the man to fix things when they’re broken or to assemble things if needed. To make matters worse we expect it of ourselves. Then when we try to fix something but can’t it hits us right where we live. That’s why we’re so stubborn about it. Most men take that “failure” personally. “I failed the mission! I couldn’t fix it! I couldn’t cut the mustard.” We may not say it out loud but way back in a dark corner of our minds where we keep our most guarded secrets, we think it.

This comes from the book entitled, Understanding the Male Ego by Charlie Rainer Gaston, “Know the male mind. Men tend to be natural problem solvers. Many times men gain strength and confidence from the completion of a difficult project or challenging problem at work or home. Without a clear understanding of the male ego, this could be measured as juvenile bragging or arrogance. However, it is simply his way of taking pride in bringing resolution to a problem and helping those who depend on him for support.”[2]

It seems that most women are clueless about this fact. As a result they shake their heads in bewilderment when they see their man struggling with this part of his psyche. They wonder why we react the way we do, especially when it comes to solving problems in relationships. Women are puzzled by the anger and frustration that men display when dealing with human feelings. They wonder why their man locks down when it comes to dealing with emotions.

How to express feelings and still appear manly is one of the great paradoxes of being a man. That’s why many men feel uncomfortable voicing their affection for someone. It’s easier to suppress how we feel then it is to have to explain it to the women in our lives. And because of this women have trouble understanding the men in their lives. Furthermore, the reason for women’s confusion is simple. This is big! Your average female does not understand how fragile the male ego can be.

We guys are goal-oriented. We can’t help it. It’s the way God designed us. It’s one of the key things that make men different from women. Where women find most of their personal value in their relationships, men get most of our sense of self-worth from their accomplishments in life. The goals that they reach and the respect that those goals net are deeply woven into the fabric of the male psyche. Therefore, much of our sense of value comes from our self-perceived ability to fix things. It doesn’t matter whether we can or not. We’re going to give it the good ‘O College try anyway.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33 NIV)

This quote came from the Focus on the Family website “Men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected.” — Shaunti Feldhahn [3]

A hearty amen to that! As far as men are concerned when we fix something around the house we view it as no less than another goal achieved. “I did it! Mission…accomplished! I seen m’job and I did it!” It makes us feel good about ourselves and the way our family perceives us. It’s also a way of courting our wives. It builds men up when we are praised for our ability to fix things and solve problems. It satisfies that innate need for praise and respect that men have. However, therein lies the rub as far as the fragile male ego goes.

Because we men see ourselves as the great fixer around the home we think we can fix everything and indeed must fix everything and… everybody. However, the problem with this line of reasoning is simple; we may be able to fix something that’s broken, but we can’t fix people. We have trouble accepting that flaw in our handyman capabilities.  We can’t fix our marriage or our kids like we might fix a leaky faucet or mend a fence. And that’s a very hard pill for men to swallow. No matter how well meaning we may be, we become frustrated when we fail at mending broken hearts or patching up a rift in a relationship. We forget that people are much more complex than a lawnmower. We can’t just repair them and send them on their way. “Mission… accomplished!” As painful as it is for us to admit, people need a specialist… and we’re not Him.

We can’t mend our wives or kids like fixing a flat. It takes a lot of emotional finesse and sensitivity. Sadly, we men are not exactly famous for those particular skills. So when our attempts at fixing the members of our family end in disaster and frustration, it’s easy for us to see ourselves as failures. I’m well acquainted with that frustration.

I spent most of my life seeing myself as a failure in that arena. I made a lot of very foolish choices as a young man. Most were in the realm of marriage. And no matter how hard I tried to fix my marriage it still fell apart. I took it very personally. “I failed!” It didn’t matter to me what she did or didn’t do. It didn’t matter who was to blame. As far as I was concerned, I was responsible for not holding my marriage together. After all, I’m the man. I’m the divinely appointed head of the home. I should have been able to fix my marriage! What a loser!!!!

Ultimately, I found myself caught in a vicious pattern of behavior that nearly killed me. Despair overwhelmed me and sucked me down into a sea of grief and guilt. “I not only failed to save my marriage”, I reasoned. “I let God down in the process.”

Then I learned this one fundamental, life-changing truth. I’m not God! Therefore, my ability to fix anything is at best… finite.

You see, there are two types of problems that we all face in life. There are those problems to which we, with God’s help, can find a human resolution. Then there are those problems that I call “God problems”. They are unpleasant situations that we can’t humanly do a thing to fix them. There is no human resolution. These difficulties are defined as “I’m-stuck-up-against-the-Red-Sea-with-no-way-out-problems” In other words, “God problems”. Only God can do something about them. Human ingenuity can’t touch these kinds of predicaments. They need the miraculous fixing skills of Almighty God—The Specialist.

When this liberating truth finally registered with me, it revolutionized my thinking. I’m not God! Wow! There are things that I can’t possibly fix! So, why get angry or frustrated? What a revelation!  To be perfectly blunt, many of the problems that I faced and had labored in vain to fix were further aggravated by my own prideful intervention! I felt like I had to fix that person in my life but I only managed to make matters worse! Does this sound familiar?

These days I’m slowly learning to back away when I realize that I’m facing a God Problem. “Let go and let God.” is my motto these days. I admit that backing away is a difficult thing to do for anyone especially for us men. We have difficulty seeing that line between what is a human-solution problem and what is a Godsolution problem. Men’s inherent desire to fix everything often blinds us, and we can’t see the difference. Sequentially, our ego makes it more difficult for us to turn the problem over to God. Even though it’s mostly a guy thing, I dare say most of you ladies also have the same difficulty differentiating between the two types of problems.

So guys, take this message to heart. God is God and you’re not. Fix what you can and leave the God Problems to The Expert. You’ll be a whole lot happier.

Now… go fix the dishwasher.

[1] God is God Written and recorded by Steven Curtis Chapman on his album, Declaration. ©2001 Sparrow Song / Peach Hill Songs / BMI / Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing

[2] Understanding the Male Ego by Charlie Rainer Gaston lifted from eHow.com at  http://www.ehow.com/how_4546522_understanding-male-ego.html

[3] What I Didn’t Know About Men: Help for every woman who’s ever been completely baffled by the man in her life. Taken from the Focus on the Family website. Read this article in it’s entirety at http://www.family.org/marriage/A000000997.cfm

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