Two months ago at a men’s conference I had an interesting conversation with a youth pastor about roles in a marriage. As a newlywed still trying to forge the best practices, I’m always interested in these types of conversations. During our talk we discussed some of the adjustments marriage demands of you such as – learning how to share the same space, complimenting each other’s mental makeup, adjusting from me to we and things of this nature. But during the five minute conversation, he said one thing that really struck a chord with me, two sentences that are crystallized forever – “you may not feel like doing something that your wife wants you to do. You may feel like it’s always you that sacrifices but remember this – God called you to be a servant to your wife.” “A WHAT!” Was the response that bubbled up internally, and probably across my face as well.
As a man, there are many roles that you come into a relationship ready, or expecting to play. Examples include – partner, protector, provider, companion, confidant, cheerleader and friend. That’s a solid seven right there. As a one track mind kind of guy I feel like my hands are pretty full trying to handle those roles but you want me to add servant to the list? That don’t read. Seriously, I love my wife to death but I said to myself, “servant might be taking it too far.” I mean have you ever thought - right now I just want to be a servant to (insert your significant other)? Why is that? Why do the pivotal words, “I do” that flowed freely on our wedding day so often get locked in an impenetrable fortress when our partner asks, “do you think you can…..?” What causes us to draw the line at servanthood?
Being a servant runs in opposition to the traditional notion of masculinity. Being masculine is associated with traits such as strength and aggressiveness. Synonyms for masculine include words like – macho, muscular, rugged, powerful and robust. Notice words like meek and sensitive are missing from that sentence. This puts a man in a tough position because while masculinity may not require sensitivity and servanthood, relationship does. I include sensitivity because make no mistake, when you talk about serving you’re talking about being sensitive. When you’re sensitive to the needs of your partner it really just means you’re attentive to them. You pick up on the signals or slight changes in their physical or psychological behavior and you can make the necessary adjustment. But you have to be in a certain state to build that sensitivity. You have to have the right mindset to serve. And it's not easy for a man to get there because of what the world requires of a man.
A man has to move a certain way to be successful in the world. This is not a new realization, every man knows this. Life teaches it to him as he ages and evolves. By the time you're a fully formed adult, it becomes second nature to you. You know what environment requires what behavior and you adjust accordingly. You put on the right face, or maybe mask is a more appropriate word and navigate your way through life's situations and circumstances.
Men, especially black ones, wear an assortment of masks. Examples include - the mask that helps him blend in when his skin makes him stand out in the office, the mask he wears when he’s around his friends, the mask he wears with family members who are always measuring him and his achievements, and the one he wears when he finds himself in unfamiliar public places. These are just a few examples of the many masks men wear daily. These masks control things such as – voice inflection, terminology, slang usage, countenances, dispositions and appearance. Any given day, hour or minute may require a mask change within a second’s notice and it is of the upmost importance that you do not and I repeat do not slip up and put on the wrong mask. Mistakes can be fatal. Seriously.
As a man you get used to wearing these masks, after all they are the essential for your well-being.
They help you make it in a cold world but they also have a chilling effect on you. You can become accustomed to putting up a façade covering up your true self. You see because sometimes when we make it home, hang up our keys and put our wallet on the dresser we open a drawer and grab the mask the world wouldn’t let us wear all day. The one that lets us exercise power and authority. The alpha mask. The mask that comes with a certain hardness, or callousness. The mask that wants no part of servanthood or sensitivity. The mask that’s tired of taking orders because we just spent all day conforming. The mask that does not want to do what your lady is asking (especially if she’s been getting on your nerves).
Speaking of nerves, they move us from the external factors to internal.
Sometimes struggling with servanthood isn't about a mask, it's about the state of a man's nerves or feelings. Let's go on a quick journey. When a request comes in it makes its way through one ear. However before continuing its passage, the request meets the brains gatekeeper, the elder statesman or root of the nerve family, the last nerve. The last nerve processes the request, calculates the number of nerves required to fulfill said request and makes a decision. If there are enough pristine un-treadded-on nerves available the request is granted passage to the brain where execution occurs. However, if the last nerve is all alone the request is denied passage and quickly escorted to the ear canal located opposite of entry. While this behavior may cause hell to be raised, we determine it's worth it, it kind of makes us feel good. After all, what do I look like doing something for someone who took a machete to my nerves? How does that make me look? See one of the biggest factors when determining to do or not to do is the way it makes a man look. The optics. Not the effort required to complete a task, not the motivation behind it but the way it will make us look is a large determining factor in whether we do something. Do I feel like doing this or not. But going on this feeling alone can lead to life long trouble.
One of the most important lessons we learn growing up is sometimes you have to do things you just don’t feel like doing. If you only do what you feel like doing you won't be successful in life or in your relationship.
It doesn’t matter how you feel, it only matters what you do. Success and failure aren't tied to feelings, success and failure are tied to actions. How I feel about my wife isn't the most important thing, what I do for her is.
Love is a verb, it's demonstrated through action. Our actions determine the success or failure of our relationships. There is no greater action than serving. Presenting yourself as a devoted and helpful follower or supporter; a person who performs duties for others. Particularly duties for the "other" who is the most important person on earth to you. Serving your wife may not make you a man but it will make you the husband God called you to be.