The Deadly Cliffs of Passivity and Control

Have you heard of the term “extreme sports?” It refers to activities that typically involve more risk because of speeds, heights, exertion on the body, or equipment used.

There is an interesting playlist on TED that involves such examples as Ueli Gegenschatz wing-suit flying over 100 mph as he races through canyons. Or Ben Saunders, who successfully navigated an 1,800-mile journey from Antarctica to the South Pole and back. Or Guillaume Néry, who attempted to free dive 400 feet below the surface of the water in less than 3 1/2 minutes…all without an air tank. 

I look at these examples and am amazed at the resolve and determination that would move these people to perform such feats of human will, limit testing, and strength. Unbelievable.

But as I look at myself as a guy, I find that extremes in my own life are not as readily appreciated or looked upon with amazement. In fact, I find with most of us that we fall into one of two extremes that do not create awe and appreciation. Rather, they are viewed with frustration and dread.

If I used the analogy of driving, these would be represented by ditches on either side of the road. Staying center is where I desire to be. Ephesians presents a template for us guys that serves us well in being a husband or being a father:

Husbands: “…love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (5:25)

Fathers: “…do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (6:4)

These verses help me understand what being “centered” or spirit filled is all about.

But there are two extremes, or two ditches, that are killing us as men that we better take note of or we are in jeopardy of causing great harm.

The extreme of passivity

The first extreme I notice is passivity. What does this look like? It simply means to do nothing. When we could engage, we do not. It literally means “acceptance of what happens, without active response or resistance.” The two verses above from Ephesians speak of active engagement.

With my wife, I pursue and chase after. It involves noticing my wife and paying attention to her words and her body language. It is an intentional mentality of serving her.

With my kids, I jump into their lives to love, counsel, and support. And count on it – it may feel awkward at times. But the longer you allow it to be awkward, there may come a time where they no longer want it and look to peers for advice and mentoring.

Why are we passive? Two reasons that I have seen in my own life:

  1. I do not care. I get busy with me. I become myopic and start only noticing my needs, my agenda, and my path. I have been passive in my marriage and it was and is a killer to my relationship with my wife.
  2. I do not know what to do. Our western mindset that promotes the likes of Chuck Norris and Rambo-type men is not helping. Solo acts that get’r done by their own counsel and willpower is simply not the answer. I need community with other men. Without it I become my own tribal counsel and hope for the best. In essence, I am simply planning for the worst. Guys, please here this: if you cannot name a handful of guys who speak truth to you and in whom you can confide, you will fail. Not if, but when.

The extreme of control

The second extreme I notice is control. What does this look like? A control freak. I manage my family instead of serving them. I do not ask for opinions or feedback from my wife or kids. I also manage my spiritual life in front of them so that I can portray strength and “having it together.” I want things done my way in my timeline. Consequences come to those who do not comply.

I have shown elements of this mindset before and I think of two words.

Crash. Landing.

Why are we controlling? Two reasons that I have seen in my own life:

  1. A lack of Isaiah 66:2 in my life: no humility, little repentance, and God’s word not transforming my thoughts. These are a trifecta and they must be developed by God. Quit trying. Quit doing.
  2. My goals for my family trump the “how” of getting there. Wow, have I been here. So consumed with the end game that soon I do not care how it happens. Pride erodes my heart. Grace and love leave the scene. And all I am left with are works of the flesh in trying to generate change.

I have seen both of these extremes in my own life with my family and God has dealt with them in ways that have absolutely gotten my attention. And in bringing about repentance He also brought about true heart change. In a word, freedom.

To my guy friends, I ask that you hear me on this. God will deal with your passivity and control because He is more about your joy than you are. And these are not just “things to work on.” They are ruining your family. 

Men, I would challenge you to get with your wife or your kids and just ask them. Ask them how they view your leadership and where they see passivity or control. Ask close men around you. Are you afraid of what they would say? Sure, they just may be honest with you. But know this, as I have seen with my own life, that the gospel is greater, Jesus is better, and God can change you.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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