A friend of mine ran track in high school. He was pretty amazing, and I always enjoyed watching him run. Not only did he run sprints but he also ran the high hurdles. As if running fast wasn’t enough, in the hurdles he had to stride airborne over a series of obstacles. That’s what Ted had been doing his whole life. He was an incredibly fast runner — a great salesman — and able to win races in business. What tripped him up were the hurdles to personal value and worth that his father’s actions, attitudes, and opinions had placed in his way. It didn’t matter how many other races in life he won, Ted couldn’t consider himself a success because he kept getting tripped up by those high hurdles.
As men, we do not like to be found inadequate. Rather, we will do just about anything to be viewed as strong, effective, competent, and necessary. In his father’s eyes, Ted struck out on all four:
- Ted was not strong, because he had chosen the “easy” way out through business and avoided the “challenging” path of academic success.
- Ted was not effective, because his work didn’t produce anything of “real value” but only monetary success.
- Yes, Ted was competent, but in a dishonorable way by “tricking” people to buy a “useless” product.
- A relationship with Ted became extraneous to his father because Ted’s chosen pursuits in life were in such contradiction to what his father found valuable and worthwhile.
Because of Ted’s supposed deficiencies, his father had never shown respect to him as a man.
Why didn’t Ted just dismiss his dad, brush off his opinions as old-fashioned and outdated, and live his life the way he wanted without regret? First, he loved his dad, and as painful as it was, his father’s opinion mattered to him. Second, a part of Ted lived in fear that his dad’s judgment on his life and choices — essentially on his manhood — were somehow, event just marginally, correct.
It is not possible to measure up to other people’s expectations, because other people are not fair. Everyone comes with their own biases and misconceptions and shortsightedness and selfishness. This is true even of those people who truly do love you. People are not perfect, so the way they view you and your life and your future will not be perfect. When you allow another person to dictate the standards of your life, you have just abdicated enormous power to that individual, and you could spend the rest of your life hobbled by the burden of those expectations and crushed under the fear of failure.
In order to be healthy, every man must come face-to-face with his own inadequacies. That can be difficult to do when you’re so busy pretending they don’t exist or frantically keeping yourself so busy you don’t notice them. You need to stop moving, stop numbing, stop denying long enough to really look at what they are.
The above is an excerpt from Battles Men Face: Strategies To Win the War Within by Dr. Gregory Jantz.