Most of us as men are trying to prove things. We feel the need to prove ourselves smart, strong, right, desirable, sexy, epic, powerful, and all kinds of other things. We need to prove that we are loved. We feel the need to prove that we are capable. We try to prove that we are all-sufficient.
We tend to use the people around us to prove these things. Ouch yet?
If people laugh, we are funny and accepted.
If our wives will do certain things for us, then she must really love us/desire us.
If our kids don’t obey us, then we must not be perfect…
If people do what we demand of them, then we must be respectable/powerful.
If our boss approves of us, then we must be competent and admired…
(my friend John writes more about this) http://johnnyredfearn.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/nobody-loves-me/
If someone else gets more attention, or acclaim, or money or something else measureable, than us, then we still need to prove ourselves…
… but does she love/desire me enough to do something more?
… does she love me enough to prove it to me again?
… does she love me enough to do something she is uncomfortable with, or does she love that more than me? Does the love the kids more than me? Does she love her parents more than me? How can I get her to prove it?
Proving things always requires the bar to be raised. Tired yet? When are we done?
My gut tightens up just writing about it.
When I was about 11, I started taking martial arts. It had a big influence on my self-confidence. I was taking a soft-style called Hapkido, and the instructor was a Master named John Dowdy… I cannot begin to explain how much of a difference it made in my life as a young man and how it has played out as a man.
I think there is something to the idea that I once read in a Louis L’amour book that all men need to believe that they are able to handle themselves properly in a fight. Most men probably live in a kind of denial of the truth, or at least remain untested. It was wild, as a young man, to interact with men whose fighting prowess seemed supernatural at times, and to be taught by them!
As a therapist, one of my first recommendations for boys who seem to struggle with confidence is martial arts. On my resources page, I have a link that can take you to a Kung Fu school here in Tyler that I send young men to.
But I am writing this blog to tell a story that I learned while taking martial arts that taught be the most important lesson about the need to prove things.
We went to an open tournament and I fought in it. What I remember best, though, was the black belt finals.
It was a 3 point tournament, with back, groin, and head shots allowed as points… with pads on hands and feet.
The final four were:
1. a guy I don’t remember, and you will see why in a moment.
2. a big, angry aggressive martial artist in a brown and orange gi (uniform).
3. a talented Tae Kwon Do artist with patches all over his white gi.
4. a small Korean guy, wearing gi pants, but a plain black t-shirt… he may not have been wearing a belt.
The first two fought, and within a couple of points, and even with the pads, the angry guy hit the other guy in the eye so hard that it collapsed the bone under his eye! #1 was taken out on a stretcher, as I recall.
Patches and the Korean were amazing. The Tae Kwon Do guy doing the most beautiful precise movement I have ever seen – spins, jumps, strikes… all perfectly executed (with his canvas gi popping at every movement). He never touched the other guy. The little guy weaved in and out of the these moves and slapped him on the cup (groin protection in martial arts is even more extensive than baseball). My memory is that all three points were scored this way! Until that day, I did not realize that there were people actually fast enough to see a punch coming and just dodge it.
The final round was the little Korean guy and the big snarling guy. The whole auditorium sat in hushed anticipation of seeing this big bear get taught a lesson. Everyone in the room (except maybe him) knew how this would end – in his humiliating defeat.
At the mark, the big guy came across the mat like a freight train. The little guy danced back out of the ring. The judge warned him for leaving the ring.
Then it happened.
The little guy kind of cocked his head at the other one (who was still kind of snarling in the middle of the ring), shook his head to the side with a kind pitying look,
and walked out the tournament.
Need to read it again? Go ahead, I will wait.
Everyone was stunned… except the big guy left in the ring who started celebrating his victory. He won the 1st place trophy.
As my dad and I drove home, we talked about him. Did we think he could have won? Of course we knew he could have! Then why not fight? At that point in life, it was almost beyond me to imagine not showing off when someone could. What possible other motivation would cause someone to not fight except some doubt as to whether they could win? I couldn’t imagine any.
Then why didn’t he fight?
The conclusion my dad and I reached (and which was confirmed later)?
He didn’t need to. It didn’t look like fun to him. He had nothing to prove to anyone.
Not all the cute girls in the room (and the other girls too), not the tough men, (get this) not even himself.
Imagine that – he needed a reason to fight rather than a reason not to. He needed a reason to prove himself rather than a miraculously darn good reason not to!
Imagine not needing to say that thing which makes people think (or lets them know) that you are smart.
Imagine not needing to drop that name or tell that story that lets people know how important you are.
Imagine not feeling slighted if other people like when someone else speaks or leads than when you do.
Imagine not feeling the need to prove something?
May God set us free of our insecure need to prove things, but instead teach us to focus, to rest, to rely, on the truth of who we are… in Him…
from frantically trying
to prove against who we aren’t…
Gideon is a mighty warrior the moment God sent His messenger to declare it… long before Gideon knew it was true.
PS – thanks to Mark Cole for the Stone of Remembering