Thursday, December 6, 2007

in praise of an ordinary man

This one’s a love letter, so you may want to stop reading now. It’s written in praise of an ordinary man: greying hair, bald patch, paunchy stomach, like so many middle aged men.

He enjoys watching footy, has to fight his inner urge to call the umpires “white maggots” (well, he did before they started wearing fluorescent green), and thinks insulting his mates is a form of affection. He would rather eat an overcooked steak at home than cordon bleu cuisine at a restaurant, refuses to engage in political correctness, and wears thongs with jeans as a deliberate fashion statement. In other words, your original Aussie male, only more so.

He is no way a romantic. Flowers are for the birth of children (that makes 4 bunches so far – apart from the occasional birthday). Nor is he into sharing his feelings. Inquiries as to how his day went are often answered with a brief “It was fine, thanks”. If he is sick, I will only realise 7 days into his cold, when the huge piles of tissues around the house begin to claim my (admittedly somewhat wavering) attention. Subtle requests for sympathy (the drooping shoulders, the just-within-earshot sigh) are often regarded with a kind of bracing stiff-upper-lip attitude, and more overt stories of my woes are greeted with advice as often as comfort. A “men are from Mars” kind of guy, then.

Yet he is one of the most loving people I know. Like many husbands and fathers, he works hard at a demanding job to provide for his family, but chooses inconvenient hours so he can spend time with them. When he's exhausted, he doesn’t moan and complain, but gives as much energy as he can to his wife and children. He is wonderful with his kids, and he’s an incredibly patient teacher, showing them how to ride a bike or kick a footy. He has an irreverent sense of humour, a tenacious integrity and a sometimes blunt (but gently delivered) honesty: you always know that what you hear from him is the truth. He loves his family quietly but deeply, you can’t help but be aware of it, and he is capable of great kindness, sympathy, tenderness and affection. He is my bedrock, the one who grounds me. He is that extraordinary thing: an ordinary family man.

I don’t think any of this is unique: but I do think we often fail to appreciate it. This ordinary kind of man is undervalued in our society, which values intense romantic feeling over the hard yards of everyday love and commitment. We expect men to be like women, offering sympathy, never advice; gossiping about every detail of their day; giving the kind of instant empathy supplied by our female friends. Yes, some men excel at these things; yes, it is good to communicate and feel deeply; yes, these are virtues men can learn from women. But we should also value and learn from the typical virtues of men: their courage, their integrity, their forbearance, their ability to laugh at themselves and others, the way they give of themselves for the sake of their families, the sacrifices they make so they can spend time with those they love.

Let’s celebrate true manhood, in all its gentleness, loyalty, honesty, patience, love, service and strength.


Yvonne said...

Hey Jean, you write really well, you could write an article for The Briefing. I agree with what he say, and I hope I can say the same too.

Gordon Cheng said...

Steve's a great man. Praise God for his strength, tenacity and love for the gospel (and family!)

Rachach said...

That is so beautiful. I think you're right about expecting men to love the same way as women.
My husband isn't particularly romantic either but I don't doubt that he loves me byhis daily-grind type love.