By Chris Bolinger, Crosswalk.com
Raised in a Christian home in inner-city Baltimore, Oliver Marcelle saw a contrast between the drugs and violence of the streets and the example of Christ. That example, however, had little influence on how Marcelle lived his life.
He moved to Michigan to pursue a degree and a career in broadcasting, but his university phased out its broadcasting program. Thousands of dollars in debt and unable to transfer his credits to another school, Marcelle dropped out of school and worked for a few years. Eventually, he returned to college and got a degree.
He met and married a wonderful woman, and the couple began to have children. But Marcelle continued to live a very singular lifestyle. “I was still hanging out with my single friends, coming home at 2 or 3 in the morning,” he recalls.
That changed one pivotal night, about two years into Marcelle’s marriage. His wife and two young daughters were asleep when he got home after midnight. As he sat on the couch, he picked up a devotional, read that day’s entry, and picked up a journal to write some notes.
“I thought about my daughters,” he says. “What if they were dating, and one of them brought home her boyfriend, and he was just like me? How would I feel about this guy? That would be a problem. I would be fired up.”
Marcelle realized that there was a gap, even a gulf, between the man he was and the man he was supposed to be, the man whom God had called him to be. “My life didn’t change overnight, but my realization began a journey,” he says.
Overcoming the Man Laws
On that journey, Marcelle discovered that all men follow certain “man laws.” These unwritten directives are passed down, often unwittingly, from generation to generation. Some are helpful; most are not and can prove destructive. The laws differ from man to man but tend to include tenets such as:
- Men don't cry
- Always be in control
- Never back down; stand strong on your position
Overcoming harmful man laws, says Marcelle, requires a four-step process: (1) discovery (or observation), (2) training, (3) execution, and (4) feedback.
The process starts when you acknowledge that there are things in your life that need to change. That acknowledgment opens the pathway to discovery. As you discover and analyze ingrained patterns of behavior, you can formulate a plan to change that behavior. Training or practicing a new approach leads to executing that approach in the real world, and feedback enables you to improve and ultimately implement lasting, even permanent, changes.
Having at least one coach or mentor is essential, because completing most of the steps is difficult or even impossible on your own.
To be successful in overcoming man laws, Marcelle says, you must strive to align your will with God’s. As Proverbs 3:5-6 says: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Two other verses that Marcelle cites are:
- Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
- James 1:5: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
8 Pillars to Navigate Manhood
As you follow God’s lead, you will discover precepts – what Marcelle calls “pillars” – that are critical for “successful navigation through manhood.” Marcelle cites eight pillars in his book, Overcoming the Man Laws:
To be an effective leader in his home, a man must have a vision for the development of every member of his team – his family – and focus his efforts on successful execution of that vision. A successful leader is vulnerable, gets help when needed, and makes good “fix or replace” decisions.
2. Mental Stamina
Making good decisions involves weighing options, and weighing options requires getting answers to key questions. Decision-making requires mental stamina because it often is performed in situations that present distractions, hassles, and time constraints. A man needs to avoid being reactionary and protecting himself; he must stay balanced and seek to develop those around him. To maintain mental stamina, review your choices, persevere, and focus on outcomes.
Conflict arises in every relationship. How a man pursues conflict resolution is key to the health of his relationships. During a conflict, it is helpful to take a step back, consider the situation holistically, and determine the interests and goals of each person involved. Remember, a conflict is momentary, whereas a relationship is lasting.
Trust is like a high-rise building: it takes a long time to construct, but it can be demolished quickly. Building trust requires consistent effort over a lengthy span of time, but the benefits are enormous, because established trust provides a strong foundation for a healthy, lasting relationship.
While many men pursue faith as a solitary activity, there is great value in having other men alongside you in your faith journey. Just as iron sharpens iron, one man can sharpen the faith of another and have his own faith sharpened as well.
The people with whom you associate the most have the greatest influence on you, so be intentional about aligning yourself with people who exhibit the traits that you desire to develop. If you seek to be respected, then be consistent, seek intelligence, and combine influence and impact.
True altruism is intentionally meeting the needs of another person without expecting anything in return. To be altruistic, you must be whole.
Men have a strong desire to live with authenticity – to navigate life successfully while retaining the essence of who they are. Authenticity is not endangered by change; it is enhanced by refinement.
New Laws from Lessons Learned
Marcelle has spent many years unlearning the harmful man laws that he picked up in his first two decades. Along the way, he has learned five important lessons on being a man. He calls these lessons “unwritten man laws.”
The simplest of these is arguably the most important: It’s not about you.
A second is one that Marcelle began to learn the night he came home late and realized that he was not the man he was supposed to be. “Early in my marriage, I was very demanding with my wife,” he recalls. “I expected her to be committed, but I wasn’t committed. I expected her to be trustworthy, but I wasn’t trustworthy. You can’t demand something in someone else if you haven't developed that trait in yourself.”
The three other lessons are:
- A leader sometimes looks more like a maintenance man than a CEO
- You have to take some losses for your relationship to win
- As George MacDonald wrote, it is better to be trusted than to be loved
In his book, Marcelle discusses teaching these unwritten man laws to his son, who came along a few years after his two sisters.
That son is now an adult. A man. One who is off to a better start on manhood than his dad was at that age.
Photo Credit: Matheus Ferrero/Unsplash
Chris Bolinger is the author of three men’s devotionals – 52 Weeks of Strength for Men, Daily Strength for Men, and Fuerzas para Cada Día para el Hombre – and the co-host of the Empowered Manhood podcast. He splits his time between northeast Ohio and southwest Florida. Against the advice of medical professionals, he remains a die-hard fan of Cleveland pro sports teams. Find him at mensdevotionals.com.