Observing a Decline in Maturity
I first wrote this article some time ago and felt it needed reiteration. I was personally challenged in the writing because I often lack maturity.
By nature of my personality and career field I observe people. It is part and parcel of not only my secular work but also my Gospel ministry. Consequently, something that I have observed in the last ten to fifteen years is a steady and rapid decline in the amount of dignity and maturity with which adult men carry themselves. This is not just within the realm of the work I do. It is also in broader societal interactions.
The day has come when we see that societal mores have shifted in a tragic way and what was once considered childish and foolish behavior has become accepted and lauded. Men, overall, lack a sense of maturity.
Some time ago I was with my family in the local mall and I observed something that drove home the truth of what I have been observing. Several grown men rented giant motorized stuffed animals and rode them around the mall. Maturity isn’t just declining; it is under attack. Often, maturity is a thing to be despised by men.
Some years ago, I watched as heterosexual male television characters, especially in sitcoms, started to be depicted as lazy. Moreover, they are depicted as sloppy in their living and slovenly in their appearance. Furthermore, they are ignorant, rude, crass and generally self-centered. Even within dramas male characters were being depicted as sexist, man-whores who are incompetent in their work fields. All of this done to the sounds of laughter and nods of approval from the broader viewing audience. Conversely, the only male characters depicted in a positive light or with maturity are effeminate or gay.
The proto-typical male figure as a dad and/or husband, is always the buffoon, being made the butt of constant jokes by his wife and children. Accordingly, the wife can be heard complaining about her husband to her ever so understanding friends. Of course, they nod in agreement. Why? Because every complaint the protagonist female character offers is echoed by them about their blundering spouses as well.
Children in these sitcoms are always seen outwitting their intellectually inferior dads. Even in the most menial activities. Dad is the one that lets the house fall apart when mom goes off to her prestigious job. Mom will often chortle when dad offers to take care of things. Why? Because every time he does some horrible crisis takes place. Consequently, mom must be called in to save the day. The children run amok and there is general chaos. Dad proves he is nothing more than an overgrown child himself. He lacks any level of maturity. It is mom that keeps the family straight. Dad gladly relinquishes his previously abdicated role to his wife. He just wants to get back to watching sports and drinking beer with the guys.
Even Male Maturity is Buffoonery
Furthermore, these male characters are reflections of the buffoonery of their dads. Other men in the sitcoms are depicted as hen-pecked and mealy mouthed. Still others are perpetual bachelors who hate women and see them as mere tools for their sexual gratification. This formula has become so predominant that it is easy to spot in the opening moments of a program.
Sure, there are exceptions to this formula. However, they are few and far between. Most noticeably, the recently revised Last Man Standing, depicts the male character as able to hold his own with his wife and daughters. However, he is still the butt of many of the now traditional jokes about men. Moreover, every single male character around him is a picture of the models I described above.
Tying Observations Together
So, what does this have to with my experience at the mall? It is hard for me to diagnosis the totality of the problem. Either men have come to reflect the way we have been depicted in TV shows and movies, or they are accurately reflecting what men have always been. Usually, what I see is that men are becoming caricatures of themselves. That is what I saw at the mall. I saw grown men playing at games with a staggering lack of dignity and self-respect; making mockeries of themselves as they rode overgrown stuffed animals around the mall.
At one point, these allegedly adult men started making sexual innuendos as they rode these toys in and out of the Victoria Secrets store numerous times. Mind you this was with underage children following them around and mimicking their actions. What message are these men sending those children? Were they conveying an example of maturity or were they modeling childishness?
When I commented on this episode on social media, my notifications blew up. Close Christian friends, people I worshiped alongside, called me out for being mean spirited. They accused me of lacking love and joy. They chastised me for not being Christ-like. Many castigated me for a sense of legalism. “Where is your joy?”, they asked.
Maturity Doesn’t Mean Lack of Joy
I am not opposed to adult men sitting with their infant and toddler children on one of these contraptions and having an enjoyable time. Not any more than I would be opposed to a dad playing with his children in a park. Yet that wasn’t what was happening in that moment. What I observed in the mall that day was adult men behaving in the same manner as the teenaged-girls that were riding around just before them.
I grew up in a time and in a family, where adult men were expected to act with a qualified dignity and maturity. There was a time for laughter and jokes and having an enjoyable time. However, the men were expected to carry themselves with visible respect for themselves others. Especially in public. This trait is dying if it hasn’t died already.
I am not sure I know if that death is a product of what we have been fed by the entertainment industry. Perhaps men have made the caricature a reality for the industry. I hear time again from men around me:
“I am on babysitting duty.”
“My wife won’t leave me alone with the kids.”
“I am glad I don’t have to be home with the kids all day. I’d go nuts.”
These and hundreds of other remarks demonstrate just how much men today lack a sense of seriousness and maturity. Instead of being a beautiful gift; being husbands and fathers or adults, is a massive burden. It breaks my heart.
The Word and Maturity
The scriptures record this for us:
1 Corinthians 13:
“11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
This verse comes after a long discourse about what our actions look like if they are not motivated by love. I could be wrong, but I am convinced that Paul is telling us that getting older isn’t maturing in-and-of-itself. Paul is telling us that a loving mature believer ceases to behave like a child. The act of loving others in light of the Gospel, produces in us a weight of maturity that means we conduct ourselves with God-honoring dignity. The more we are conformed to the image of Christ the more maturity we display. We give up childish ways in favor of pursuing Christ-likeness in maturity. If we are seeking to mature as believing men, then we should not look like the depictions that are on display in the media and general pop culture.
To summarize, I am not trying to make a law where there is no law. Clearly there are certain activities that believing men should not partake of. I feel no need to list them. Moreover, I am not here to tell a man, whether he is a husband and/or father, that he cannot engage in a good time with his friends or family members. Especially, his children.
What I am trying to say is that I think it is acceptable and even more so, commendable, to approach being an adult man with severity and dignity. It is high past time that manhood begins being recaptured and made respectable again. We need to stop allowing the caricatures to be proven true. No place is this truer than for the Church. We need to live in such a way that we reflect Christ in our maturity. A lack of maturity reflects the world. In short, we need to give up the childish ways.
Soli Deo Gloria!