“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
It’s a lack of a lot of things. And a big shortage of other things. But today we’re going to focus on men and husbands.
Most divorces are initiated by wives. Attorneys, psychologists, sociologists and other folks smarter than me attribute much of that to the skill women have to sense danger. It seems logical, especially if children are involved, that a woman craves safety for herself and her children. Other research indicates women divorce because they feel held back in the relationship. Maybe the husband doesn’t do enough work in the relationship and the wife grows increasingly discontented. Ironically, many experts that I read claim women generally forgive infidelity, but they continue to forgive emotional neglect or abuse.
I’m not an expert on such things, but I do know that men and women are different, but the same. Men crave respect. Women crave love. Both battle unhappiness, which for some is the sole goal of life while others mostly are content with avoiding unhappiness. Men have one particular problem that I’ve seen throughout my life. Generally speaking, I’ve found it to be mostly a uniquely male challenge. Rage.
I know it seems an odd way to start a conversation about strong men who go the second mile, but I’m beginning here because I suspect every man knows it’s problematic, or can be. We can move forward toward becoming strong men when we recognize our rage and what form it takes — then get busy addressing what we’re doing to do with it. Strong men figure out how to properly direct and control their rage.
Rage is a typically male problem, not because males exclusively experience it, but because we find it tough to properly direct it. There are some chapters in the Bible, in the book of Romans, that speak specifically to the battle that goes inside each of us – male or female. That is, here’s what we want to do, which is often contradictory to what God wants us to do. There are times when we kinda, sorta want to do the right thing, but then we also want to do what pleases us. The battle ensues and the question is, “Where will we direct our rage?”
Will we look in the mirror and direct it toward harnessing ourselves (self-control) or will we direct it outward toward others because we choose to blame them for our struggle?
These ideas are not new. Or novel. And I don’t profess to have mastered it all. I don’t even profess to properly understand it all, but I do understand it enough to know it can destroy lives and relationships.
Rage isn’t only expressed in an outburst of anger. It can be fuming, frustration and silent. Rage’s manifestation depends on the personality of the holder. As we look more deeply into strong men who go the extra mile…let me challenge you to think about your rage and work harder to understand it, and direct it in a more purposeful way that serves your marriage instead of destroying it.
Today, I’m going to speak specifically to men and more specifically to married men. But no matter who you are or what role you have in a relationship, I hope you find some value in the conversation because the subject is important – being a strong man. Going the second mile.
First, for those unfamiliar with the Bible permit me to explain what the second mile means and where that expression comes from.
Matthew [5:40]-42 (American Standard Version) “And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”
Commentator James Burton Coffman said of this passage…
Does anyone live up to this? Certainly, one must agree that the Sermon on the Mount is still the Mount Everest of the Christian religion, namely, the highest peak of all and only rarely scaled. Did Christ mean that a Christian by lending to all comers should suffer the plundering of all his goods? Certainly, the apostolic church did not operate on any such premise. We can only conclude that Christ was teaching a basic truth in this place, namely, that it is better to invest in people by helping and befriending them, than it is to invest in hoarding treasures for one’s self. Of that there can be no doubt.
In short, going the second mile is going above and beyond what’s required. People foolishly – and without thought – may talk about giving 110% or some other number greater than 100%. That’s impossible because we’re talking about capacity or capability. Can you give more than is possible? No, that would make it impossible.
Going the second mile signifies going beyond what’s required. In ancient days Roman soldiers enjoyed great latitude in imposing on citizens. If they needed assistance from a citizen to go a mile, the Lord’s instruction is, “Take them two miles.” Don’t begrudge serving them. Go out of your way to accommodate them. That was a hard thing, particularly for a Jew in ancient times, who was likely mistreated by a Roman soldier. But that’s the life Christ calls us to live if we’re going to be among His disciples.
Note: If you’d like to hear some sermons I’ve recorded visit my YouTube channel playlist at InThyPaths.com.
Okay, so now we hopefully are on the same page about the title and subject of today’s show – going beyond what’s required. Going the extra mile by putting in the effort even though others may not. It’s about doing what is right no matter what choices others make. It’s about being true to serve whether you’re being served or not. It’s about refusing to be selfish and working to be more selfless.
Even if you’re not religious you’ve heard of the Sermon on the Mount delivered by Jesus. Well, those verses about going the second mile are part of that sermon. The entire sermon is focused on how much greater the Gospel of Jesus Christ is than the Old Testament Law that God once required of mankind. It also calls us, as humans, to a higher purpose and higher standard of behavior. For example, it’s in this sermon where in the very next verse beyond the ones I quoted already the Lord said this…
Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy: but I say unto you Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. – Matthew [5:43]
All the promises are better, but so are God’s standards for our behavior.
Well, today let’s think a bit about being stronger men by being men dedicated to going the second mile in our marriages.
Let’s start with true confession time. That’s right, I’m gonna fall on my sword first, but I’m hoping you won’t make this about me. Instead, make it about yourself. Think about the swords you may need to fall on if you’re interested in becoming a strong man.
In recent years I’ve been anything but strong. And throughout our marriage, I’ve had times when I wasn’t strong. Times when I allowed life to crush me and break me. You probably know the feeling. And I’ll bet when it happened to you, you did the same thing I did. You felt sorry and sad for yourself. That’s not the habit of strong men.
By now you clearly understand I have a Christian, Bible-based perspective. It’s unlikely anybody very opposed to such a viewpoint would give me their time and attention, but if you have – thank you. I’ve got great respect for your willingness to at least consider this perspective. I do understand that not everybody is interested or amenable to thinking about the role God and Jesus should play in our lives. I understand quite a few folks don’t even believe in them. Either of them. I’m not here to berate you or beat you over the head with scripture. We’re just talking about how strong men go beyond what’s required, but for me – the genesis of the idea, and the reason for this way of life, is because of God. That’s important because wisdom is divided into 2 distinct categories: worldly and godly. For our purposes – and in the context that I use the term “wisdom,” worldly doesn’t mean sinful necessarily, but it means things that pertain to life here. For example, there’s the wisdom I’ve learned about business that is specific to a secular pursuit, business. But there’s godly wisdom from the Bible that is often incorporated into that, like doing the right thing, avoiding lying, and don’t cheat people. Those may not make much sense to a person who puts money above morality or faith.
Going beyond what’s required can be a faith thing or not. For me, it is. For you, maybe it’s not. Either way, I hope we can eventually agree, and come to learn that when it comes to our marriages, as men, going the extra mile is the path taken by the strongest men. Also, the strongest men likely enjoy the strongest marriages as a result of their strength.
For years I’ve advised young ladies who’d come to me about dating boys, “be the young lady the young man you most want is looking for.” When I hear a 19-year-old girl lament that she can’t find any good guys to date I reassure you he’s out there and there isn’t just one of him. There are likely a number of them. Attract him by being the young lady he’s most searching for. I can tell them this with confidence because I also hear some 19-year-old boy lament he can’t find any good girls to date. I tell them the same thing, “Be the young man she’s most looking for.”
This isn’t empty advice where I’m telling them to change their personality, or urging them to be less of one thing and more of something else. In short, I’m urging them to do two things: be their best (behave with righteousness and purity) and go beyond what’s required. The Lord’s sermon wasn’t directed only toward men, but when it comes to marriage the scriptures are plain that the husbands should lead. No, that doesn’t mean dominate, boss, direct, coerce, manipulate, or command. It means he should assume responsibilities that God gave Him to serve his wife and help build a marriage and home where love can thrive! That’s godly leadership in spite of what some misconstrue. Read your Bible if you doubt me.
Okay, what’s so hard about THAT?
For starters, understanding it can be hard. Understanding the burden of leadership can be hard because modern culture is always pushing against it by spinning it negatively. Especially here in the United States, we’ve got such a skewed view of leadership. We think it means being “the boss.” We ascribe power and authority to leadership, the Bible doesn’t make that correlation when it comes to human leadership. Power and authority in scripture is the sole domain of God through Jesus Christ and that, through God’s Word, the Bible.
In America, we largely think of bosses when we think of leadership. I know because I’ve been practicing leadership for well over 40 years and coaching it for going on 15. I continue to preach a perspective that defines leadership as a focus on others, and doing for others what they can’t do for themselves. That latter definition doesn’t mean they’re helpless, or incapable. They may be. But they may not be able to see what you see. I’ve had older men who were able to see a future me that I wasn’t able to see at the time. They served me, as leaders, because they encouraged me when I wasn’t able to do that for myself. There’s nothing insulting about leadership. In a word, it’s influence!
That’s important because strong men are leaders. Necessarily so.
The object of that leadership must be your wife. She must be the recipient of your strength. Not a punching bag, literally or figuratively…but rather the beneficiary of your strength. That’s through providing, protection, love, honor, respect and anything else good you can imagine. About now I hear you object with what is likely THE problem for most men: “Yeah, sounds about right. I have to do all the work!” 😉
Poor, pitiful you. Woe is me!
Stay with me. Yes, marriage is a two-way street. This woman you’re married to is – should be – the object of your affection, love, admiration, respect, and joy. But stop looking for her to be the remedy to YOUR problems. Strong men accept responsibility, find a path forward, and get on with it. They’re strong because they’re willing to go the second mile. They don’t go the second mile because they’re strong.
Some years ago as I began to coach executives and CEOs I sometimes found myself struggling to find ways to get them to accept the truth that this was their life and they could make monumental changes (growth and improvement) if they wanted. After the umpteenth request for direct advice – “just tell me what I should do” – I realized I needed to find a way to help these people by taking my own medicine. I needed to step up my own game. I needed to lead. I needed to continue to focus on them, which was never a problem, by doing for them what they weren’t (at least at that moment) able to do for themselves. That something was helping them find the corner.
I created a metaphorical corner, a place where I could help my clients go where there were no more excuses. Where every bit of oxygen they gave to their procrastination and excuse-making was sucked out of the room. A place where there was nowhere to go but forward. No more backing up. The corner.
The corner is uniquely our own. I suppose you could get backed up into my corner, but that’s wouldn’t do you much good. Or I could back you into your own corner and you’d feel cornered, which isn’t profitable. That’s a corner you sometimes find yourself in unwillingly and it’s mostly driven by the judgment of others. It’s unprofitable.
NO, the corner I aimed at was the corner my clients were willing to let me help them get to. Since much of my work is with high performers – what low performer ever desired a coach? – I found people highly willing to accept the challenge of getting to the corner. Because that’s where I told them the magic happens. Truth is, that’s where everything good happens!
The reason for that is because in the corner our backs are up against the wall. We’re no longer able to retreat to blaming others or blaming situations. The corner represents this place where backing up has taken us far as it’s going to. Now, the only place to go is forward. But how?
Once we’re willingly in the corner – largely because we’re sick and tired of our current situation or behavior – now the mirror comes out. By looking more closely at ourselves we’re able to accept responsibility for everything. Everything.
Then we’re able to figure out, “Now what?” What are we going to do now? What is our next step going to be? We know it’s got to be forward ’cause we’re in the corner with our back against the wall. But it’s up to us to figure out what our next best step should be.
That’s the work I do daily.
Sure, it often begins with a little bit of a gripe session about something else or something else, but sooner – not later – it comes back to that notion, “If it is to be, it’s up to me!”
Every high-performing leader I’ve ever worked with was willing to go the second mile. There are no exceptions.
Every high-performing marriage has a man – a strong man – willing to go beyond what’s required.
Going the second mile involves some specific characteristics. And as you might imagine, they’re not easy – which is likely why not all men take on the work. And why not all men are strong men. Strong men who want to lead a strong marriage have some common traits regardless of their personalities.
One, strong men who go the second mile don’t wait.
They don’t wait for her to go the second mile first. They don’t wait for her to initiate.
Many an opportunity for deeper connection and greater love has been foiled because some idiotic man thought his wife ought to do more than she was doing. I don’t mean around the house or some chore. I mean when it comes to serving him, in whatever capacity he had on his mind.
Right off the bat, you may have spotted the leadership problem. Who is he focused on? Himself. He’s selfish. Poor pitiful him. She’s not treating him well.
News flash. Life isn’t fair. Nothing about it is fair. If you want fair then wait until September or October. We’ve got a really big state version right here in DFW you can come to. Eat all the salt-water taffy you want. Buy just about anything edible in a fried form you can stomach. But that’s the only fair you’re gonna find.
Besides, who made you in charge of fairness? Do you think you’re qualified to ascertain what’s fair and what isn’t? You’re kinda biased in your own favor, aren’t you? Well, that’s a big conflict of interest.
Stop it. So what if you feel like it’s unfair. Your feelings aren’t going to change the outcome unless you’re willing to become a strong man by going the second mile. Quit waiting for her. Don’t wait. Act right now.
Is it an apology? Is it some act of kindness? Is it encouragement you can offer, sympathy, or something else?
Is it trash you can take out? Yard work you can do? House cleaning you can perform?
What is it YOU can do right now in direct service FOR HER?
Don’t wait, just do it. Michael Jordan would. (smile)
Two, strong men who go the second mile don’t keep score.
Whoever taught you that marriage is a negotiation lied to you. It’s not. The scorekeepers always lose. Always.
Have you ever noticed that every scorekeeper is on the short end of the deal?
When is the last time you heard a scorekeeper gloat that they were ahead? Yeah, me neither. NEVER.
“Well, she didn’t do this.”
“Well, she didn’t do that.”
“She did this.”
“She did that.”
Strong men who go the second mile don’t keep track of injustices – real or perceived – because none of that matters unless you let it. We get treated poorly sometimes. Sometimes by strangers. Sometimes by friends. Sometimes by family. It happens and every adult person has experienced it many, many times. But you don’t think you’ve ever done it yourself? We treat others poorly sometimes. You may do it far more than you realize, too.
By being a strong man who goes the second mile I guarantee you’ll do it less. And less. And less. IF you’re willing to grow, improve and keep moving forward as a strong man.
There’s this human psychological fact called “reciprocity.” It means we tend to behave toward others the way they behave toward us. It’s that whole golden rule created by God in the Bible. It’s doing to others as you’d want them to do toward you. Sounds a lot like these first two qualities, doesn’t it?
I don’t know how many days of life I’d recapture if I could go back and be better at both of these first two traits. The times I dug in my heels with an attitude of “I’m not going to make the first move this time, she’s gonna have to.” Well, I learned I married a camel who could go days without water while I’m over here wallowing in my selfishness dying of thirst! I was stupid. Mostly, I was weak. I was not being a leader or a strong man. I was a ninnie.
Three, strong men who go the second mile protect their hearts.
There’s much from which to protect yourself.
Hobbies that take you away from your wife and family.
Ambitions that do the same.
Affections for things that you allow to eventually matter more – it could be anything from money, to career, to a golf game, or anything else. Or somebody else.
Pornography. That’s a big one – a common one, too.
Strong men willing to go beyond what’s required guard themselves through self-restraint. This is the last thing I’m going to mention and I saved it for last not because it’s last but because it may be the hardest. I worded it this way intentionally, but I could have worded it differently. I could have said, “Strong men who go the second mile control themselves.”
I prefer my wording because it denotes a few important things I’d like us to ponder. One, our hearts matter. What we think matters. We ought to give greater diligence to how we think and what we think. Two, what we love matters. Love is always considered an act of the heart.
Neither of these refers to the muscle in our chest that pumps blood. Both refer to our mind, from which stems our logical thought and our emotions. We think. We feel.
Strong men aren’t willing to surrender their hearts to just anything or everything. In marriage, strong men who go the second mile are men committed to their wife. Firstly, for me, they’re men committed to God. By obeying God they’re going to become better, stronger men. But it’s hard work to do these things. That’s why only strong men do them.
When a wife knows she’s second only to God, how do you imagine she feels? Do you think she feels properly cherished? How could she not?
When a strong man who goes the second mile refuses to go the first mile with evil, sinful, distracting things that might corrupt his marriage, he’s letting his wife know how much she really matters. She knows her strong man is willing to sacrifice himself because her welfare matters more.
Every wife – EVERY WIFE – desires such things. To know that no other human on earth matters more is a high pedestal on which to reside. Strong men who go the second mile happily and proudly put their wives, not on display, but on the throne of their own hearts.
Strong men who go the second mile in marriage don’t flirt with anything or anybody who might cause any damage to their wife or their marriage. They practice temperance (self-control) and self-restraint.
The Bible refers to meekness. It’s a confusing term perhaps and it may not mean what you think. It’s not weakness, quietness, or submissiveness. It’s power restrained. It’s not doing something you could otherwise do. It’s holding yourself back, guarding yourself. It’s what strong men who go the second mile do.
For too many years now I’ve struggled to be what I’ve described today. I’ve had moments where I was better at it. My brightest, most shining moments haven’t been my most recent ones though. And being true to my metaphorical corner, I’m not going to offer you any excuses because I’m without excuses. I allowed it to happen, maybe even fostered it to happen, because I got selfish. And confused about what a true focus on my wife looked like. I was guilty of all these 3 things that I know characterize a strong man willing to go the second mile. And I became weak and weaker. So I backed myself into the corner where I belonged – where I could achieve the most profitable work necessary to become a better man. A stronger man. A man with greater resilience and resolve to go beyond what’s required.
It’s not fun, but it’s the most rewarding work anybody can do – the work on themselves to become better. Growth and improvement demand challenges to the existing state. They require movement – meaningful action taken in a helpful direction.
It feels great. Immediately. Forget that poo-pooing about instant gratification. Discipline and sacrifice felt great for me once I fully committed and acted accordingly.
For me, that proverbial rock bottom wasn’t so much some rock bottom of a physical state, but it was mostly spiritual, emotional, and mental. I was struggling. The struggle was with cause, but without excuse. That is, there were reasons for my struggle – some beyond my control, but all of the responses were fully within my control. I lost my way in the mire of it all. I felt like I was fighting to battle through, but over time I realized that what I recognized as fighting wasn’t fighting at all. It was more like surrender. Surrender to my own selfishness, self-pity, sadness, sorrow, and loneliness.
During the day I’m preaching and evangelizing about leadership being all about a focus on others, but nighttime insomnia was driven by a focus on myself. And overwhelming sorrow created by my own weakness and lack of resolve to become a better man.
After too many weeks of struggling – and I mean REALLY struggling my wife and I got into it for the first time in many, many years. Getting into it doesn’t involve shouting, or losing control. Mostly, it involves frustration. On both our parts. My frustrations poured out and I let them (which was a good thing this time). Once expressed, I heard myself. Here was the turning point. I heard myself and I didn’t like what I heard. I wasn’t hateful or mean-spirited. I was in deep pain and the expressions of that pain weren’t contrived, but they were…scary…and…well, whiny. I heard past my despair and loneliness – the only words I found to accurately describe how I felt. I heard my whining and thought, “Strong men aren’t whiny. You, sir, are NOT a strong man. Not any more. What are you gonna do about it?”
Boys don’t cry is rubbish. Men don’t cry is even bigger rubbish. Strength may not be what you first imagine. It’s not steely-eyed determination – cause some guys don’t have steely eyes no matter what they’re determined to do. It’s not a quiet Spock-like emotionless demeanor. It’s not a lack of vulnerability. It’s not being something you’re not. It’s being more of who you are, but better. Always better. It’s being able to carry a load. Not by yourself, but by being the first to pick it up. It’s not about never complaining, but it’s about knowing the resolution to the complaint begins with you.
It’s about finding the strength to push past whatever challenges you have. I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed for confiding in my wife about how I was feeling, but I realized how unfair I was being to her. Feeling as though I had attempted to express my pain, I was growing resentful that she was unresponsive. Enter the dragons in my head. Convincing me of how justified I was in my feelings. But I was wrong – and within mere minutes I told her I was wrong. I had ascribed all kinds of thoughts and emotions that were unfair to her and weren’t even accurate. My excuses had oxygen so they continued to burn brightly. Until I got sick and tired, headed back into my corner, looked in the mirror, and pretty quickly sucked all the oxygen out of the room so my excuses were extinguished. Then I could see more clearly. And it was as liberating as the push we’ve been making toward practical minimalism. Purging brings relief.
I didn’t waste time berating myself for having lost my way. That’d only help me remain lost. It was time to come out of the woods of my despair and sadness. Feeling sorry hadn’t worked.
If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
I hadn’t that prior to finding my way into the corner — where the magic happens! For some moronic reasons – lethargy, ease, complacency, and selfishness – I had resisted the magic. Never avoid the magic.
Lastly, strong men who go the second mile don’t always get it right. It’s constant work, requiring continuous commitment.
I know I’m a strong man. Mostly, I’ve lived as one, but not always. But I always return or find my way back. Sometimes it’s a longer, tougher slog than at other times, but the important fact is my resolve to find my way forward.
There’s a difference between a lack of repentance and just being a human who sometimes fails. Unrepentant people return to poor behavior. They vow they’ll do better, but don’t. They do one thing but do something different. Strong men repent. They fix what ails them by refusing to return to the poor behavior for which they seek forgiveness. Strong men also acknowledge their wrongs and quickly apologize. They repent. They learn from it, grow and move forward with improved behavior.
“He’ll never apologize for anything,” she says. Plenty of guys say that about their wives, too. Maybe it depicts a lack of humility. Strong men who go the extra mile are men who willingly build their life on humility, which is a focus on others more than on yourself.
Strong men don’t keep score so they may consider that if their wife was wrong and failed to apologize, she may not feel comfortable or emotionally safe to do so. Maybe. I know now. I just know a strong man who goes beyond what’s required and doesn’t demand an apology in order to forgive. He knows he doesn’t always get it right and neither does his wife. So he assumes leadership by putting in the work he knows is required of him, as a husband – then he keeps going beyond that!
After nearly 45 of marriage to the same woman you’d think I’d have it down by now. Not so much. I’m still working on it. I think about it every day, asking myself, “What do I need to do today to make it better?” Most days I fixate on what I need to do to become a strong or stronger man. It depends on the day.
Luke [12:15] “And he said unto them, Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
But nearly every man I know ties his worth to how much income he can generate for his wife and family. Not solely, but most married men I’ve talked with through the years admit that they are driven greatly by it. I know I have been throughout my married life. Being a provider is a big part of marriage for a strong man who goes the 2nd mile. It’s just one-half of the double Ps of marriage: protecting and providing. Both matter. One without the other can make a man feel rather useless. More often than not maybe, they’re hard to separate.
I think it speaks to the complex psychology of men which is different from the complex psychology of women. Strong men who go the second mile are able to provide something unique for their wives. The strong women who marry strong men provide something invaluable to those men – something without which they could never be the strong men they are. The respect, support, and love strong women give to strong men is the fuel every man needs. Never doubt a strong man’s determination to win the admiration and love of a strong woman. A man willing to go the extra mile is a man who will not be denied going to the ends of the earth for the woman he loves. And while he may not reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – or reach the ends of the earth – he’ll consume himself with trying. In the effort, he’ll continue to gain strength and resolve. His wife will see the work. She’ll be attracted to his commitment to it – and to her. And no matter what happens to either of them or to them as a couple – they’ll be better because he grew into a strong man willing to go beyond what was required.
May God bless our marriages and our homes!