After 30 years of marriage, I can see that these words are true:

The battle for control in a marriage with a woman who feels vulnerable and unprotected by a man who feels inadequate and unfairly criticized is a formula for frustration and conflict that most men work hard to avoid.

But rather than face their inadequacy and disappointment in not measuring up, men tend to hide their masculinity through avoidance or abuse.

Men who feel weak often avoid situations and relationships (especially with assertive women) where they fear exposure of their ineptness in leading. When threatened, these men tend to seek escape through some form of diversion, busyness, addictive activity, or some area of felt competency. Men who practice hiding through avoidance won’t risk failure in what matters most to them. They seek to protect their image at all costs.

Some men who are open in their anger use their strength to abuse and control physically weaker women. They dominate with physical intimidation, tongue-lashing, money control, or relentless put- downs and criticisms, which over time demean and dishonor the wife God has given to them. 

Tim Jackson, When the Flame Flickers, RBC Ministries

I find avoidance most easy by indulging in my reading and study. Yet I am called to stick out my neck, possibly to be injured or appear foolish and go unrewarded or even unfairly criticized. This is my calling as a man. I am not called to arrogance, coolness or spiritual appearances. Rather I should be willing to be abased for the benefit of others.

As I have grown older, I have become more sensitized to others feelings. I have even felt the feelings that others feel, and I like it that they are beginning to have bigger lives than me. Their feelings don’t have to make sense, but are important as they stand, and they serve as a docking station for love. Lord, give me the word for the moment. Get my mind in the game and help me to spot the opportunity to love and pray.

And its not just in marriage. Avoidance is demonstrated in the missed opportunities of my life:

Last week as our family sat around an outside dining table at Panera Bread, there was a single Mom and her 5-year-old daughter. As we sat down the Mom gave a subtle greeting to us as she studied her mobile device, all the while picking at a salad, and touching her bubbly precious now and then with a word of caution. We greeted the girl, and my granddaughter and she exchanged names. It was just a minute later that she unexpectedly rushed into my lap and gave me a solid hug. She held on and I hugged her back and worked my way out of an awkward situation saying “Thanks for the hug!.” The Mom looked somewhat embarrassed, but remained affixed to her phone, appearing busy, perhaps to ease her isolation. Here was an opportunity for me and my wife to enter in to a deeper conversation with her, but I missed it. We let the girls play and I avoided the discomfort by indulging in my own family. I missed it. Wish I could have a do-over.

Yesterday even after I had started this article, I was playing golf with my sons. There was a family ahead of us that was struggling to keep up the pace and having to wait on other golfing teams to pass. A complementary thought passed through my mind, but was forgotten by the time that I had the opportunity to greet, complement  and reassure them. Instead I was preoccupied with myself and my boys. Somewhat awkward. Wish I could have a do-over.

Lord, help me to see those appointments every day while their is still time.