With football season upon us, there is a whole new slate of TV ads that are directed at men. There have been several dealing with the issue of men and their conversational style. The one I recall (I forgot sponsor) featured a young man probably in his 30’s picking up his dad to go somewhere in the car. The son extends a rather awkward greeting to the dad. The dad grunts a response. This is followed by uncomfortable silence. The son then begins to talk about the football game. That was the opening to a highly energized conversation between father and son. Men, how do you relate to this ad. Here are some of my thoughts.
First, the awareness that personal conversation is a problem for men. TV ads offer no solution. They only grab the attention of men. Corporations spend their advertising revenue to get hooks into men. But how do men react? Usually by making a joke of an obvious problem. What upsets me is the fact that men’s failures are portrayed by some advertising genius, while men hide their inner loneliness. This ad lays bear the relational pain between dads and sons. The masculine is demeaned for profit. Yes, men have a hard time with intimate conversation, but let’s not advertise the problem.
Second, the son trying to make conversation with his dad. This bothered me for several reasons. First of all, it touches a relational nerve in my story with my father. I tried for many years to find my father’s heart. Can you and your Father talk heart to heart? Secondly, it should not be the son, but rather the father who is trying to go below the surface. I am reminded of Malachi 4:6, “He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” Men, if you are a father it is your responsibility to initiate heart-felt conversation with your son. He needs the hear your male voice, speaking to his heart from your heart, even if your son is a grown man. Many dads are simply a mystery to their sons because there is little personal conversation.
Thirdly, men and safe topics. Where I live, in the northwoods of Minnesota, the safe topics include, fishing, hunting, the weather, Viking football and fixing things. Since I like sports, I try to keep up on sports news, partly because I can then relate conversationally with men in my church and community. Right now the Vikings are a hot topic. I stay away from politics – too many raw opinions. After that it is “God talk.” This narrows the field of conversation. Finally, there is “soul talk. This includes our heart relationship with God and our relationship with wife and family. Few men are willing to go “down” into this area. How about you?
Fourthly, this brings me to the need for each man to have an “AA shaped” relationship with a group or an individual. I have said it before and I will say it again, men need to be with each other to learn the language and manner in which share their pain and relational wounds. There is a “male mode of feeling” that can be only learned with a group of other guys. Here men are honest, admitting to lives that are unmanageable, not having the ability to change. Change comes when, “We make a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.” Men, nothing keeps me more humble then struggles in relationships.