Stacked Decks

I’m highly suspicious of movements to “recover biblical manhood”, mostly because they seem like excuses for grown men (especially pastors) to:

In fact, I think it’s perfectly fine for a Christian man in the 21st century to appreciate cashmere, design, Sigur Ros, and the English Premier League (remember when that guy got his head stapled?!? Talk about a “man’s man”!).

That being said, I saw something this week that was a little alarming. This psychologist makes the case that guys’ brains are being re-wired, largely through the amount of gaming, television, and internet that we consume. I suspect he might be right.

I have a friend that I see once a week; almost every time I see him in his house, he has to put down the XBox controller in order to come to the door to let me in. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that he’s the father of a 13 year old daughter. I always find myself wondering, “Dude, don’t you have something to do? You’re a dad!” 

Obviously, he’s not the only one. More and more, I see guys in their 20s and 30s who are much more comfortable in front of a screen (“Dude I beat Madden!) than in front of their children, their wives, their bible, or other human beings. I also admit that I’ve been one of those guys myself.

Maybe it makes me officially “old”, but it blows my mind to see dads in their mid-30s acting like 13 year olds.

But this video—and a few other ideas like it—make me think, “No wonder: the deck is stacked against us.”

Think about this:

  • Assuming we are overwhelmingly visual creatures, what do we do with the fact that the visuals we are being exposed to are more lifelike and compelling than ever? Are we capable of even processing the effects on our brain?
  • Assuming that we are also competitive creatures, what do we do with the fact that video games also offer us the illusion of competition combined with compelling visuals?

Is it possible the deck is stacked?

Here’s the deal: I think we need to be aware of this, and in some cases, we need some help. Psychologist Henry Cloud says that expecting success from the same person who can’t control himself in regards to food, alcohol, sex, or video games is futile. The whole point is they have no self discipline. The only way to get help is to get some kind of structure—help—from the outside.

I don’t know what this looks like for you. Maybe it looks like a schedule. Maybe it looks like some kind of rule. Maybe it looks like you put 2 of the 3 game consoles on Craigslist. Maybe it looks like you give the controller to your wife, and let her decide when you play.

But dudes, we have to do something. We are being changed, and we need to realize it.


5 thoughts on “Stacked Decks


  2. OK, even though I’m a woman, I feel like I need to comment. First, thank you for talking about the scary, albeit, at times, really hilarious, movements of men trying to find their manhood or maleness.

    This Peter Pan syndrome is something that has been going on in our culture for a while. I wrote a post ( a while ago based on a national study on people’s opinions of when and how people become grown-ups. Our adolescence is being extended way into our 20s, which makes these milestones for adulthood blurry. But I still feel it’s attainable.

    So it concerns me when our generation balks at adulthood. We don’t have to do it like baby boomer parents, but we do need to do it, and do it well, especially we when we have other people depending on us to be there, be present, be reliable. In the past at least 3 decades, there has been a major shift in terms of gender equality, and maybe some guys are freaking out because the norms are bending, because women are more equitable. So that means, for example, being a more active father and helping out with more domestic duties.

    Finally, I want to tell all the young dudes, in the most chaste terms possible, how much more wonderful your wife/significant other would see you. I really cannot emphasize enough how much your relationships would dramatically and instantaneously improve.

    But I hope every man who reads this post is encouraged that although the decks are stacked, you KNOW they are stacked, unlike previous generations. We’re having open discussions about this, and knowledge is half the battle (yes, I’m quoting G.I. Joe).

  3. Good stuff, Eric. I keep coming back to the fact that so many “men” today have no idea what it means to be a man. We are a generation of men raised by women. Our mothers play an important role in all our lives, and they give us more than we will likely ever know. But there is one thing that I believe a mother cannot do, bestow manhood. Without father’s who are present and willing to engage in teaching their sons what it means to be a man we look to culture for that definition.

    And what does culture tell us is a real man? A man is someone who drives away from his high paying job in an expensive car to the bar to pick up his next one night stand. Of course very few of us have the sports car, the high paying gig, or the one night stand (be it by choice or not), so how can we cope with not living up to this image of manhood? Is it really a surprise that we escape to movies, television, and video games?

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