In case you’ve ever wondered, the definition of manhood every Men’s Fraternity alumni knows by heart applies to the job search.
A biblical man
Maybe you’ve seen that ominous, ambiguous monster called “the job search” close enough to see the color of his eyes. Or perhaps you’ve found yourself sitting in the parking lot of the building where you worked until just a few minutes ago, your office belongings in a copy-paper box in the back seat, “What just happened?!” the endless loop playing in your head.
It shakes a man. Even a strong, godly man, to find himself face to face with the thought of not being able to provide for his family the way he did not long ago.
Our initial responses are as varied as we are: Disbelief. The overwhelming urge to go back and bargain our way in again – “just one more chance?” Anger. Retreat into depression. If you’ve ever experienced this you know that they can ALL come without warning, sometimes more than once, sometimes all in the same day.
Acceptance is the response we know we should have, but it’s terribly evasive. Even when we want it it can seem out of reach or take too long to arrive.
I’ve faced the job search brute more than once in my life. I’ve scowled at the J.S. (job search) on his vest, and wondered if his name is Goliath. I can tell you two things for sure:
1) It’s always easier and safer to step from one known job to the next known job. That chasm of uncertainty isn’t there to scare you to death, and your father in law is more likely to think of you as moving up in the world, than if you suddenly have no guaranteed income.
2) It doesn’t matter, really, HOW you find yourself looking for work, the feelings of anxiety and pressure are about the same. Fired? Downsized-out? Bought out and terminated? It all feels the same after a while … I’m between positions. And I hate that I am. We ricochet between anger Anger, Depression, Bargaining (or wanting to), Disbelief that this is happening, sometimes all in the same day. Acceptance of the reality eludes us, though it’s the very thing we should move ourselves toward.
So what’s a biblical man to do?
I’ve found it helpful to turn the definition of authentic manhood into my plan of attack.
Do NOT let this situation turn you passive. (He rejects passivity) As tempted as it might be to hi-jack the kids’ video console and play games all day, avoid the temptation to stall out and do nothing. Look for work. Every day. As good as a new novel and all the hot chocolate you can drink might sound, remember that for now you have a very important but non-paying job. It’s called “finding one”! Reject the passivity that comes with depression or a sense of defeat. Take whatever you’re feeling and turn it into determination.
Record and replay your own endless loop: I WILL accept the responsibility that is mine of providing for my family. While you look for what you want, you may need to work part time, even part time times two or three, to cover your obligations. It means you’ll be tired —even exhausted— but you’re responsible for yourself, your wife and children if you have them. Man-up to your responsibility. Every day.
Lead COURAGEOUSLY. “Really? Even though I’m scared to death every Monday morning I wake up knowing that job is still out there somewhere?”
Really. Courage by its definition is the ability to do something that you know is right or good, even though it is dangerous, frightening, or very difficult. The job search can be all three, especially if it drags on and on – and on. Breathe pure oxygen into your will and lean into life. Lead yourself, even though you don’t want to some days. Make yourself do what you know you must, knowing that leading self is sometimes harder than leading the work-team you wish you had.
INVEST ETERNALLY. Don’t let your unsuccessful hunt this week keep you from meeting with God’s people. Now is when you need them, perhaps even more than when life was running smoothly. Keep giving to people, even when you feel empty. In reality, you’re not giving of yourself anyway, it’s God’s love and grace you’re sharing with people. Pick up from His warehouse what He has waiting for you, and deliver it to those you meet.
Whether the transition lasts a short time, or outlasts your eligibility for unemployment, being an authentic, biblical man brings honor to God. Commands your wife’s respect, and sets the bar high for when your children encounter difficulty someday. Hopefully not this – this is torture – but whatever it is for them at that moment, they’ll hopefully remember: Dad rejected passivity. Accepted the responsibility, led well, even if it was only himself he led, and never lost sight of his eternal reward. That’s a legacy worth leaving behind, even in the hard times. Especially in the hard times.