Unmanly men live to get what they think they need. Unmanly men driven by the passion of neediness try to get it from others.
One woman said to me, “When I hear my husband’s car pull in the driveway after work, my heart just sinks. I immediately feel even more tired than I felt before. I’m a housewife with three little kids to take care of all day. And now here comes a fourth.”
“What does he do that makes you feel that way?” I asked. He was sitting next to her, managing to scowl and look hurt at the same time.
“A thousand things,” she replied. It could be a sigh when he walks in the door or a comment about traffic on the way home. Sometimes he tells me how tired he feels. It could be anything. But it’s always about him, about something that’s wrong, like I’m supposed to do something. Even when he asks about me, I feel set up to ask about him. If he helps with dinner, I get that look that tells me I’m supposed to tell him how wonderful he is. And if I do something special for him, even something little, like a really affectionate greeting, he’s TOO appreciative. It makes me feel like he really needed it, that I better keep on giving it to him, or he’ll be really hurt. Sometimes when he’s extra thoughtful, I think he’s telling me I better be available for sex, but most of time it’s not that. I don’t know how else to put it — everything he does makes me feel that I’m supposed to come through for him.”
Many needy men hide their neediness better than this woman’s husband. They may be far more subtle and “manly” in their expression of need. And every one of us follows the pattern of tough men (pattern 2) or needy men (pattern 1) at various points in our lives.
The man who typically follows the first pattern lives his life thinking others should come through for him. His sense of neediness is so real, so deep, so compelling, that asking for understanding or attention seems entirely reasonable to him. So too with men whose neediness feels core to their being. They feel most comfortable and alive when someone is taking care of them. More than anything else, they see themselves as needy. And someone should be doing something about it.
When they feel let down, when someone does not come through as required, men who define themselves by their needs feel they have been profoundly failed. Justice has miscarried. Rights have been denied. The human community has been inhumane.
The effect, of course, is anger. Resentment boils up, and it feels justified. And with justified resentment comes justified revenge. Think how easily sarcastic comments pour through our lips. We lash out with remarks that cut. Perhaps we inflict only small wounds, like paper cuts — but the hurt. That, of course, is the intent. To hurt the one who failed to come through.
Men ruled by the passion of neediness get even; if not with sarcasm and cuts, then with irritability or grumpiness or indifference. Wives who fail need-driven men are made to pay. So are the friends of these men.
But needy men don’t see the damage they inflict. A needy man confronted with his cruelty reacts often like a starving beggar caught stealing a loaf of bread. “Look, maybe what I did was wrong. I’m sure it was. But you’ve got to understand what I’ve been through. Given how hungry I am, I’m really not asking for much.”
Only when the Spirit of God, through his Word, exposes the heart’s thoughts and attitudes will any of us see clearly. Only then will the ruling passion of neediness be recognized for what it is: a sinful basis for relating to others that is not worthy of men.
When we are ruled by the passion of neediness and believe that our deepest joy lies in others coming through for us, we destroy life and tarnish beauty. At that point, we are not manly men.
Taken from “The Silence of Adam” by Dr. Larry Crabb