I met this man after a conference. He asked if I could talk for a few minutes. Things were really bad in his job situation. His kids didn't seem to be interested in him. He and his wife were growing apart. He wondered at times if they ever should have married. Then he used a phrase that has become familiar to us, he said, "I feel dead inside. I feel like a piece of hamburger--raw meat all ground up. I've lost all of my drive. I don't see any purpose in living. I'm so different from when I was in my twenties."
Almost a third of our mail comes from men, and many of them tell us how they feel burned out at midlife--"I'm tired of it all." "I just want to escape." "It's time for me." "I'm tired of giving, giving, giving."
There are many reasons why men and women burn out at midlife. Understanding those reasons will provide you with insights to make the right choices, to eliminate burnout.
1. Peak work load in life. Midlife is the time where a man has the heaviest responsibility of work, as well as at home, in the community, and at his church. Jobs are piled on him because he has experience, leadership abilities, and efficiency. By midlife he knows how to get the job done and what it will take.
In a man's late teens or early twenties, he asks the question, "What do I want to do with my life?" By the time he reaches midlife he is asking the question, "Why am I doing what I am doing?"
2. Ten percent more each year. Without realizing what's happening, we take on ten percent more responsibility each year. For example, if at age twenty-five you had one hundred tasks, by age forty-five you would have over 660 tasks, with just a ten percent growth rate per year. The subtlety of it is that we don't realize we are adding more to our normal work load.
3. Physical aging. Not only are we accumulating more responsibilities each year, but at the same time our physical body is able to handle less stress than it could when we were in our adolescent and young adult years. The recovery time for a midlife person when they have missed a night of sleep is much longer than the young adult. In fact the young adult can miss a night of sleep and pretty much function normally the next day. The midlife adult may find themselves staggering through the day, looking for times to take a nap.
4. Changing career focus. For men in their twenties and thirties, career is generally the only focus and it is very rewarding. Often, however, as men reach midlife they may find their career very unfulfilling.
5. A question of values. In a man's late teens or early twenties, he asks the question, "What do I want to do with my life?" By the time he reaches midlife he is asking the question, "Why am I doing what I am doing?" He may find himself at midlife like a hamster in a cage on the wheel, continuing to run, the wheel is turning, but he is not making any progress.
As I entered my late thirties and early forties, I noticed a growing tenderness. I remember the first time I cried while I was preaching.
Tough Men Turn Tender
As I entered my late thirties and early forties, I noticed a growing tenderness. It was easier for me to cry. I felt people's hurts more deeply, but it was a slow almost unnoticed change.
I remember the first time I cried while I was preaching. I had been tremendously moved by the music in the service. As I taught the scriptures, they gripped me in a very new and fresh way. I often experience an emotional surge during the time of actually delivering the sermon. But this time I was not able to control my emotions and I started to cry.
It was a humiliating experience for me because I am a professional speaker. I'm suppose to know how to control my emotions in order to effectively communicate the message. But I found myself unable to continue for what seemed like endless minutes. But I did continue and then I was almost embarrassed to meet people after the service.
However, the of the people said, "Now we believe you're human." They told me it was OK to cry. In fact, a couple of months later, I again cried while I was preaching and I stood there, unable to speak because I was so moved by emotion and yet I didn't want to sit down. A man came forward from the rear of the church and put his arms around me.
As I look back on those experiences, maybe more was accomplished by that man putting his arms around me than dozens of other highly polished messages. The body of Christ was being taught by a caring layman the true model of the caring believer. This was the body of Christ in action.
They fear the coming future--being demoted or fired and the result, loss of income. They also fear death and worry that they might die of a sudden heart-attack.
Midlife men have a growing longing to develop relationships with their kids. There is also an urge to share feelings with people. They desire to reestablish old acquaintances with high school or college friends. Now there is a growing need to talk in feeling terms about life.
The refocusing of the midlife man toward people and feelings puts him in a very dangerous position especially--if he is a married man with an unsatisfying marriage. He may find himself easily drawn into an affair as he tries to adjust to these new emotions.
There is a strange phenomenon taking place in midlife men. They seem to have a great deal of power, leadership, and ability, yet many express a large degree of insecurity--feeling they are not worth very much. They feel as if life is passing them by.
Midlife men are at the peak in their career as far as power and dollar earnings. Generally their house is almost paid off at this time. Midlife men are quite often filling important leadership positions in the community, church, as well as at work. They have lots of experience and society views them as attractive and lucky people who have power, influence, experience, and health.
But, behind that successful life there are haunting fears. They fear the coming future--being demoted or fired and the result, loss of income. They also fear death and worry that they might die of a sudden heart-attack.
Agree with and encourage the changes that are taking place in you. It's OK to change. It's OK to feel tender, express your feelings, to cry.
Midlife is also in an era when marriage satisfaction is at its lowest valley. Their children are growing older and away from them. Their career is not as meaningful as they had hoped it would be. In short, they feel an acute sense of loss. There is almost panic as they see life running out and not enough time left to accomplish all the things they had planned on doing.
These internal feelings of loss produce a sense of unsuccessfulness and a lowered self-esteem. One man told me, "I run a multi-million dollar operation and yet in the things that are really important, that is, my marriage, my children, and how I feel about myself, I feel as if I'm a failure."
Selfish And Generous
Two strange results result from all of the forces that are pressing in on the midlife man.
1. He is selfish. It's catch-up time for the midlife man. He tries to compensate for some of the distortions of his career-only focus during his twenties and thirties. Now he decides to catch up. The abrupt change is sometimes startling. He may buy a motorcycle, sports car, or sailboat. His lifestyle may change to include more leisure. Sometimes the abrupt change appears that he is very selfish. In reality he is making an attempt to balance out his life and catch up on some of the things he missed out on.
2. He is generous. Quite often the midlife man also becomes more generous--after he passes through his midlife crisis. He has come to terms with his aging, now his personality and life is more balanced, and he has a desire to leave something behind that will outlive him. His feelings orientation generally enables him to relate to people better. Perhaps for the first time in his life he is really willing and able to give to other people without expecting that he will reap a benefit from it.
A New Man At Midlife
God is carrying out a process in you so that you are truly more rounded and fully developed as a person. Agree with and encourage the changes that are taking place in you. It's OK to change. It's OK to feel tender, express your feelings, to cry. Take the opportunities to talk to your family members and your close friends about how you're changing.
Reestablish some of those old contacts with (same sex) friends (not old lovers) from the past. Pick up the phone and call a high school or college buddy.
Young adults tend to be "group-think" people. The midlife man begins to function on self-chosen moral principles. He sees himself more clearly as his own man. Encourage the development of your unique person. Don't just go along with the crowd, really do the things that are part of your unique development that God has planned for you.
Throw away unnecessary obligations. List and prioritize all the things you do and get rid of ten percent from the bottom of the list.
The young adult tends to think in black-or-white boxes. At midlife encourage your growth of seeing life with greater variety and complexity. Don't fall back into black-and-white thinking, but practice seeing other people's opinions. Look for the gray areas so that you can understand the subtleties of life more accurately.
Reestablish some of those old contacts with (same sex) friends (not old lovers) from the past. Pick up the phone and call a high school or college buddy. Renew acquaintances, but also let him know how you are changing as a person.
Refocus your life on God. Sometimes the midlife man is becoming disillusioned with the institutional church. Be careful that you don't throw God away if you are struggling with problems in a religious organization.
Rethink the special gifts and abilities that God has given you. Ask God to help you refocus your life so that you don't waste energy or the precious years you have ahead of you. Remember that refocusing your life or rethinking your values doesn't mean you're failing as a man or as a Christian. It may prove to be the most important era of your life. Psalm 92 reminds us that God is the one who transplants us and "we are under His personal care." Your midlife reevaluation is not catching God my surprise. Rather, He is going to use this time to make you a more effective man than ever before.
Conway / Farrel Articles ~ Reprint by permission only, ©2011 Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors. Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.
Conway / Farrel Articles ~ Reprint by permission only, ©2011
Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com
The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.
Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.