Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders The Complicated Life of Lazy Boys

The Complicated Life of Lazy Boys

The modern man has a major branding crisis. Most sum him up in one word: lazy. There are different ways to pronounce the word—dependent, wasteful, inept, ungrateful, complacent, unworthy, unimpressive, undisciplined—all with one root: the failure to do. Avoid work, and aim for the bare minimum.

Cycles of laziness eventually turn into cycles of violence. As our muscle for self-denial in work atrophies through inactivity, our ability to deny ourselves in relationships weakens as well. The seed of abusive inclinations is embedded in the selfishness of our laziness. A man who dishonors himself will eventually dishonor others (Proverbs 18:9).

Male laziness, though, is both misunderstood and underestimated by most. Until we understand laziness, we will never be able to work well. We have tried yelling at and mocking men, and that has not worked often or for long. Instead, let’s look at the complexity of laziness to see the deeper business underneath it and how the gospel heals and empowers lazy men.

There are (at least) five vicious cycles that perpetuate male inactivity. Each highlights a different logic behind our tendency toward laziness and complacency.

1. Inefficient Cycle

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. When guys are inefficient in their planning, working, spending and sin-fighting, their constant failure can breed the loud message: “You are not competent enough for life.”

At that point, why not give up and check out? Inefficient priorities and methods are working against men. When other men say, “Keep working,” we hear, “Keep trying the same things that haven’t worked,” and “Live a frustrated and unfulfilling life.” So we cease planning, put off work and remove ourselves from risk. The demands of life increase. And in turn, we retreat even further. At the root of this cycle is insecurity, but the seed is a basic lack of life-skill competence.

The Inefficient Cycle: Incompetence ? Effort ? Failure ? Frustration ? Inactivity ? Incompetence

2. Overwhelmed Cycle

A man may feel overwhelmed because it all feels like so much. The longer tasks go undone, the more this giant, amorphous mess of uncompleted tasks and unqualified accusation grows. Unfinished work screams, “You’re not a real man!” Undone work excuses unkind self-treatment and unworthy God-worship. It’s easier to avoid a problem than face it head on.

When a man is given too much work without sufficient resources and tools to accomplish the tasks, he’ll shut down. This cycle begins, not so much with inefficiency, but disorganization. The inefficiency cycle lacks tools. The overwhelmed cycle lacks a blueprint. Without the ability to parse and prioritize your workload, almost any task can overwhelm a man.

The Overwhelmed Cycle: Disorganization ? Effort ? Insufficient Results ? Panic ? Inactivity ? Growing Workload ? Disorganization

3. Addiction Cycle

Men are often caught up in an addiction cycle that simultaneously 1) takes up time and energy, and 2) steals the basic ability to perform tasks.

  • overeating, stealing physical energy
  • drinking, stealing money and focus
  • pornographic indulgence, stealing basic spiritual awareness

This cycle often leeches on other cycles—addictions are ways to cope with being stuck. Male avoidance is active, clawing, scraping and screaming for relief from accusation, for salvation from incompetence, inefficiency and responsibility. The addiction cycle is the hook that draws a man deep into the dark—men who are weighed down by their shortcomings easily “forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness” (Proverbs 2:13).

“Male avoidance is screaming for salvation from incompetence, inefficiency and responsibility.”

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Paul Maxwell (@paulcmaxwell) is a PhD student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and philosophy professor at Moody Bible Institute. He writes more at his blog, paulcmaxwell.com, and pretends to like coffee.