For too long, we guys have been the object of hurtful, insensitive stereotypes. These are promoted by those who are not guys (we won’t name any genders). The cruel stereotypes revolve around guys not wanting to stop and ask directions.
Supposedly we will drive hundreds of miles in the wrong direction, while patient, all-knowing nonguys in the passenger seat implore us, “Please stop at the gas station and ask someone,” “Will you do it just for me?” “We’re never going to get there on time now,” and, “Why do you have to be so stubborn?”
I know because I’m a victim of that stereotype. Until now. Because, before your very eyes, I will perform the research that blows up that myth for good. I have here an article on the subject from American Psychologist.1 While I haven’t read it yet, I have full confidence that there are enough guy psychologists out there to vindicate us.
Running my finger down the paragraphs and skipping the big words, I’m seeing there have been numerous studies done over three decades. Sounds good. And these studies now reveal (here it comes):
Men are less likely to stop and ask for help.
Okay, that’s not what I was expecting. But as I continue to read, it does come out that:
Furthermore, men are less likely to go to the doctor.
When they do seek medical help, they ask fewer questions and share fewer symptoms.
Some of this helps to explain why men die seven years younger.
All right. Whatever. We guys do believe in self-reliance. We were taught by the guy-half of our parents to figure things out, to get things done, and not to throw like a girl. The study says we’d rather suffer than cough up the word help. But that’s simply part of our masculine charm, don’t you agree?
I have to admit the following. A couple of years ago, I planned a kayaking trip with my son Kael, who was eight at the time. Floyds Fork Creek runs behind our house, and we had decided to have an adventure. We’d explore the vast, uncharted wilderness of outer Louisville by water, then climb out somewhere and call my wife to come pick us up.
My wife thought it was a great plan except for one issue. “It’s not a real plan at all,” she said. Then she suggested we check Google Earth and map out an actual, real-world bridge where she could plan in advance to meet us and pick us up.
I’m duly embarrassed by this, but her common-sense corrections only increased my masculine desire to do it my way. So I stood by my plan-which-wasn’t-a-real-plan-at-all plan. As we continued to talk about the fun we were going to have, my oldest daughter and her friend said they wanted in. The trip was now close to qualifying as a party, so my youngest daughter joined the crew.
There were five of us. We borrowed kayaks from our neighbors and got into the water, and it was then that I realized I was responsible for four other lives. But I knew we’d handle it.
About forty-five minutes into the journey, the group was tiring out. I hadn’t seen a single spot where we could climb out. At that point I decided to pull out my phone to check the GPS. The phone was protected in a high-tech piece of kayak gear known as a Ziploc bag, so I’d been proactive right there. Except the bag and the phone were gone.
Somewhere in the roaring rapids of Floyds Fork Creek, my phone had gone for a swim without my realizing it, which meant I couldn’t check my GPS, which meant I had no clue where we were. And which further meant I couldn’t call my wife to ask for help.
Two hours passed. Everyone was sweaty, soggy, and truly exhausted. My youngest daughter said, “This is not what I signed up for.” Actually she said it quite a few times.
My eight-year-old son looked at me and said, “Dad, my arms aren’t working right.” Not good words for a father to hear. And things weren’t getting any better. The sea was angry that day, my friends.† The sun was setting and it was getting dark.
† If you recognize that line, then you are always welcome around my table.
At the three-hour mark, our trip qualified as an epic, placing us alongside other heroes of the open sea such as Jonah, Captain Ahab, and SpongeBob. At this point we finally spotted signs of civilization: a house with a backyard plunging down toward the sea—um, creek. A woman was doing some yard work. I was so relieved to see her, and I started to call out to her.
But I didn’t. For some reason, the words, Yoo-hoo, could you rescue us, ma’am? just wouldn’t form on my lips.
We began to pass the plunging backyard, and one of my daughters said, “Dad! Aren’t you going to ask for help?”
What I said as I turned to my daughter was, “Hey, I’m sure there will be a bridge right around the corner.” And the yard-work woman was still pulling weeds as she faded from view.
At Hour Four I was ready to surrender and repent. Darkness was closing in, both figuratively and literally. The kids were like zombies. This was the worst party my daughter had ever attended.
And there it was: a bridge. I whimpered a little as we made our way to the bank, and I was ready to ask for help from anything that had a pulse. Well, actually my plan was to send my son out to the road because almost anyone would want to help an adorable eight-year-old boy whose arms had stopped working. On the other hand, a frazzled man in his midthirties with wife-fearing desperation all over his face might scare away the rescuers.
A car pulled over and rolled down its window for Kael, and I emerged from nearby trying to look casual, as if I were just catching up with my son. The driver handed me his cell phone so I could call my wife. It had been four hours since she’d dispatched us, Deliverance-style, into the precarious rapids of the neighborhood creek. She’d been expecting to hear from us within an hour, maybe an hour and a half.
She answered and, once she recognized my voice, said, “Let me guess. You lost your phone. You have no idea where you are. And I need to come pick you up.”
Why didn’t I take her advice in the first place? Why hadn’t I asked the yard-work lady for help? Why did I send a boy to do a man’s job by the roadside?
Because the good editors at American Psychologist know me too well. I am “less likely” to ask for help. If I can do anything in the world to tough things out on my own, no matter how unlikely, no matter how counterintuitive, I’ll do it. Anything is better than getting to the end of me and admitting how much I need help.
Well, almost anything.
Kyle Idleman, The End of Me: Where Real Life in the Upside-down Ways of Jesus Begins (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2015).
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