In the past few years, we’ve seen the emergence of men who have struck a chord with millions. Men like David Goggins, Jocko Willink, Jordan Peterson, and a slew of others. Their message is not one of ease and comfort. David Goggins talks about confronting yourself in the accountability mirror every day. Jocko says that discipline equals freedom. And Jordan Peterson says there’s a pretty good chance that if we had lived in 1940s Germany, that we would have gone right along with the prevailing culture. These are not happy-go-lucky messages.
In The Man in the Mirror, Patrick Morley identifies three values put forth by our modern society. They are:
- Personal Peace
- Cultural Christianity
Dr. Francis Schaeffer defines personal peace in this way:
Personal peace means just to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city–to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren.
Boy, do I love my personal peace. I hate being disturbed, especially when I’m working. Doesn’t matter if it’s my wife or a co-worker. Just leave me alone. But how’s that working out for me? How often do I alienate those around me just for my sense of personal peace? I also hear advice given all the time to remove people who are not positive in your life. That advice is largely driven by this societal value of personal peace. But guess what? Our lives are messy. Your life is messy. Do you want people to remove you from their lives if you are going through a negative spell?
Dr. Schaeffer defines affluence like this:
Affluence means an overwhelming and ever-increasing prosperity–a life made up of things, things, and more things–a success judged by an ever-higher level of material abundance.
We have so much affluence that Marie Kondo is helping us shed our stuff. Tiny houses are the rage. But look around. What has affluence led to? Obesity. Depression. Debt. As the United States has increased in affluence, our debt obligations to other countries has risen as well. We have $20 trillion in debt. Our debt is like the portrait of Dorian Gray sitting in a closet. Our affluence looks so nice on the outside but Dorian Gray debt is getting worse and worse by the day.
The author of this book, Patrick Morley, defines cultural Christianity as the pursuit “of the God we want instead of the God who is.” As evidenced by the first word, it is going to be more aligned with culture than with historical Christianity. Cultural Christianity will have you go along with a culture driving off a cliff instead of following the words of Jesus. Christianity is counter-cultural.
The Man in the Mirror is a book written for men and specifically Christian men, or men who are seeking to understand the Christian faith. Women can read it, as R.C. Sproul hilariously mentions in the foreword, if your wife reads it before you do, you are “in deep weeds.” But it deals with problems common to men.
It’s a book that challenged me to look deep into my life. So many of the books I’ve read for this Books of Titans project have dealt with how to think better, achieve goals, and be more effective and productive. This book forces me to take a step back and consider the larger perspective. What do I give my time to? Is it a worthwhile pursuit? Achieving the wrong goals with the greatest productivity will actually harm me, no matter how effective it looks from the outside.
It’s a book that challenges me to look at those three cultural values and see how they are negatively impacting my life. How they are robbing me of what it means to be a man. How personal peace is not a worthwhile goal because it is inherently selfish and ultimately impossible in a messy world. How affluence’s ugly sister is debt, and how always wanting more steals my desire to give freely. How cultural Christianity is ultimately powerless because it relies on cultural values instead of God.
It ties back to the men I mentioned above. Those who are talking about a life of sacrifice, difficulty, and hardship. That message is resonating because personal peace, affluence, and cultural Christianity are not working. They are not worthwhile values or ideas for which to strive.
Here are a few statements that stuck out to me from the book:
- Do you know anyone who has ever won the rat race?
- I can’t name more than a handful of men whose marriages are working the way they are supposed to.
- “Other people don’t create your spirit; they only reveal it.” ~ Dr. Henry Brandt
- 99% of our anger is due to our selfish desires.
- We all do exactly what we decide to do: we are the sum of our decisions.