Midlife Manual for Men: A Personal Review

Midlife Manual for Men: Finding Significance in the Second Half

Stephen Arterburn and John Shore

The MM4M, as I like to refer to it, took more work from me than just reading through another self-help book in an attempt to grow up.

I believe it has helped draw me closer toward God’s goal of using me for His will during my life’s remaining days, despite what at times seemed irrelevant passages.

The work – exercises a reader HAS to do to gain any real benefit from the reading – was worth it but lacks any substantial references to scripture. That may be by design as such scripture comes to mind for those familiar with it. Maybe the authors are trying to avoid being too heavy-handed by quoting scripture that in some cases can drive readers away.

The “manual” – due to its usefulness that title makes for a much better description than “book” – describes four major roles men play during their lives leading up to midlife. These are “Son, Husband, Provider and Father.

The manual’s organization breaks down the along the lines John Shore wrote in his blog entry here http://johnshoreland.com/?s=midlife on Feb. 13, 2008:

“First, under “Good Riddance,” we’ll look at the aspects of the role we’re then considering that often prove less than entirely healthy for us — that, as we move on to the second half of our lives, we would do well to identify, and then jettison.

Next, under “Pure Gold,” we’ll take stock of those aspects of that life’s role that in their fulfilling typically have proven good and healthy for us: that tended to ennoble us, strengthen us, make us better, wiser, more pleasing to God. This is the stuff about that role which we should hold onto and build upon as we move into the second half of our lives.

Under “Movin’ On,” we’ll consider how we might use the best of what that role taught us–the “Pure Gold” we just identified — to fashion for ourselves the kind of spiritual and emotional life that we (and God) have long intended us to have.

Finally, under “Things to Do,” we’ll offer suggestions and exercises designed to enhance our experience and appreciation of what that role has and can now mean to us.”

Avoiding the work and just reading through it would be about as helpful as an overweight middle-aged man running around the block once and expecting to suddenly have six-pack abs.

Once around the block wouldn’t work for the fat guy (me following through on part of the authors’ advice). Skipping the month of work brought on by the book wouldn’t have worked for me either.

This leads to the next point – I’ll admit I’m not the most mature 47-year-old running about though I’ve been around the block a few times.

Now I’m hoping after working the manual, I’ve grown at least a little. Some of the exercises pointed me to my failures or to uncomfortable memories I’ve not wanted to address.

For example, under “Son” the first “Things to Do” exercise is to write a brutally-honest letter to your father. This forced me to confront some of my late father’s traits I didn’t want to recognize that he passed on to me. I wanted to remember him as a hero. The next exercise let me – it is to write a letter telling your father how much you love him and why. The authors say you can mail the second letter.

Such exercises have the authors leaving you with the feeling that no matter what you’ve done wrong so far in your life there’s a lot you’ve done right as well. I saw there’s hope for a more fulfilling life in the second half.

The reason this is titled a personal review stems from the fact I plan two. The other review will appear at Amazon.com and address how the book may benefit others.

Personally, when reading through some of this manual sometimes I thought “What small percentage of readers are these two authors addressing?” Their assumption of a happily-married man with two children and nice house in the suburbs seemed the base that a lot of the “Pure Gold” is mined from. Unfortunately, I’m afraid – and I hope I’m wrong – that the norm is for families to be far removed from the authors’ underlying assumption. The authors need only look at the stats for fragmented homes or look at the rise in single-parent homes. Even Arterburn’s life as described in “Man in the Middle” reflects this. But he got to have a happy ending. It’s not that good for a lot of us out here still stuck in a marriage disintegration that no amount of down-on-your-knees crying out loud to God seems to help.

Granted, the manual did help me yet once again realize my role in this and repent as I had last year after reading devotionals at Crosswalk.com and Shore’s blog. So I just took the parts of the book I don’t think apply to my current situation and try to save them for the hoped-for day they will.

Later in the book, under “Husband – Things to do” it starts off “Tell your wife…” My situation is that I can hardly tell my wife anything because she won’t sit down and listen to anything I have to say. We’re in separate households anyway. So the 1-800-NEW-LIFE number may well be my next stop as I embark on a road to recovery.

By the time I read and worked my way to the end, the manual proved invaluable and likely has saved me a few sessions of counseling.

Shore’s example of Mr. Williams and his amazing mid-life art career stands out as a highlight of the book to me. I will not spoil the example with details – just describe it as an excellent example of how God speaks His will to every man in midlife.

Now I think I’m starting to hear God’s voice literally telling me what to do like Mr. Williams and it really scares, no, it terrifies me.

That off my chest, I’ll say this for my skills at finding marketing opportunities – I like to call it “more ways to help people.” Just read on…

 You’ve got to love Amazon.com. They give out upcoming book titles. And messed up one of my suggestions about to go in my Amazon.com review I finally started working on once finishing the MM4M on March 2.  

Since John Shore wrote in his blog entry (see above link) about the MM4M class he teaches Wednesday nights, I thought it would be a great idea to expand on that. Seems the authors already planned that. A DVD is also planned.

Also, I wonder if the Shore-taught class reflects any plans to aim this midlife manual at women. My best (and only one left) friend from youth says his wife is driving him crazy. This “Woman-ual” could prove useful if we stereotypical contemporary Christian males can lure our women away from Beth Moore. Or maybe the authors can partner with a female writer with some credibility from Bethany House such as Elisa Morgan. Not sure she’s done this kind of writing, but she sure is entertaining. And there flies onto the page my urge to build writing teams once exercised as an editor but now dormant.

Anyway, I see that Arterburn has switched over to target the female gender with similar titles such as the “Every Young Man’s Battle” (almost put “Jung Man’s battle” – not to be construed as a Freudian slip).

Meanwhile, God has some more work to do on me and is asking my help.



2 Responses

  1. By the way, the lucky folks in Bartelsville, Oklahoma, can go to their library and check this new release out. I salute their library board.

  2. Thanks Sam for taking the time to review this. Blessings to you.

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