Don’t just tough it out

By James Willoughby

Life’s tough; get a helmet. The internet is awash with conflicting theories on the origin of this quote. I assumed this ageless wisdom probably originated from Aristotle or Socrates. But it turns out that it was most likely introduced by comedian Dennis Leary or in the 90’s sitcom, Boy Meets World.

Man, how I wish this proverb came from someone smarter, because it’s a mindset that I have unwittingly allowed to drive too many areas of my life. Far too often, I have taken the approach that it’s me against the world, that relying on others is a weakness and that rugged individualism is somehow macho. But more often, it is a sign of stubbornness or worse – stupidity.

At least I know I am not alone. We live in a culture where men are taught to be the rock in the family. Men are to be strong, immovable, emotionally stable, reliable and secure. These can all be positive traits, and our families often need us to step into these roles.

But what I’m learning is that sometimes the most courageous thing we can do is seek help from others. Admitting that I don’t have it all figured out and that someone else could help me navigate a treacherous course can be the manliest option in some situations.

This is particularly true in marriage. In my first decade as a husband, I let marital advice bounce off of me like bullets off of Superman. I was impenetrable…immovable. Like most twenty-somethings, you couldn’t tell me anything. Marriage classes and counseling were for weak-minded schlubs who didn’t know how to take care of their business.

Then one day I found out I was a schlub whose wife wanted out of the marriage because she had so many unmet needs. Superman met Kryptonite on that cold March morning when I realized I wasn’t the rock I thought I was. I felt as dumb as a rock when I recognized I hadn’t done anything to equip myself to be a good husband.

I’d like to say that was the inciting incident that changed me, but it wasn’t. It took a few years and another rock bottom encounter to realize that I need help. I need wisdom and experience that I don’t naturally possess.

So I sought that wisdom and experience. I read books on marriage along with the Bible. My wife and I began attending marriage conferences. I joined (and even led) men’s groups. We went to counseling. And through it all, I learned just how much I didn’t know about being a man and a husband.

I am still called to be a rock for my family. I still have to strap on a helmet and weather some storms. Those things haven’t changed, but I don’t have to do it alone. I wasn’t designed to do it alone. Not only do I need to lean on my wife, but I need to lean on other men for insight that can only come from other men. I need to walk in the footsteps of men who have trod this ground before me.

Email comments to

By James Willoughby

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.

James is a regular contributor who writes about marriage, family, and faith. He lives in Tipp City, Ohio.