From Passive to Powerful

Ben Serpell

My wife and I recently started learning to dance through an online, self-taught video tutorial called “Show Her Off.”(Brittney sent me this multiple times and around the third time I finally bought it)The emphasis of the tutorial is on the man setting the woman up to look good and be the centerpiece of the dance partnership. To do this, the man must lead her through the dance steps, while she must trust that he will lead with her in mind and keep her safe. 

Doing the tutorial has reminded me that the very thing that makes for a stunning couple’s dance is also the thing that makes for a great marriage, a healthy family, great teams and organizations, and really any activity, project, or institution in which men are involved. Men, when we show up, lead, protect, and serve those around us, we not only bring out the best in them—we are at our best. “Showing them off” is what makes us look good.

The opposite is also true, however. When we disengage, fail to lead, and become passive about protecting and serving those around us, we diminish our relationships, organizations, and society—and ourselves. 

In my current job, I have the privilege of meeting with and coaching men who are single, married, divorced, and in between. The most common problem I uncover in their lives is passivity.Many men choose to disengage to avoid pain and conflict.


• acceptance of what happens, without active response or resistance.

• Apathy, numbness, indifference, spiritlessness.

In the moment, choosing to be passive and take the path of least resistance can seem safe and sensible. But it has a great effect on us and those around us. Recently, a young man was describing what it was like to grow up in his family, which was full of turmoil. One of the things he struggled with most was watching his father be passive about family issues. While his father was not to blame for all the issues, his inability to show up and lead meant that the chaos they brought to the family was not dealt with. This young man told me his father’s disengagement had negatively affected his view of men, and wanted and needed help to avoid ending up repeating his father’s example. 

The only way we can overcome passivity is by dealing with the internal motivations that drive it—shame and self-preservation. The voice of shame sounds like “I don’t have what it takes and Im not going to measure up.It makes us feel insecure, vulnerable, and desperate to protect ourselves in some way. Some of us get angry, while others get quiet and hide inside ourselves.When this voice is winning in our liveswe fall into cycles of disengagement, whether it be with the woman we love, a job, a relationship, or a calling. But the protection we gain by disengagement is false, and the problems we avoid only grow and hurt those around us. Passivity is one of the most selfish postures we chooseespecially when where it concerns our most special relationships. 

My wife and I just celebrated seventeen years of marriage, and I can say with gusto that we are happier and stronger than ever. But early in our marriage, I was all too familiar with choosing passivity and the false protection it promised. I perpetually felt like I was “missing the mark” and not measuring up to some relational superman I had conjured up in my heart and head. This superman was a tough competitor, one I lost against every time. I constantly felt like I was never good enough and was unable to “make her happy.”

In Keep Your Love On,Danny Silk does an amazing job of describing the beliefs and core behaviors you must embrace to become a “powerful” person. It was learning this concept of what it meant to be powerful that finally exposed to me how I was allowing the voice of shame and “not good enough” to keep me in a pattern of acting like a powerless victim in my life and marriage. With help and encouragement from my wife, Danny, and the Lord, I began to go after these heart issues and started to learn to think and act like a powerful man. The transformation this has brought in me has been unbelievably rewarding and nourishing to me and everyone important in my life.  

The heart of being powerful is ownership and responsibility. It is understanding that God has entrusted you with an incredible life, relationships, and influence to steward well and that He believes in you! He gave you your life to own because in Him, you have what it takes to be the man He created you to be.  

As you read this, if you are in a place to admit you have allowed passivity to grow and take root in your life and relationships, I encourage you to commit to the journey of becoming powerful. I would encourage you to find one man, one brother to open up to and share that you have let passivity enter and stay in your life and that you are making a change and admit that you need help! One of the most courageous things we can do as a man is put on humility and take ownership of the world we have created and currently live inHumbly ask for help and be encouraged that you are a work in progress. 

Men, we are called to lead in our homes, communities, and culture, and this begins by learning to lead ourselvesMay you receive new hope, grace, and vision to lead yourself toward the fully engaged, powerful life you were made for!

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