Why Men Won't Repent
This past Saturday I spoke at a men’s retreat here in the OKC area. One of the things I focused on was why men struggle so much with repentance. That’s not to say women don’t have their own problems with it, but I typically find that men are less inclined to repent than women. They are more given to rationalization and self-defense. Why? Here are a few possible reasons.
(1) Satan and the world system have led men to believe the lie that their value or worth as men, indeed, as human beings, is dependent on something other than what Christ has done for them and who they are in Christ by faith alone. If a man believes that other people hold the power to determine his value or worth, he will always be reluctant to reveal anything about his inner life that may cause their estimation of him to diminish.
(2) Sinful pride has put them in bondage to a false belief: namely, that their worth or value as a man is dependent on others thinking that they have it all together; that they are so strong that sin could never exert a sovereign power over their lives; that they are too wise and discerning to be taken captive by sin; that they would lose their position in society and in the church if it became known to anyone that they struggle with certain sins (might they lose clients and potential future business opportunities?); that they would no longer be respected and highly regarded as spiritually mature by people in the church (and thus forfeit any chance for promotion) if it were known that they were susceptible to temptation.
In sum, men don’t repent because they are preeminently committed to saving face. They fear exposure because they fear rejection, mockery, and exclusion. And these are fearful realities only to those who do not yet sufficiently grasp that they are accepted, cherished, valued, and included by Christ.
(3) A toxic and dysfunctional church culture has created an atmosphere in which an “I’ve-got-it-all-together” visible/public image is the essence of spiritual maturity. The good and godly man is the man who never fails, knows all truth, always loves, and projects an image that he is beyond or above temptation.
(4) Men fail to repent because we are all, at heart, idolaters. Refusal to repent is to elevate our own souls above God’s glory. It is to place a higher value on the perceived comfort of secrecy than the glory and honor of God. It is to say, “My safety and standing in the community is of greater value than God’s name and fame. I don’t repent because I cherish my own image more than God’s.”
(5) Men fail to repent because they simply don’t understand the gospel and its implications for personal identity and spiritual value. Here is how Gavin Ortlund put it in a recent blog post:
“The gospel alone can free us for honesty, ownership, and admission, because the gospel alone destroys the sting and judgment associated with criticism. The gospel takes away the fear that drives defensiveness and frees us to openly admit our shortcomings. The gospel says, ‘in the place of your deepest failure and shame you are loved most tenderly.’"