What It Means For a Man to Provide

The traditional view of what it means to be a man may have to change. The number of men who provide for their families is declining, and with that comes increased pressure on the institution. Almost half of all households are classified as “single-mother,” so whether or not you think being a provider should still matter in today’s society, there’s no denying that this shift has left some men feeling vulnerable and unable to provide.

The “a man is a provider bible verse” is a biblical scripture that talks about how men should be providers for their family.

“A guy should be able to provide for his family.”

This is a term we’ve all heard before, and it’s still widely used in today’s culture. When someone says that a guy should be a good provider, they usually imply that he should have a decent career that pays well and allows him to support his family with food, housing, and other necessities.

This understanding of what it means to be a provider is deeply embedded in our culture and in the masculine psyche. Men, in particular, are prone to being nervous and melancholy when they lose their work and consequently their identity as a provider.

Is making a solid living part of this Switch of Manliness? Is the changeover still feasible at a time when both spouses in a marriage are often breadwinners? What about fathers who remain at home? Aren’t they the ones who provide?

Bringing home the bacon, in truth, has very little to do with the genuine Provider Switch.

Provisioning in the Age of Primitive Times

We’ve been journeying back in time, far back in time, in the Switches of Manliness series, to find the ancient male urges that are still buried in the current man’s mentality.

We discussed how, in very prehistoric cultures, men and women gave about equal resources to their groups; women harvested nuts and seeds, while males hunted large wildlife. For most of human history, men and women contributed roughly equal amounts to the household economy. The stay-at-home lady, who lounged about the house while her husband worked outside the home all day, is a relatively new notion in family life. This notion didn’t catch on in the West until the 19th century, and even then, the working husband and stay-at-home wife arrangement was often only accessible to the rich and middle-class. To keep the family financially solvent, both men and women had to work in some way in most homes.

Is there a larger meaning of supplying that is more historically accurate?

I believe it’s useful to look into the origin of the term “provision” to address that issue. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary:

pro- “ahead” + videre “to see,” early 15c., from L. providere “look forward, prepare, supply,” from pro- “ahead” + videre “to see,” from pro- “ahead” + videre “to see” (see vision)

The Etymological Dictionary of the English Language adds the following:

“To act with foresight, lit. to foresee” is a Latin phrase.

That concept of contributing appeals to me. Rather than a man’s identity and value being determined by his salary, his capacity to provide is determined by whether he has a vision for his life, leads his family with that vision, and is able to anticipate and prepare for life’s storms.

Scouting as a Man

Native American Indian scout on horseback in winter season painting.

Looking forward in prehistoric times meant scouting for the group. The lookouts were all men. They went before (and behind) the women and children as scouts, searching the horizon for threats to avoid.

 

This male role has been documented in chimpanzees, as well as in current primitive tribes:

“When Bushmen travel, they walk in a single line, with a guy in front keeping an eye out for new predator tracks, snakes, and other threats. Women and children are in a better situation than males. This, too, is evocative of chimps, who, in perilous situations–such as crossing a human dirt road–place adult males in the front and rear, with females and children in the middle. “Every now and again, the alpha male will stand guard at the crosswalk until everyone has crossed.” The Age of Empathy, Frans De Waal

This is something I believe we all understand instinctively. Because men are physically stronger than females, it seems reasonable that males would be the ones to defend them. But a man’s raw strength wasn’t enough to qualify him for this duty. In various respects, the male brain is ideally adapted for this scouting (or vision producing) duty.

The Scouting Mindset

Our bodies were bombarded with a variety of hormones when we were still in our mothers’ wombs. Two of these chemicals, anti-Mullerian hormones and testosterone, according to The Male Brain, primed the circuits of our little male brains for activities like “exploratory behavior, muscular and motor control, spatial abilities, and rough play.”

Visual-spatial abilities are very strong in the male brain. Men are better than women in rotating items in their heads to get a 3-D perspective, as well as tracking moving objects, estimating their speed, and determining their dimensions and placement. Men also have greater long-range vision than women, are more sensitive to things entering their field of vision, and are better at detecting little movements. In fact, greater testosterone levels are linked to faster visual processing rates.

While it comes to geography, direction, and navigation, men’s visual and spatial talents provide them an advantage–skills that come in useful when hunting or fighting.

The dorsal premammillary nucleus, often known as the “defend-your-turf” portion of the brain, is bigger in males. This component of the brain’s circuitry is intended to recognize territorial challenges from other males. Men’s brains also have a bigger amygdala than women’s, which acts as a warning mechanism for potential danger. As a result, males are more sensitive to dangers to themselves and their loved ones.

The Tracking Mindset

These natural tendencies not only aided males in their duties as searchers and scouts, but they may also have aided their capacity to see into the future. Author Christopher McDougall recalls an insight a modern-day man, Louis Lisenberg, had while learning how to follow and hunt with the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in his book Born to Run:

“You ain’t learnt nothing till you learn to read dirt; the next step is tracking without traces, a higher level of thinking described in the literature as’speculative hunting.’” Louis learned that the only way to do it was to project oneself out of the present and into the future, putting yourself in the mentality of the animal you’re pursuing… ’ When following an animal, Louis explains, “one tries to think like an animal in order to forecast where it is going.” ‘By looking at its traces, one may imagine the animal’s movements and experience it in one’s own body.’ The focus is so great that you go into a trance-like condition. It’s really extremely hazardous because you grow numb to your own body and may push yourself to the point of collapsing.’

 

Visualization…empathy… Forward projection and abstract thinking: Isn’t it precisely the mental engineering we today utilize for science, medicine, and the creative arts, except from the keeling-over part? ‘You make causal links in your mind when you track since you didn’t really observe what the animal did,’ Louis discovered. ”

The Brain’s Systematization

The gap in reproductive odds for men and women in primitive times (women had double the probability of passing on their genes than males) drove men to take on enormous tasks in order to attain alpha male status and increase their chances of reproducing, as we’ve addressed in earlier postings. Men participated in large game hunts, conflicts, and other adventures and excursions for these and other reasons. These sorts of activities were often carried out in big groups, resulting in a social structure for males that was considerably distinct from that of women. Women who remained at home and cared for their families had fewer, but more personal connections. Men had more connections than women, but they were shallower and more impersonal.

As a result, men thought and worked in enormous systems, and their brains grew to match. There are a lot of interesting implications of this—again, I recommend Dr. Baumeister’s Is There Anything Good About Men?—but the most important thing for the purposes of this post is that men’s brains evolved to be motivated toward systemizing, while women’s brains evolved to be motivated toward empathizing.

After researching autism (which he claims is merely the expression of the extreme male brain—all systemizing, minimal empathizing), psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen (not the Borat guy) presented the “systematizing-empathizing hypothesis,” which he believes is the basic difference between the sexes.

A system, according to Dr. Baron-Cohen, is anything that turns a set of inputs into a set of outputs according to a set of rules. It’s all about logical thinking based on if-then logic—if I do this, I’ll receive this. Systemizing, according to Baron-Cohen, assisted our caveman predecessors in comprehending natural processes like as weather, astrological movement, and animal migration–skills that were crucial in feeding and safeguarding the group. Systemizing might also be useful in tribal hierarchical fights for social status. Remember that in the distant past, a guy had to stand out from the crowd if he wanted to enhance his chances of passing on his genes. The systemizing male brain may have aided our forefathers in strategizing how to get to the top of the food chain.

The Switch Between Providers

The brain of a scout. The brain that keeps track. The brain that organizes itself. So, how does it all total up? Of course, there’s the Provider Switch. Men have an instinctive need to plan ahead, prepare, and strategize. In other words, males have an inbuilt demand for vision and the ability to provide.

Even if humans aren’t hunting antelopes anymore, our brains are nonetheless wired to explore, scan, recognize, and plan long-term. These actions take place on the left side of the brain and are powered by dopamine, a neurotransmitter that has been demonstrated to motivate the male brain more than the female brain by neuroscientists.

 

While the other Switches of Manliness we’ve discussed thus far–legacy, challenge, and physicality–aren’t used very frequently in our current society, this one is. It is often active, but not in a constructive manner. And how is it turned on? Technology and video games, for example.

According to studies, video games engage reward areas of the brain in males more than in women, resulting in pleasant dopamine rushes, which explains why men are more likely than women to play video games and report feeling addicted to them. All of the special characteristics of the male brain are activated by video games. High visual processing rates, the capacity to explore and develop enormous mental maps in your brain, recognizing abilities, and the ability to organize and plan are all required for success in video games. Of course, analog games like Risk and chess, role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, and fantasy sports leagues all need systematizing to win and attract more males than women.

People now assume that anytime I mention video games, I am completely opposed to them. That is not the case. I’ve been playing them since I was a little child, and after a lengthy absence, I just purchased a secondhand Xbox in order to play LA Noire (a fantastic game!). But, since I have too many other, more essential things to do, I’ve only played the game for about an hour a week since I acquired it. So that’s how I feel about video games–they’re not bad in and of themselves; they simply shouldn’t be high on a man’s priority list. They’re dessert, after all, and should be consumed in moderation. That is why they are unable to activate the Switch of Manliness. While you eat a Twinkie when you’re extremely hungry, you’ll feel satisfied for a minute before becoming famished again. Instead, you want something that will both fulfill your appetite and strengthen your body.

Using the male brain’s skills to develop yourself, achieve your life’s potential, and lead people you’re accountable for is what it means to turn the Provider Switch.

The Importance of Having a Clear Vision

Native American tribes would send young men on vision quests so that they would know precisely what path they were intended to pursue for the rest of their life.

This included a tremendous deal of knowledge. It is critical to have a vision for one’s life. Without one, you’ll find yourself drifting through life rather than being pushed by purpose to achieve your objectives. Men without eyesight feel as though life throws them a curveball–why did I lose my job? What is the reason behind my wife’s departure? Why am I still living at home at the age of thirty? How did I get so indebted? What the hell happened to me!?! Men without vision, like the grasshopper in the ancient Aesop’s story, exist solely in the present. They are taken off guard when winter arrives, and they are left confused and shivering in the cold.

 

A guy with vision, on the other hand, looks forward. He has a plan. He has a clear vision of where he wants to be in 5, 10, and 50 years. And he collects and organizes his life’s “data” in order to figure out what he has to do and how he needs to behave in order to go where he wants to go. He can assess what is working in his life vs what isn’t, and discard the latter. He checks the horizon for what’s on the horizon, and he knows exactly how he’ll respond if X, Y, or Z occurs. He develops a good sense of self-awareness. He understands what weaknesses, temptations, and perils are his Achilles’ heels, the “predators” that threaten to ruin his life and poison his relationships. When these dangers come, his mind goes into overdrive, and he walks away.

Switching on the Provider

You need a vision for your own life if you’re a single guy. If you’re a married guy, you must have a goal for yourself and your family. Women don’t want a controlling jerk, but they also don’t want to feel like they have to drag their spouse along all the time. They’re looking for a guy who is self-motivated, takes charge, makes choices, and has a clear sense of direction and purpose. A guy who is continually looking for new methods to provide for his family and guide them through life’s storms. When I tell my wife that I’m unhappy, she asks me what I want out of life and what would make me happy, and all I can say is, “I don’t know.” That’s a case of poor eyesight. Also, a failure as a supplier.

Developing a vision entails increasing your self-awareness as well as your awareness of the world around you. The visionary recognizes his own talents and flaws, as well as how the world operates and what motivates individuals. He stares out over the terrain from a high vantage point, taking in the lay of the land, deciding where he wants to go, and figuring out how to get there. Then he takes the lead and navigates until the objective is reached, keeping an eye out for and overcoming difficulties.

Here are some ideas for bringing out your inner scout and turning on the Provider Switch:

  • Discover your essential values.
  • Make a life roadmap for yourself.
  • Keep a diary.
  • Allow yourself to be alone for a while. Hike, camp, or even stay in a hotel room.
  • Discover your calling.
  • Make a daily agenda for yourself.
  • Make an effort to be totally present in your life.
  • Pray or meditate.
  • Every night, write down your objectives.
  • Unplug and conduct technological “fasts” on a regular basis to refresh and cleanse your thoughts.
  • Read biographies–getting a sense of another guy’s life may help you get perspective on your own, as well as insight into what a man is capable of doing and the pathways other men have taken.
  • Create a morning ritual that will energize you for the day ahead.
  • On your drive to work, turn off the radio and focus on what you want to achieve that day.
  • Carry a small notepad to jot down ideas and write to-do lists to keep track of what has to be accomplished.
  • Memorize a poem or focus on recalling names to improve your memory skills.
  • Keep track of statistics in your life–for example, when you workout, keep note of how much weight you lift. Make a list of everything you consume. Joe’s Objectives, for example, might help you keep track of your goals or new behaviors.
  • Learn about human psychology, relationships, body language, and other related topics.
  • Become knowledgeable about topics such as health insurance and retirement programs (stay-tuned for a post on this).
  • Make a budget and learn all there is to know about your money.
  • Make an emergency fund for yourself.
  • Prepare for a crisis by learning survival skills such as how to use a weapon, pack a bug-out bag, and hunt for food.
  • Hold a regular family council if you have one. We’ll write a post about it later.
  • To figure out what’s going on in your children’s life, have one-on-one conversations with them. Make it informal, as though you’re driving around together.
  • Keep up with current events, politics, and news.

The Cure for Modern Male Malaise: The Switches of Manliness Series Physicality is the first switch. Switch number two is a challenge, while switch number three is a legacy. Switch #4: Provide Nature Switch #5:

 

Sources:

Louann Brizendine’s The Male Brain

Simon Baron-The Cohen’s Essential Difference: Male and Female Brains and the Truth About Autism

Is There Anything Positive to Be Said About Men? Roy F. Baumeister is the author of this piece.

Emily Deans’ Dopamine, the Left Brain, Women, and Men

 

 

A man is a provider, protector and nurturer. With this in mind, it is important for a man to provide. Reference: a man is a provider, protector and.

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