From boys to men

There is, it would seem, a problem with men. There is something wrong with our conceptions of masculinity (NB: Some swearing). There are too many examples of toxic masculinity to list. We wonder, time and time again, what does it mean to be a man? The quest is on in search of non-toxic manhood. Masculinity needs redefining, men need help to form friendships, and boys need some help, they are even underpaid! Although let’s not get too carried away.

Roger Olson observes that we have feminism but we don’t have masculinism and we need it.

Masculinism is, in my book, the attempt to encourage boys and men to embrace their maleness as good and equal with femaleness and to resist messages that they are “the bad sex.” It is also the attempt to encourage boys and men to use their masculinity in good, constructive, helpful ways—for protection of the weak and vulnerable, for creativity and discovery, for construction of a better world for everyone. To avoid machismo and domination and power-over and unnecessary violence and to channel male energy and aggressiveness into positive channels. What it does not include is having to be more like females in order to be good and acceptable. Boys and men have value in themselves but need their good qualities and characteristics nurtured and channeled into good projects that bring them satisfaction as well as steps toward a better world. And it does not include “machismo.”

As much as the wider culture is confused about masculinity, I think the church is too. I’m not sure we have a better definition. Good fathers remain crucial to healthy families but is the church doing enough to help fathers raise sons in an age where no one seems to know what a man is or should be?

What are lacking are a pathway and a destination. What are we aiming for in our sons and how do we get there? How will they know when they are a man? There was certainly no intentional pathway for me and the nearest thing I had to initiation into manhood was passing my driving test or possibly going off to uni. There needs to be something better. I have an eleven-year-old son. He deserves better.

I appreciate the encouragement I get from sites like Daily Dad but I wanted something more intentional. So I am following The Primal Path developed by Jon Tyson. It’s an attempt to help fathers raise ‘sons of consequence’.

Jon’s definition, as a Christian pastor, is that a man is: “An image bearer and son of God entrusted with power and responsibility to create, cultivate, care and guard the life he’s been given. This is for God’s glory, his joy and the good of others.”

I’m determined as a father to do my best to raise a son equipped with the tools, skills and most importantly character necessary to navigate through the trials that life will inevitably throw his way. We need clear pathways and intentional commitments. What’s your plan for helping your son go from a boy to a man?

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