If the road sign reads “Safe Bridge Crossing Ahead,” when in truth the bridge is out, anyone proceeding will suffer. The truth about safe progress on our journeys is vital, and especially so when it comes to a boy’s journey into manhood.
There are two lies men must not believe, but most men do.
If the core beliefs from which we operate our lives, make decisions, and view our world are flawed, our actions will be as well. The direct effect of them on our lives is unavoidable. Get them wrong and life stumbles horribly.
Around age 12, we begin assimilating our training and experiences into a personal view of what makes life sensible, survivable, and successful. Our scripts, unfortunately, are nearly always inaccurate. The conclusions about life which we embrace at age 12 are typically unreliable and put us at great risk.
Boys take their scripts from their fathers. What a youngster experiences with his dad is what he will think God is like. If you’re kind, he will have a model of kindness and he’ll find it easy to view a kind God. If you’re exacting and demanding and knit picking, his God will be strict, legalistic, and never satisfied with him. When fathers fail to present life’s truths, boys are susceptible to the two great lies they must never believe.
- The first lie a boy must not believe is: I don’t have what it takes to be a man.
Certainly, curiosity and natural attraction are at work in the lure of porn, but a boy who is strong in his identity, in the knowledge of who he is, can control his urges and wait for a real woman’s love and attention. His inner conviction is strengthened because it is based on solid evidence. He is confident that he can and will win a woman’s heart, because he has learned from his father that he is a man.
It is the boy uncertain of his value or worth as a man that surrenders to the idea that a woman’s attentions will affirm him. He feels empowered by the virtual delusion that he has what it takes to woo and win her. Of course, it isn’t true, and afterwards, he knows it. Deep in his manhood he senses something noble slip and a voice whisper, “You failed again – loser.”
Boys believing this old lie that they are men because they dominate a woman also attempt to prove their manhood through dominating males. School yard fights, sports, academics, financial success, climbing the corporate ladder, out-drinking, out-spending, out-doing the other guy is nothing more than a boy’s attempt to show (primarily to himself) — that he has what it takes and to remove any doubt that he is a man. But none of these achieve what he hopes. How many superstar athletes commit suicide, fall into drug addiction or crime? Notice the Michael Jacksons and Elvis Presleys who we learn were profoundly miserable, unhappy, and lonely.
I’ve seen it so often that I can almost certainly predict it when a dad at a little league game is criticizing his son’s pitching, catching, running, batting, even how his son stands or walks, that kid is not going to believe that he has what it takes to be a man. He is going to either wither and withdraw from his pursuit of manhood or he is going to push and push and push in an effort to finally gain his dad’s approval. But that dad isn’t going to give it – not completely, not unconditionally. He can’t. His dad didn’t give it to him. He himself believes the lie also and is pushing his own little son to make up for his sense of failure. That boy is moving toward a bridge that is broken!
If you want your son to avoid the lie that he doesn’t have what it takes to be a man, then let him know that he does. Affirm it by showing him he has your love. Tell him, “Son. I love you. I’m pleased with you. I’m proud of you.” Use the words God used with his son. Affirmation from a father answers the question, “Do I have what it takes to be a man?” A man affirms a man. Only a man has the authority to place his hand on a boy and declare him a man. Without that blessing, he flounders; with it he soars. Your words and actions craft the heart of your son—use them to assure him he has what it takes to be a man and that you’re there to help him achieve it. This leads me to the other lie a boy must not believe.
- The second lie a boy had better not believe is: I am alone in this.
He must know that he isn’t fatherless. Not that you’re there to do it all for him, but assurance that you’re with him, believe in him, aware of him, keeping an eye out for him, eager to guide and support him are vital to his confidence as a man. Without your encouragement and engagement, he will struggle to believe that God is with him, and he will look to himself instead. He’ll labor following his own flawed ‘wisdom’ to figure out life, to solve his problems, to navigate relationships, to respond to disease, war, pain and death. A boy who thinks it’s all on his shoulders will break himself. With all his might and mind, he will struggle only to sink in the quicksand of relationships. He will suffer.
If you’d avoid this for your son, put down your video games, your TV sports, your overtime at work, your YouTube, your ego, your laziness, or whatever distracts you from sitting and talking with your son about his life and interests. Stop whatever keeps you from building that treehouse or fort with him, taking that fishing trip you promised, attending his games, or showing him how to study his Bible. Give him your undivided attention and lead him! Provide evidence to support your affirmations that he is not on his own.
An author I admire when it comes to expressing biblically true thoughts on manhood and fathering, John Eldredge, makes this strong statement,
“Our need for a real father to provide masculine initiation …. is about as deep as any human need can get. Henri Nouwen came to see, rather late in his life, that this longing was “the deepest yearning of my heart.” The longing for a really good father. Tim Wolfe calls it, “the deepest search in life.”
Those are strong statements supporting the fact that boys look to their fathers for the central truths about themselves. A father can ignite a divine spark and set in motion a yearning as powerful as the tides — boys want to become men. The Old Liar, the devil, keeps most men from satisfying this calling, but you have the power and authority to help your boy safely arrive at his destination by affirming two truths to him:
- He has what it takes to be a man.
- He is not on his own in that pursuit.
Living these two truths before him pens an accurate and clear, true script for your son. It paves the path to a confident awareness that’s God’s love for him is sufficient and that, with God at his side, he can overcome any obstacle, or lie, that might suggest otherwise.
 Eldredge, John. Fathered by God. Nelson Books 2009 pg. 31