I just finished reading The Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell and John Gray. It is a thick book, which, in this case, means that Farrell and Gray have been very thorough in their documentation. For this week’s blog, I’d like to copy the opening few paragraphs from his concluding chapter and make some comments about them [my comments will be in these square brackets].
“It was December 7, 1941. For years, we had been in denial of the crisis that was Hitler and the Axis powers. With Pearl Harbor, our denial ended.
Transforming denial into a response meant sixteen million of our sons being willing to sacrifice their lives. Yet our sons stepped up. And our daughters and parents joined them.
The new enemy is not Hitler. It is dad deprivation. [Dad deprivation has been linked to all sorts of issues, including ADHD and school shootings. According to Farrell and Gray, all of the school shooters in the US since Columbine have suffered from dad deprivation.] It is not the Axis powers. It is a ‘purpose void.’ It is not a need for your son to sacrifice his life but to find a purpose for his life. [This lack of purpose is a significant issue for boys in terms of education, vocation, and marriage. We should have a better track record because we are a part of the church, but it has not worked out like that. According to the Shorter Westminster Catechism, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever’. The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry defined our purpose in this fashion: ‘According to the Bible, our purpose, the reason we are here, is for God’s glory. In other words, our purpose is to praise God, worship him, to proclaim his greatness, and to accomplish his will. This is what glorifies him. Therefore, in this we find that God has given us a reason for our existence, a meaning for our existence. We were created by him, according to his desire, and our lives are to be lived for him so that we might accomplish what he has for us to do. When we trust the one who has made us, who works all things after the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11), then we are able to live a life of purpose. How the particulars of that purpose are expressed is up to the individual’. It seems to me that we have lost sight of this purpose: we are not effectively communicating this to the next generation (I don’t think we have communicated this well to our generation).]
How do we get our sons to step up to a crisis for which there is no Pearl Harbor? A crisis that is more internal than external?
Whether our sons step up depends on how they are brought up. In the past, boys learned ‘I exist, therefore I serve.’ Today, many boys learn ‘I exist, therefore I deserve.’ [These two statements accurately describe the shift in culture; this is not merely generational but symptomatic of society in general.]
Being needed to serve creates a sense of purpose. Being served creates a sense of entitlement. Most parents know this intellectually, but our own need to be needed seduces us into serving our sons rather than teaching him to serve. [This is true. Leonard Sax, in his book The Collapse of Parenting, explains this phenomenon by reporting that parents desire to be buddies with their children rather than authority figures. Because parents have abdicated their role, their children, sons in particular, take the easiest road which, in this case, means being served. They see this example in the media (music videos and the like). As a result, the sense of entitlement grows and creates a greater downward pressure to be served.] Which contributes to our sons’ purpose void.Once our sons value serving over being served, they are more likely to step up when we both alert them to a crisis – such as the crisis of dad deprivation and the mission to be a great dad, and therefore an inspiration to others to be the same. [This is actually our responsibility to our sons, biblically speaking.]
Boys who become a failure to launch are most frequently devoid of the two Ps: purpose and postponed gratification. Boys devoid of the two Ps are often also devoid of the equal checks and balances of the other two Ps: two parents. When your son is dad enriched, he not only avoids the crisis of being dad deprived but is inspired with the mission to become a great dad.
Becoming a great dad is not a mission for every son. [Matthew 19:12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”] Your mission is to guide your son to discover his mission. [Not quite true. As parents, it is our mission to guide our sons to find their mission, but that includes helping him understand the role of the Holy Spirit in this process (according to Eph. 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them).] No piece of cake, because there’s no precedent. Our fathers did not learn to discover their mission; they learned to fulfill a mission someone else discovered. The ‘discoverer’ was the need to survive. His mission was provider-protector. [In one sense, fathers did not ‘discover’ their mission; they were given their mission by God. We are called to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. This provision also includes the idea of protection. Robert Lewis, Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Michael Gurian, The Purpose of Boys, The Wonder of Boys, Leonard Sax, Boys Adrift, The Collapse of Parenting, Steve Farrar, King Me, Point Man, Standing Tall, Eric Ludy, God’s Gift to Women, and David Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church, The Map all deal with the topic of the purpose of men. There are many other books and authors on this topic, and we ought to look into this more in schools, in our homes, and in our churches.]
Your dad had two options: be the provider-protector or be a loser. Which didn’t allow for questions like, ‘What creates the glint in my eye?’ He learned to be a human doing first, and a human being second. Or not at all. Which often led him to withdraw from loving himself, and ultimately from the family he loved [This process has been around for a long time, but accelerated after WW II. This also speaks to our identity in Christ and our understanding of what God has actually called us to. Somehow we need to bridge the idea of being a provider-protector AND being able to do that which ‘creates a glint in my eye.’ With the messages that society is sending to our youth, most of our youth seem frozen in terms of what their purpose is and what they want to achieve/accomplish as they move into adulthood. Dads are sometimes required to provide in ways that take them out of the home for longer than they want. One issue around this, as Farrell and Gray explain, has to do with expectations. There is a much higher expectation of a fathers involvement with his family today at the same time that there are increased obligations on a father to fulfill his work obligations. Most jobs now require a father to be on-call almost 24/7 and to bring work home.] To him feeling that his life insurance policy is more valuable than his life [This reminds me of It’s a Wonderful Life].
Your mission to help your son discover his mission begins with helping him discover himself as a human being first, and then helping him find a way of being a human doing – of making a living – that supports him as a human being” (pp. 388-389).
Farrell, W. and Gray, J. (2018). The Boy Crisis: Why our boys are struggling and what we can do about it. Dallas, TX: Benbella Books.