Source: Brian Parsons
It’s Father’s Day weekend. Here in Idaho, the women just finished an annual women’s-only bike ride that attracts participants from around the world. At one point, I contacted them on social media to ask if there was a particular reason that this event always falls on Father’s Day weekend. That seems an appropriate opportunity to celebrate fathers and not commit them to observe a female-only charitable event. There are fifty-two weekends in the year, so selecting this one feels intentional. The response I received was a matter of mere coincidence and availability — but my inclination is that this is just an extension of the pervasive culture that seeks to stifle a celebration of manhood.
Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy authored a book titled It’s Better to Build Boys than Mend Men. As the father of two young boys, I have come to adopt that ethos myself. Father’s Day is a reminder for me to recommit to that ethos and the ensuing responsibilities. Those responsibilities include being present and available, working hard and setting a good example, and being cognizant of how I treat other people. Most important is how I treat their mother.
Though it’s often dismissed as a conservative talking point, there is a negative correlation between fathers and near every malady of modern society. The absence of the father in the household does not portend well for the children. In the U.S., children in a fatherless home are four times more likely to become poor, abuse drugs or alcohol, or suffer from poor mental and emotional health. If boys are to become good men, they need to see a good father and that fatherhood is worthy of celebration.
One of the challenges of raising boys in the current environment is that popular culture holds differing views of what it means to be a good man or father. It’s been well covered elsewhere, but the fatherly representation in modern television and movies is often that of the bumbling idiot dad and the strong leading mother figure. This caricature of men is reinforced in the children’s programming, where the protagonist of every major Disney film of late is a strong female heroine who saves the world, despite the failing efforts of a flawed supporting male cast. Take Disney’s Moana, the defiant girl who defeats darkness with love and perseverance. She is unlike her father who tries to hold her back, or the arrogant Maui, who tries to save the world with brute strength and weaponry. The inherent and softer female traits are good, and the leadership, strength, and courage of men are bad.
Inherently masculine traits have their place and should not be discounted. As C.S. Lewis put it, “[s]ince it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” There may come a time when men are challenged with utilizing these traits in defense of the defenseless, and second-guessing oneself in times of crisis is not an option. As Jordan Peterson stated, “[a] harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control.” The ability to employ strength and courage in virtue separates the men from the monsters.
The world that my boys will enter is one that will at times be hostile to them by no fault of their own. As seen with the #MeToo movement and the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmations, there are some who would like to equate the entire male sex with victimizers, whether for personal or political gain. There will certainly be many lessons that have to be taught that most of us had the luxury of not needing, like avoiding false accusations and precarious positions when dealing with relationships. A healthy respect for women will go a long way in helping them to avoid those traps.
In a world where boys are falling behind their female counterparts in near every category, from academics to employment, it’s important that we not demonize half of the population to promote the other half. We should also celebrate unique traits found most often in boys and girls, respectively. I believe we make a grave error when we try to build up women by tearing down men. Men are at their best when working in concert with women to build better boys rather than mending broken men.