Our boys need pain.
My guess is that you know this already. You sense it like you sense directions and don’t need maps (don’t run too far with that analogy within earshot of your wife).
When I address this topic with moms, I usually tame down the rhetoric a bit in order to deflect their concern over the fact that I just said, “Our boys need pain.” But with you fellow dads, I think I’m just saying something that you instinctually believe, but live in fear of saying.
It’s not difficult to spot the areas of culture where the lack of healthy pain for boys has manifested itself. Our sons are growing up in a world where the concept of working hard to achieve things is actually offensive to even mention. Because mom and dad (or just mom, in an unfortunate trend) sheltered them from challenge, they think all of humanity exists to serve them. They don’t think they have to work hard for the chance to have a good job, a nice house, or an excellent wife.
Those good things are fought for and won, not handed to you.
God told Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28 that they would need to be fruitful and multiply (no problem there) and fill the earth and…wait for it…subdue it. That means work. Work itself is very healthy. Think about that moment of satisfaction when you worked hard to achieve something and you realize you just achieved it. As men, we rightly find a great deal of our identity in our work. How long does it take you when you meet a new fella to ask him, “So what do you do?” There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not advocating works-based salvation here; just recognizing a healthy male trait.
In a culture where everyone gets a first place ribbon in the race, we as dads must hold the line and teach our sons about reality. Reality is that there are winners and losers. Sometimes you are the winner and get the reward. Sometimes you are the loser. Yes, the loser. Their time spent in pain as the loser can teach them some of the most valuable lessons in life. They will simultaneously learn humility and rebounding.
Working hard and experiencing pain brings growth and forward momentum. The basements of parents everywhere are filled with boy-men who always had things handed to them, like phony first place ribbons, and then balked at the first sign of challenge in the real world. Hence why many of them are on the couch in mom’s basement doing nothing but playing video games- not out of necessity, but out of pure cowardice and laziness. Video games are great. Maybe mom and dad’s basement is a safety net needed for a season. But safety nets are not permanent homes, and video games are not jobs (unless you literally have a video game job, in which case it’s pretty cool).
I have never heard of the woman who, when pressed for honesty, wanted to be married to a lazy coward. Some girls are deceived by the same culture that deceives our boys, that gives them a desirable image of a weakling who wants nothing but roses and sensitivity. Women realize this is a lie when they see that the weak, sniveling coward they married doesn’t have the you-know-whats to love them with passion and selfless dedication. We are told in Scripture to give ourselves up for our wives. As in, suffer and know pain in her place.
We must raise sons who are, to use the title of Stu Weber’s classic book, “Tender Warriors.” A warrior only becomes known as such when he has seen battle and known pain. When he has gone through an initiation into manhood that was hard and left him somewhat scarred.
So let’s teach them. Let’s show them these three principles: See battle. Know pain. Be a man.