In our day we face shortages of all types: water shortages, skill shortages, food shortages, housing shortages and now the approaching threat of power shortages.
None of these shortages is as dire as the shortage of manhood. Feminist author Betty McLellan published a book called, ‘Help I’m Living with a Man Boy’. Translated into 15 different languages it became an instant best seller. We can complain all we like about our feminist friends, but the reality is that many men have never grown up.
Video Link: “You actually don’t grow up until someone is more important than you.” Jordan Peterson
Betty McLellan says in her book addressed to women:
Remember how much you looked forward to meeting the man of your dreams? According to the stereotype you grew up with, he would be older than you, taller than you, stronger than you. He would earn more money than you. He would love and cherish you. He would be prepared to lay down his life to protect you and the children you had jointly brought into the world.
Most women enter into marriage, or long-term commitment, consciously or unconsciously believing they are taking the first step toward the fulfilment of such a dream. Their commitment is to sharing their lives with another adult which, they anticipate, will include discussing things together, laughing, playing, enjoying each other’s company, loving each other, negotiating, working together to ensure fairness and justice for both of them as well as their offspring.
For some women, it does proceed in that way, but for others there is an early and devastating jolt. The reality is that the man of their dreams has turned out to be a ‘child’.
What does that mean? What is a man-child actually like” To understand the man-child phenomenon, it is necessary to look first, at the attitudes and behaviour of children generally, and then to place one of those children in a man’s body, with all the power and privileges that come with being an adult male. The result can be frightening.
Young children are usually very egocentric. In other words, their whole world revolves around themselves and their needs. When babies are hungry, the demand attention by crying until their need is satisfied.
When young children want attention, they make a fuss until they get the attention they are looking for. When angry, they may lash out at others. When frustrated, they may throw tantrums. When unable to get their own way they may withdraw and sulk. (Does any of this sound familiar?) All such immature responses are perfectly natural and understandable in young children because immature responses are normal in those who have not had time to mature. In adults, however, such behaviour is unacceptable.
It is expected that a child who develops in a normal, healthy way will gradually become aware that there are other people in the world who also have needs and whose needs are as legitimate as their own. In most children, this maturing does not occur automatically but comes about with the help and guidance and example of significant adults.
I don’t know about you, but I have met many boys in men’s bodies and their exasperated wives. Many times the marriage is in cardiac arrest and it is too late to save it.
How can we men help solve such a manhood shortage, and what is a man anyway?
“For me it comes down to just two words. He should have backbone and heart,” writes Biddulph.
“Backbone is the ability to stand firm, endure, be true to his word and sometimes put himself last, especially under circumstances of great need or stress.”
That’s pretty cool: backbone and heart – someone you can count on, someone with compassion.
Biddulph then contrasts the failings of the ye olde world stoic fathers of the first half of last century, with the sensitive new age guys of recent decades and finds them both lacking – because they went too far towards either pole – too much backbone, too much heart.
He then gets around to what he calls “five awakenings, five truths”.
Again, I can’t do the work justice without transcribing it, but it’s worth reading Manhood just for this chapter because it’s packed with a lot of wisdom.
He quotes the Franciscan monk, Richard Rohr, who Biddulph says “has distilled his thinking and writing over 30 years into what he believes are the core messages of becoming an adult male”.
“These are the individual truths that young men need to confront, grieve over, and eventually celebrate as ultimate liberation.”
He suggests also that coming to terms with these truths was a large part of the initiatory rites that almost all men used to undergo in almost every culture in the world until recently.
“Initiation centers on the most pressing spiritual task of any culture – making the young wise enough, soon enough, that they may join the tribe as superb and contributory human beings,” writes Biddulph.
“It’s important for us to understand that the sacred dimension for our ancestors was practical, not just some imaginative enrichment for long nights around the fire.
“The sacred was coded wisdom, it was the thing that kept people alive,” writes Biddulph.
Ed Cole summed up the problem well, “When a man acts like a child, it forces his wife to act like his mother”. This simply reinforces the problem.
There is a deep truth to initiation and rites of passage, It’s the pathway to accepting responsibility and manhood. It’s the only way to solve the manhood shortage.
Backbone and heart are the core values of true manhood. The truth always lives in the tension.
Manhood is a journey, not a destination. Just don’t stop along the way for too long. Riga mortis might set in!
But the good news is that you are still reading this newsletter/blog every week, you’re not dead yet, so onward, ever onward. The world needs more men like you.
Yours for more men
PS: My wife said that she feels sorry for my readers this week as I have impressed on them the need to grow up. She says that there are just as many women who have not grown up – yet their symptoms are rarely revealed. Unfortunately it is a problem common to all humanity. No gender has a monopoly on childlike behaviour. It is just that it is least expected in a man!