The book ‘Tender Warrior’ by Stu Webber was loaned to me by an airline captain who was once an officer in the Australian air force. I have a great deal of respect for any man that has served in the armed forces and I don’t take their recommendations lightly. As I turned the pages of this book I could see why my friend liked it so much.
The author, Stu Webber, was a captain in the US army and served in the Special Forces in Vietnam. You don’t get into the Special Forces because you can play tiddlywinks. Stu Webber is a brilliant writer who is deeply spiritual but still a man’s man. His chapter on the ‘Incredible Power of Fathering’ is most revealing to say the least. Read this book at your own peril. See more in Special Feature. Here is an excerpt:
Even a glance at our culture bears out the power of fathering – or the power of its absence. It may very well be that the major problems in America today stem from a lack of fatherhood. Economics. Politics. Poverty. Gender confusion. Urban gangs. Think about it. Fathering is so incredibly powerful that, like gravity – whether you recognize it or not, whether you believe in it or not, whether you think it touches you or not – it does indeed affect you. Like a gigantic magnetic field, it pulsates with power, energy, and effect.
Dr James Dobson says, “Our very survival as a people will depend on the presence or absence of masculine leadership in millions of homes.”
Prof Max Lerner writes, “The ‘vanishing father’ is perhaps the central fact of the changing American family structure today.”
An article in the New York Times Magazine states, “The Youth Board realized it had penetrated into a world where there is no father. The welfare world of New York is a fatherless world.”
London’s Daily Telegraph warns:
“Entire neighborhoods will probably become dominated by an underclass of young delinquents within the next decade. The scale of crime . . . violence, and drug taking could easily surpass that of American cities. The fewer fathers in a community, the more the children would run wild.”
Robert Bly, poet of the recent men’s movement, notes the pain of this fatherlessness:
Being lied to by older men amounts to a broken leg. When the young men arrived in Viet Nam and found they’d been lied to, they received immeasurably deep wounds. Never being welcomed into the male world by older men is a wound in the chest. The police chief of Detroit remarked that the young men he arrests not only don’t have any responsible older man in the house, they have never met one. When you look at a gang, you’re looking, as Michael Meade remarked, at young men who have no older men around them at all. . .
Think back through your own memories. Work with them. Where they’re negative, get help. Seek counsel. Where they’re positive, reproduce them. Pass them on.
I remember my dad’s hairy arms. I always wanted hairy arms, like Dad. Silly? No, just a childhood fascination with the nature of masculine maturity in the physical realm, the easiest one for a child to see. I wanted to be like him. And if that meant hairy arms, I couldn’t wait.
I remember my dad’s body odor. Sound peculiar? Maybe. But you probably do too. I remember thinking in my little-boy-like way, “I wonder if I’ll smell like that someday.” I remember thinking that maybe that was the special scent of our clan, the tribal distinctive, so to speak. We didn’t wear some of the ancient family-tribal markings I had seen on TV or in National Geographic. Maybe this was our way. I wanted to grow up into that someday.
I wanted to pray like my dad prayed. I wanted to understand the Bible the way he understood the Bible. I wanted to grapple with the mystery of ‘God’s Plan of the Ages’ like he always talked about in that grand, admiring tone of voice. I wanted to take hold of life the same way he took hold of life.
Why aren’t more men ‘taking hold’ in our country? Why aren’t more men showing young hands where to ‘hold on’? Could it be that the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath took Dad out of the home entirely? Have we therefore forgotten what dads do? What real men are all about?
Our culture is out of step. We are out of order. And there’s nothing more painful to witness than men who have forgotten what a man is. Dr Henry Biller speaks a mouthful when he says:
The principal danger to fatherhood today is that fathers do not have the vital sense of father power that they have had in the past.
Because of a host of pressures from society, the father has lost the confidence that he is naturally important to his children, that he has the power to affect children, to guide them and help them grow. He isn’t confident that fatherhood is a basic part of being masculine and the legitimate focus of his life.
At the root of masculinity is fatherhood. But think of that term in large, rather than narrow, terms. If you don’t have children of your own, you can still father. Fathering is a vast field. The easiest aspect of fatherhood is the most obvious and physical – reproducing children biologically. But fathering has only a little to do with biology. At its heart it has everything to do with originating, influencing, and shaping. I believe if we understand it rightly, we will conclude that every man is, at his soul level, a father (king, warrior, teacher, friend), whether he has biological children or not.
Accept that you as a father, are a king, warrior, teacher and friend to your children, and then live it out. If you can, you will be a better man than I, which is really the whole point of this newsletter.
Yours for more tender warriors
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Your actions might help another man become a tender warrior for his children. Guess who will benefit the most?