A few weeks ago, I came across a piece written by David French that vividly detailed the increasingly distressed state of American men – particularly men at the lower end of the socio-economic scale.
David wrote, “The story of men in the United States is a story of extremes. On the one hand, there is an elite cohort of men who do very, very well … Men can do very, very well in the United States of America, disproportionately so. But men also can do very, very poorly – again disproportionately so.”
Sadly, the number of boys and men who are doing very, very poorly continues to rise, while the number of those who are doing very, very well seemingly is not. As a society, we are seeing increasing numbers of boys and young men “fail to launch” into adulthood, seem directionless and unwilling to accept personal responsibility, engage in violent acts, and fall into increasing despair, resulting in major societal problems such as the current opioid crisis.
All of these are symptoms of a great problem whose root cause is the loss of male identity – an identity based on an understanding of the concept of a gentleman. This loss has occurred because of the lack of male role models for young men to learn from on how to be a gentleman who puts the needs of others above their own.
For instance, thanks in part to the breakdown of the family over the past 50-plus years, we now have at least two generations of men who did not have fathers, or other significant male figures, in their lives to mentor them and guide them on the right path to be a loving husband, father, and contributor to the common good of society.
But it is not just broken homes that have resulted in broken men. Even boys in intact homes may not have a father or another man in their lives who can guide them through the critical development steps that transform them into gentlemen. In many cases. these boy’s fathers – either for emotional or physical reasons – did not have fathers or significant male figures to guide them – resulting in their inability to guide their sons.
Without these positive influences, men can often become angry, despondent, and self-absorbed – all traits that are not good for them, women, children, and our culture. They become the antithesis of being a gentleman – men who respect women, love children, and take their role as a provider and nurturer of their family seriously.
As David French so eloquently writes, “…Regardless of how you define masculinity, here are two jobs that only men can fill: Only a man can be a husband. And those jobs have a purpose and meaning that transcends the purpose and meaning of any profession or career.”
Thus, we need to be looking at what we are communicating to our young men. Instead of telling them to live a life where “you do you” and seek only self-pleasure, we need to help them understand what it means to be a gentleman, to make a lifelong contribution to family and society, and what their ultimate purpose is in life besides self-gratification.
These last questions are vitally important. When young men find their purpose in life, they become disciplined and focused. They realize their lives are not their own. They come to model self-sacrifice and unconditional love to those around them. They become what is called a “good citizen” regardless of their economic lot in life.
Those of us who have good role models and are doing well need to be pass along the wisdom we have gleaned from our fathers or significant male mentors to the next generation of men. That is the process that will result in the restoration of the American male, fill him with purpose and hope, and fulfill the role for which he has been intended: to be a gentleman, a husband, a father, and a provider.
Great gentlemen become great citizens. And great citizens bring about positive cultural transformation – starting in their personal lives, then in their homes, and eventually permeating all aspects of society. Let us strive to provide the necessary guidance to turn boys not just into men, but into gentlemen. If we succeed, it will break the current cycle of decline and despair and place the American male back on the road to fulfillment and success – in their lives, their families, and in society
This article is in line with our first speaker engagement at Lighthouse Voices Next Tuesday February 15 “How to Stop Failing Young Men.”
Photo from Shutterstock.