“Without a vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18
As fathers, it is our duty to provide a direction, a vision of identity, for our sons.
Simply stated, a vision is comprised of a) Who We Are, b) What We Do.
Why is this important? Because a young man’s identity is going to be informed and will develop . . . into something. Someone is going to do it – is doing it. Purposefully or by default, the process is underway. This is exactly how the Hitler Youth gained power and how inner city gangs recruit new members. In the absence of a compelling vision young people are given one. Our sons, without exception, will identify with something that offers them the camaraderie, security, and purpose of belonging.
The question isn’t “Will our sons develop a vision of who they are?” but, “Where will they get the vision of themselves they will ultimately have?”
Where does a young boy find out about who he is and what he should do? That message comes to a young man from the most purposeful, influential, and persistent people around him. For a son to be on a healthy, directed journey to godly manhood, he must be told who he is by example, words spoken, and the Word of God. Make no mistake, boys are going to be told who and what they are every day of their lives – by the culture, by the enemy of their souls, by peers, or by you. It’s a constant. His identity will be informed. We fathers must not be passive when it comes to the informing and giving context to our sons’ understanding of themselves.
So, Dad, what have you been telling your son? Some might be tempted to say, “Truthfully? Not much. I haven’t actively and verbally communicated much of any message to my son.”
Nothing could be more wrong. Whether you’ve been purposefully active, verbal or nonverbal, present or absent, fathers absolutely and powerfully communicate to their sons who they are. If the message is negative, or if they learn through our absence and silence their worth is low, they’ll eventually find another source of input that tells them they have value and purpose.
Dad, you’ve got some pretty committed competitors in this culture, determined to inform your son of who He is. In the world of business, the last thing a companies want is for their competitors to define them. Consider the advertisements of two Internet providers here in Oregon. One uses a racing greyhound dog in its logo, implying speed. The competitor asks the question, “Why pay for internet service that runs like a dog?”
There were roughly 40 billion dollars spent on internet advertising in 2012. Take Coke and Pepsi, their marketing executives lay awake at night thinking of how to spend hundreds of millions of dollars defining themselves “up” and the competition “down”. Why go to all the trouble and expense? Because messages are powerful influencers and you can’t win the game by default.
When it comes to raising men, start early with the “messaging”. The Bible makes great cause of ensuring the distinctiveness of men and women. The Old Testament is filled with the requirements of such distinctions, the follow-up of which is seen throughout the New Testament where the distinction between the sexes or lack thereof leads to eternal consequences.
We don’t have to raise boys. That happens all by itself, evidenced by the glut in our culture of 20 – 35 year old males who have no direction, no purpose, and no sense of themselves. But, are we raising men?
Effective identity casting is only done in a positive context. So many fathers drive their sons from the very things they want for them because of a negative, destructive approach to the process.
If we are to win the hearts of our sons to identify with healthy, godly masculinity, only a consistent, positive approach will be effective. Our words, our actions, and our face – our countenance – must show approval. Too often we dads fall into the pattern of negative communication. This won’t ensure our sons develop the idea that they are failures and will never measure up, but it goes a long way to help.
We make becoming a man so much easier for our sons when we avoid walking in the flesh in our relationship with them – when we avoid sinning against our sons, for that is exactly what a negative, angry communication pattern with our sons actually is: Sin.
The battle for the minds and hearts of our sons (and daughters too!) is being waged every day. Who are they becoming? That depends on the most purposeful, influential, persistent people in their lives. May God give us fathers the wisdom, fortitude, and perseverance to be faithful in teaching our sons the responsibility and value of becoming masculine, godly men.
Matt Jacobson is a biblical marriage coach and founder of FaithfulMan.com a biblical marriage, parenting, and discipleship ministry providing written and audio teaching, as well as couples marriage coaching. He is the co-host (with his wife, Lisa) of Faithful Life Podcast and is author of the bestseller, 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Matt is pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship and is married to Lisa, founder of Club31Women.com (they have 8 kids!).