In every hero tale we see struggles, even battles, for status. Worth and status from one aspect of honor, of course, but honor also involves self-discipline, compassion for others, a sense of purpose that develops in the boy between his birth and whatever “happily ever after” he seeks. So, in hero tales, the boy must prove to a king or similar authority his loyalty to a specific set of values, goals, and people, by which he shows he is honorable and true, and do so compassionately.
Boys get all this, even if they don’t articulate it.
They have a built-in drive to pursue honor by demonstrating such virtues as respect, honesty, integrity, self-control, leadership, and compassion. Their instinct is reinforced when they watch their parents exercising honorable choices. They see that a person can choose to be generous instead of greedy, compassionate instead of apathetic, honest instead of deceitful. They observe the value of self-control, of choosing to respond rather than impulsively react.
When parents stop mid-action and decide to do the right thing and be compassionate to someone in need, their sons are watching it all happen; they want to be part of it, and they want mom and dad and other mentors to help them with the decision-making process.
Boys want to be honorable just like mom and dad, and when mom and dad fail to be honorable, boys will hopefully want to be honorable despite mom or dad.
Teach Before They Tune Out
The older a boy gets and the more independent he becomes, the less room he allows for parental instruction. If a boy has not learned a great deal of honor, loyalty, and self-discipline by the time he moves through adolescence, either he may not gain the motivation and power to succeed in life or he may move toward groups, leaders, friends, and gangs of power that inappropriately answer his longings with a twisted view of honor.
We may still be able to save him, but it is harder to instill honor in an eighteen-year-old who has given his life to dishonorable activities than in a ten-year-old who still looks up to us.
Who were the heroes in your life who taught you honor, compassion, loyalty, the right way to pursue your worth?
When a man says, “My father (or mother) was my hero,” he means, to a great extent, “My dad or mom taught me honor.” This induction into the hero’s honor code involves hundreds of incidents, teachings, interventions, and enjoyments.
- It can occur in something as simple as a parent or other trusted role model instructing a boy to take two or three deep breaths when angry or agitated, teaching him to calm down so his intellectual response can catch up to his physical reaction.
- It can involve a grandparent or other mentor offering two or three short truths about values and honor to guide a boy’s actions.
- It can involve a coach debriefing after a situation where the boy was not able to successfully assert self-control and act honorably.
- It can involve peers coaching a boy to be more compassionate to a girl or boy he is in conflict with.
Mothers can do all of these things, yet at the same time, many boys are often better able to absorb honor teaching, especially in adolescence, from men.
With moms, the fifteen-year-old boy’s unconscious mind is always battling the idea “But she doesn’t know what a man’s life is like.” This adolescent boy adores his mom, but he also needs men who have lived a male life of hero-search to give him guidance about what part honor plays in a man’s life.
In Deuteronomy 11:18-19 we find instructions specifying how the Israelites were to impart God’s commands to successive generations. These directives also illustrate the way parents can convey important life concepts of honor day by day, moment by moment:
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Scripture teaches us that unlike in tales or movies where time is condensed, heroic honor training in the real world occurs in the dailiness of life, in the midst of loss, pain immorality — indeed, anything can provide an opportunity for honor-teaching to occur.
The above is excerpted from Raising Boys By Design: What the Bible and Brain Science Reveal About What Your Son Needs To Thrive by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, and Michael Gurian.
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