Are Men Really Wild at Heart?
In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge brings up some thought provoking questions about modern masculinity. The thesis of the book is that the deepest desire and drive, in the heart of men, is to have a beauty to rescue, an adventure to live, and a battle to fight.
Are those instinctive qualities of men? What is stopping men from embracing their masculinity?
Divorce, abuse, the feminist movement, the absence of a father figure, and the effemination of men, have caused a lot of confusion for boys who are transitioning into manhood. Eldredge has some pretty gutsy ideas on what is takes for a boy to become a man—a real man.
Men Have to be Initiated
One of Eldrege's strongest points in that boys need to be initiated into manhood. Without this essential act of initiation, he argues that men have a difficult time with self-identity, self-worth, and laying aside childish ways.
In Jewish culture, a boy became a man when he was thirteen, had memorized portions of the Torah, and was thrown a party to induct him into the world of men. A Jewish boy knew distinctly that he was no longer considered a boy, but a man. It was his coming out party for manhood. From that day forward, the whole community would look at him differently.
This idea of initiation thrived in ancient cultures, where boys were taught to hunt, given tribal ceremonies, or had to pass a courage test in order to be considered a man.
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs are men who have come alive.
-Wild at Heart
In today's society, a man turns 18 and is handed a lotto ticket, as if it's saying, "Ok son, now you're a man." What an anti-climatic shove into manhood!
More than a ceremony or a party, a man needs to know that he is approved of, that he has worth, and that he has what is takes. Elgerege believes that this is best done by a father, but can be done by older men in a boy's life.
“In order to understand how a man receives a wound, you must understand the central truth of a boy’s journey to manhood: Masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who he is and what he’s got from a man, or the company of men. He cannot learn it any other place. He cannot learn it from other boys, and he cannot learn it from the world of women.” -Wild at Heart
Men: Did you feel initiated? Accepted into manhood.
An Adventure to Live
According to Eldredge, men need an adventure to fuel their soul. He believes that adventure is in the heart of every man. In a co-authored article for CBN, Eldredge explains a man's drive towards adventure.
"I think that sense of adventure gets tamed out of us. We also get frightened. Somewhere along the way, a man loses that confidence, that recklessness or fearlessness he had as a boy. Somewhere along the story of his life, doubt comes in. And a doubt goes like this: “No you don’t. You don’t have what it takes. You can’t come through. You can’t pull this off. So just put your nose to the horse in front of you and get in line and just become a gelding. Tie your reins up there at the corporate corral and give up any sense of risk.”
Eldredge makes two very interesting points: Adventure is risk, and that adventure is tamed out of them. Men were built to be strong, courageous, and brave. They were made to climb mountains, conquer lands, fight for injustice, and push their limits.
Take a look at any young boy. He wants to see how fast he can run, how brave he can be against imaginary foes, and how many distant worlds he can conquer with a space ship. If you've ever spent any time around little boys, you know how tedious it can be to constantly be disarming them or making them come in from exploring. It's in their nature.
What does he mean that men have been tamed? Watch any nightly sitcom and you will see men being demeaned, made fun of, portrayed as simple minded, and walked over by women. Think Homer Simpson, Raymond, Tim Taylor, Joey Tribbiani. Often the women think of their men as slobs, fools, and time-wasters on meaningless projects. What message is that sending men? A man showing leadership in the home would never make it to prime-time. You can thank the feminist movement for that. Nope, men are made out to be slightly smarter, but more annoying, than the family dog.
As Robert Bly laments in Iron John, “Some women want a passive man if they want a man at all; the church wants a tamed man—they are called priests; the university wants a domesticated man—they are called tenure-track people; the corporation wants a . . . sanitized, hairless, shallow man.
-Wild at Heart
A Beauty to Rescue
There is no denying that men were made with a strong desire to pursue women. Historically, the men have always been the pursuers. Even in nature, the male species tend to use their vibrant colors, their muscular bodies, or their voices to attract the females.
From Rupunzel locked away in a tower, to Rose standing on the bow of the Titanic, our stories are chock-full of masculine salvation of the heroine. At his deepest core, a man feels a desire to protect a woman, to fight for her, care for her, and cherish her—and if women would be honest with themselves, they deeply desire to be fought for. Who wouldn't want to be Helen of Troy?
According to an anonymous writer on Author Leslie Ludy's blog, here is a description of an attractive man. "He has begged for the harshest tasks, the hardest knocks, and the darkest dens. He is called to battle. He is called to go into the greatest strongholds of hell upon this earth and make a stand for his King."
A man doesn't need to bubble wrap his wife, but it should be noted that men feel a deep desire to protect, regardless of if the object of his protection wants or needs protection.
Steven Stosny, from the Psychotherapy Network, sees the connection between a man's love and his protection as inseparable. He writes in his article, Do Men Love Differently than Women, "The glue that keeps men (and males in social animal groups) bonded is the instinct to protect. If you listen long enough to men talking about what it means to love, you'll notice that loving is inextricably linked, for many men, to some form of protection. If men can't feel successful at protecting, they can't fully love.
The horrible story of the Aurora shooting tells an interesting story about the protectiveness of men. Of the 12 who perished, at least three of them died protecting others from the spray of bullets. Among the dead, were 8 men. Can it be used for scientific research? No— but is does say something about men.
A Battle to Win
Men were made to conquer. Why is it that men are drawn to Braveheart, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, and 300? Why is it that little boys turn everything into a weapon? Why do men love playing sports and video games?
Could it be that football uses the same skills and tactics as warfare? Could video games tap into their fighting instincts?
Sometimes when the topic of male strength comes up, the issue of violence comes up too. A significant sector of society wants to tame men so that they cannot use their strength as a threat. When men use their strength and instincts to produce harm on the innocent and those weaker than them, they are betraying their masculinity. Little boys need to play war so that when an enemy comes knocking at the door they can fight for their family, their king, and their country.
A man needs a much bigger orbit than a woman. He needs a mission, a life purpose, and he needs to know his name. Only then is he fit for a woman, for only then does he have something to invite her into.
-Wild at Heart
A Woman's Perspective
I'm not saying that women can't be any of those things. Women can be brave, adventurous, and fight for justice. I feel that I fit all of those categories myself. However, I want my focus to be on discovering and cultivating masculine instinct in men. I do not see it as a threat to myself or womanhood when a man acts the way he was designed to be.
I am constantly amazed at a man's innate ability to compartmentalize. It allows a man to be both gentle and brutal. They can curl up by the fire with their dog, and crack a chicken's neck and eat if for dinner, without missing a step. It allows a cop to see the worst of mankind during his shift, and still be able to read his kid a bedtime story and gently kiss his wife goodnight. Oh, how I wish I could, for a day, look inside a man's brain to see how it is marvelously wired.
There is nothing more refreshing than to meet a man—a real man—one who is confident in who he is as a man—who uses his strength to fight for those who cannot stand up for themselves—who can both fight like a warrior and gently soothe a downtrodden soul. We don't need fake bravado and false chivalry. No, what the world needs is men who will stand up and fight for freedom, who will storm the brothels of the third world and main st, who will rescue the weak, and conquer the oppressor.
Men, in doing that, you will come alive like never before.
John Eldredge's wife co-wrote the female companion to Wild at Heart, called Captivating. The book offers up the idea that women want to be rescued, that they want to be the beauty a man fights for— and that they want to be part of the adventure. In a conflicting world of feminine ideals, Captivating offers a fresh look at what it means to be a woman.