I spend a good deal of alone time with my oldest child. He’s quiet and sensitive and easily lost in the craziness, so I frequently have to seek him out and purposely quiet all the others in order to hear what’s going on in his heart.
Some days we wake early and get coffee before school. Other days, we sit at Barnes & Noble and pretend to read books. On busy days (or weeks), I’ll lie down on his bed with him after the lights are out and we’ll chat. Often, I have to start by apologizing for snapping or rushing him earlier (he moves impossibly slow and unintentionally - a personality type that doesn’t mix well with the stressful hours of my day) and then he slowly opens up, gradually telling me more and more about how he feels.
Last night, he was sharing about feeling embarrassed frequently. The boys at his school often pick on him for being different (he is delightfully different) and yesterday they mocked him for not having more chiseled abs and for not enjoying more violent video games. They told him he was “soft” which is the opposite of “being a boy”.
So, we chatted.
“Buddy, you’re a boy because you were born a boy. There is no such thing as you ‘becoming’ a boy. You are who you are - no personality change will make you more or less of a boy. Being a boy doesn’t mean being violent or forceful - that’s a lie that boys have been told for a long time. Being a boy doesn’t mean being loud. You can be a boy and also be loud, but if you’re a boy who doesn’t enjoy being loud when appropriate, you don’t have to force yourself to be boisterous to be more “boyish”. Being a boy doesn’t mean you have to love fighting or blood and guts. Being a boy means having an X and Y chromosome. And being a boy can look like a million different things. You can wear pink and be a boy. You can love kittens and be a boy. You can be quiet and sensitive and be a boy. You can be loud and excitable and be a boy. You never need to try to be more aggressive to be a boy. And unless you’re fighting against injustice, violence is never the mark of a ‘real’ boy or ‘true’ man.
Violence is fear in one of its ugliest forms and the world LOVES it. Violence sells things. Violence is sometimes mistaken for confidence and often goes hand in hand with a thirst for power. Violence is insecurity.
Being a boy means being brave - brave enough to be honest about feeling hurt, crying when you need to cry, forgiving when it’s hard to forgive.
Being a boy means being wise. Being wise is having the ability to see bullying for what it really is. Bullying is fear and fear is a lie and being wise and brave means rejecting lies, because fear can never tell the truth. Bullying is never about the truth.
Being a boy means being kind - being kind to God’s creations, including yourself. It means caring for yourself, nurturing yourself so that you’re filled up and better able to care for others.
Being a boy means being a leader and being a leader is simply about living the kind of life that shows others the way - the way to Jesus, the way to contentment, the way to joy and peace and love and hope.
Being a boy means one day you will be a man... and a man is simply a boy who has spent a lot of years being a kind, wise, brave leader. He is patient and strong and able to lift others up, all while holding himself up, tall and proud. He knows that no number of visible abs, height or bicep circumference change his manly status. A wise man is smart and prudent - he plans ahead; he works hard, but also knows how to enjoy himself; he loves the people around him purely and respectfully. A brave man loves women. He loves them for their minds and their strength and their purpose. A kind man is thoughtful and courteous of others. He respects and honors himself so much that he can’t help but respect and honor others - it’s simply in his nature.
I know what they’re saying about you hurts - there’s no denying that and no good in ignoring it. But, I need you to see that no one can bully and tell the truth at the same time - bullying cancels out truth-telling. Those practices can’t co-exist. So, when they’re saying that you’re not enough of a boy because you’re not aggressive enough - you may absolutely feel hurt at first, but then you need to reject their fear and the lie that their fear is hiding behind. The same thing is true for girls.
You’re a boy because you were born a boy, because your biology and anatomy are as such. Which means whoever you are on the inside is exactly enough!
Sweet, not-so-sweet, sensitive, loud, terrible at paying attention, great at paying attention, slow, fast, tall, short, skinny or thick... any combination of these make up a great boy.
And you are the best boy, well on his way to being the best man.”
Okay, I guess I chatted, but he smiled and hugged me tightly for minutes when I finished. And I went to bed a little angry at the world for telling all of our sons that in order to be boys, they need to follow a script, a lifestyle that never benefits our boys, but the powers that be at the moment.
And I think it’s okay for me to be a little angry right now. And if you’re an upstanding man or woman raising an upstanding boy/man, you might want to be a little angry too, because a lot of men are being lumped in with predators and assumed the worst of. Being male doesn’t make anyone wrong, bad or dangerous, but the script boys are being fed is certainly wrong, bad and dangerous.
Not my boy, Satan. Not. My. Boy.