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Jul 5, 2011

Parenting – Boys Fighting

From Brent - A reader asks:

What do you think about young boys fighting to defend themselves or to get someone to quit bullying them?

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Wow. There's a lot more to this question than meets the eye, and a pretty good chance I'm going to get myself a lot of "feedback" on this topic (if you know what I mean).

There are a host of issues that go into this: love, turn the other cheek, Christian witness, the feminization of men and boys in our country, the violence of today, courage, and raising boys to be "manly" and Godly men.

As a former Drill Sergeant, black belt and athlete, you might be tempted to think I have a very skewed perspective that oozes of testosterone, but that is not the case. I know, have witnessed, and have experienced the difference between being "manly" in a Godly way versus being "manly" from a fleshly standpoint. I know the difference between Godly spiritual "strength" and fleshly, pride-derived strength.

The Softening of Men

We live in a culture today that seeks to soften and feminize men. That's just a fact (and one might contend it is part of Satan's plan to confuse and weaken the human race). Unfortunately, we are so indoctrinated with feminism, male guilt and political correctness that typically our immediate response is to start defending why it is good for men to act like women (sensitivity, expressing emotions, crying, being feelings oriented, etc.).

Not only does this "feminizing" of men confuse them, it also blurs the definitions and roles of male/female established by God. Combine all this and you get exactly what you see today: disintegrating families, confusion in marriage, rampant sexual confusion, gender perversion and boys and girls who "grow up" not having a clue what being "men" and "women" is all about (and if they do, having to constantly apologize, explain and fight embarrassment over it).

We see an alarming famine of courage, chivalry, patriotism and manliness (and missing for ladies is propriety, true femininity, love for motherhood and loyalty to husbands).

Modern Violence

The modern onslaught of violence in entertainment and real life also adds to the confusion of what being a real man is all about. The gang codes about so-called "respect" teach young men that being a man is all about never allowing "disrespect" and then meeting any disrespect with instant violence. This isn't respect; it's how wild animals act.

We have religions that teach violence and killing is the ultimate act of being manly (and Godly) and will result in eternal paradise filled with the delights of man (sex, indulgence).

We have games, movies and music that teach "being a man" means exploiting women and stomping on anyone that gets your way of getting what you want.

Weak Church, Weak Role Models

All this has affected the Church. We have weak teaching and weak role models to demonstrate for our young men how to grow up to be "manly." Many churches have succumbed to the pressures of political correctness or feminism and have not only quit teaching boys that it is okay to be MEN, but have also turned Jesus into a prissy, pretty, timid hippie that is better suited for the "summer of love" than for saving the world.

The Godly Man

Teaching our boys to be "manly" is simply teaching them to be what God wants a man to be (among other things):

  • Godly - Titus 2:12 - teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, (NKJV)
  • Holy - Romans 12:1 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (NKJV)
  • Loving - John 13:34-35 - A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (NKJV)
  • Courageous
  • Chivalrous - 1 John 3:16 - By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (NKJV)
  • Serving - 1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. (NKJV)
  • Honest - Proverbs 12:22 - Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal truthfully are His delight. (NKJV)
  • Hardworking - 1 Thessalonians 4:11 - that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, (NKJV)
  • Bold - Hebrews 13:6 - So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (NKJV)
  • The leader - 1 Corinthians 11:1 - Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (NKJV)

Keeping in mind that those qualities are being taught, I come back to the original question. Should boys be told its okay to fight (not sport fighting like boxing, but street fighting)? My answers: sometimes.

Fighting is never appropriate:

  • As part of peer pressure
  • As a dare or for the enjoyment of street fighting (as opposed to controlled, athletic sport)
  • To humiliate or pick on someone
  • Because it's "cool" or to be accepted
  • To inflict your personal will on someone else
  • Out of anger
  • To dominate someone for the pleasure of the "power" you feel

However, I believe there are times when we have to stand up and physically fight, and thus, our boys should be taught the same:

  • To defend a weaker person
  • To defend yourself
  • When it cannot be physically avoided

The last two reasons are closely related. If a man finds himself in a situation where the choice is to stand there and be pummeled, or to defend himself, then I believe we have the Godly right to physically defend ourselves.

Wait! Doesn't the Bible say to love your enemies and bless them? Yes, but notice I didn't say, "Hate the person and curse them." I said, "Defend yourself."

There may be times when you cannot defend yourself or God clearly leads you not to. Ask Paul and Jesus. They suffered specifically for the cause of Christ. And we will too. In those times, God may lead us to endure it, and at times, to defend ourselves. There is no "one size fits all."

As a GENERAL PRINCIPLE part of teaching our boys to "be men" is teaching them that it is appropriate to fight, sometimes to defend ourselves, or if it genuinely cannot be avoided.

As for the issue of defending the weak, I do not believe there is anything more cowardly than coming up with any excuse, including personal safety, to avoid fighting to defend someone weaker who is being hurt. This is a point I have hammered home to my sons since they were little, and it is a tough thing to live up to today in our schools and society. There is hardly anything more cowardly to teach our boys than to have them stand by and watch while a weaker kid is being beat up, picked on or otherwise humiliated. I unapologetically teach my sons that.

In the end, the "fighting" question must be left with each Godly father to determine on a case by case basis. My admonition is that the times we tell our boys to "fight" be few and far between and for reasons that will promote and cultivate both their Christian witness and their spiritual upbringing. And yes, I believe there are times when both are served even in a fight.

I'll leave you with an example from my own fathering experience:

One of my boys had been coming home for several weeks in a row telling me about a boy two years older than him who was picking on him every day at school.

No matter what my son did, didn't do, say or didn't say, this older boy would push him around, "dare" him to fight, and generally humiliate him in front of the older kids.

My son is no "sissy" neither in size or demeanor. At the time, in 9th grade, he was six feet tall, 180 pounds, strong as an ox and pretty tough from years of rough-housing with his Dad and older brother (much to the chagrin of mothers, I believe rough-housing, horse play and competition is healthy between fathers and brothers).

After a time of instructing him how to respond and avoid this bully, I finally decided it was the proper time to tell my son it was okay to stand up and fight (or at least be prepared to).

I explained to him how most bullies are really cowards and all talk. I told him this was probably true in this case because the boy was older and bigger than my son.

I gave him permission to respond, "Okay, let's fight," the next time the bully challenged him but warned him it should be no idle invitation. I told him the bully would probably back down, but if not, he must be prepared to back his words up.

A few days later, in front of a group of kids, the bully started in on him again. He began taunting my son, then pushing him and "daring him" to fight. So my son surprised him with, "Okay, let's go," and proceeded to take his coat off.

My son told me the bully acted shocked but at that point had to either choose to back off (and lose face) or actually fight. So they fought.

My son was thrown to ground a couple of times by the bigger boy, but in the end, my boy pummeled the kid with a few well timed haymakers. He showed the bully that no matter how many times he threw him down, he was still going to be looking at fight when he got on his feet. In the end, the bully said "enough" and hasn't bothered my son again.

Following that, I sat my son down and told him, "Don't get proud." It is the tendency of boys who win a fight to become the bully and start strutting around with a chip on their shoulder enjoying their new found "power" among their peers.

I told him that he did what he needed to do to deal with the bully. The fight served its purpose but now the fighting was over and it was time to try and become friends with the bully if possible.

I sternly warned him (as I had many times before) about EVER being the bully, fighting without real reason, or standing by and watching someone weaker get bullied.

In this case, I cannot see where my parenting choice did anything but instill Godly character, discipline and courage into my son.

Fighting should be a last resort for specific reasons and with the right motivation, but yes, I believe there are times when part of growing up to be Godly men may involve a fight or two.

What are your questions about parenting and family?

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MoserUpdates said...

thanks for this. I've often wondered about this subject. I expect our son, who is very confident but also has CP, to be bullied in the future. My only questions is did he get suspended? I know there's a 0 tolerance policy in our school districts and have heard of many getting suspended just for defending themselves after the school did nothing to stop the bullying.

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

Great post!

As the mother of 6 boys (and 6 girls), I agree with this. Don't fight for the sake of fighting, but definitely know how to stand up for a weaker person and/or yourself (even if you might get hurt in the process).

And, yes, my boys and their dad are well known for their friendly rough-housing. Even mama has "pinned" a few of her teen boys in wrestling matches over the years. :)

As I was reading this I immediately thought of my sweet friend in her early 20's.

Several years after the fact, she is still suffering the mental/emotional consequences of a situation where some young men did NOT know how to defend and protect the women they were with.

5 young Americans (3 men, 2 women) were in Africa. Suddenly, 2 young men jumped out of the bushes to attack the women. The 3 American young men stood by and watched the 2 ladies get violently raped. They took no action to defend or protect. They just stood there.

The men seem to be racked with guilt (but withdraw from any conversation about it). One of the young ladies has completely pushed her pain down, and refuses to talk about it or seek help. These 5 were VERY close friends. The other young lady has pushed the other 4 out of her life.

This situation was 5 young people against 2 young people. Not a one of the American young people knew how to fight for themselves, nor did the young men know how to protect nor defend.

So. So. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am from South Africa and stumbled across your blog by accident - have really enjoyed reading your stories. You guys seem to be doing wonderful things for people who would be otherwise forgotten about. It ,however saddened me today when I read the reference to some religions teaching that men killing is a godly act and that the promise of this Godly act is If that reference was to Islam you really need to research the religion before you can make a statement like that. You guys seem like really open minded people and it is a shame to see a comment that really doesn't reflect the truth about a fellow religion. I am not advocating anything by this- it is purely a suggestion that you should take a non biased, open minded look at something before commenting on it- not what you see on the news but a patient,neutral study of it.
Kind Regards

Heather said...

Thank you for this. It was spot on. Boys need to be men, not sissy's and feminine.

Alicia Madison said...

parenting is such a joy and bring responsibilities too. It is in every religion to be parents with legal ways. Read this quote about parenting and Family "To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him."

whenpigsfly said...

Brent thank you so much for your post. It is so timely and so in need of being said!!!

Phronsie said...

I see someone asked about people who believe in psychology. As a Christian who was a psychology major, I have to say, I don't see how believing there's some truth to some aspects of psychology is a bad thing. Psychology is, basically, the study of why the brain works how it does and how it affects how people act. How does this make people's faith questionable?