USA Today recently published an article called: Males at Risk – ‘Boy Crisis’ of identity jeopardizes America’s future. The main points of the article suggest there is a crisis of male education, mental health, physical health, and shame. All of this leads to a crisis of economic health for a country.
A few days before this article, the Washington Post released a report describing how more and more people are not having sex. In particular, the lack of sexual activity is driven by young men. It was reported that 28% of males between the ages of 18 and 30 did not have any sexual relations in the past year. This number has nearly tripled from where it was a decade ago. While purity is a good thing, it was not pure motives driving the change. Researchers are suggesting there is a strong connection between pornography, video games, and other electronic habits disconnecting young men from real life relationships.
Is This a Crisis?
I’m not sure how you quantify something as a crisis, but at the very least, these reports should give us some level of pause and reflection as a society.
What does it mean to be a man?
In a culture talking openly about toxic masculinity, we have lost any definition or vision for healthy masculinity. I have been working with men for over twenty years, and I know many simply do not know what it means to be a man. Most certainly don’t know what is socially acceptable on this topic. When there is no vision, confusion will reign. Everyone will create their own definition, and we will end up with some of the chaos and changes we are now seeing in young men.
I believe we need a clear understanding of what is healthy masculinity. We need to see a renewed commitment from men to build this in their own life, and pass it on to future generations. Unfortunately, because many males are living in a fatherless reality, they often do not have a guide or mentor to help them. It is important for all of us to create a society where healthy masculinity is understood and promoted.
Why can’t we build a culture where everyone thrives?
I can hear someone now: “Masculinity is dead. We need to lift up women – there are already too many men in power.” It’s true, more males hold positions of power than females do. But looking at the top of the pyramid does not give us a picture of the foundation being built. Females are thriving in many places where males are not.
Why can’t we see both males and females thrive? Why does there have to be a sense of one being more dominant or powerful than the other? The Bible teaches us in Genesis 1:27 that God made us male and female, and He made us in His image. God determined that gender has purpose and value.
Over the last number of years, there seems to have been an effort to downplay the value of gender. We refer to humans as “peoplekind” instead of being male or female. We allow males to play female sports simply because they identify themselves as a female. One has to wonder if all of this downplaying of gender has created more confusion and problems than it has helped. Is there a healthy way forward?
- Start asking questions about what healthy masculinity looks like. Instead of talking about toxic masculinity or feminism (whether you agree or disagree with those who say it) – turn the conversation around to something more productive.
- Celebrate males who are making a positive difference. What we celebrate is what young men will aspire to.
- Encourage young men. Mental health is a real challenge for young men. Encourage them, believe in them, support them. Help them connect in environments where they can thrive.
- Make sure every young man has a positive male role model in his life. If you see males from a father absent family, then do your best to connect with them and invest in their life.
It’s time for us to pay attention to how we will respond to this type of “crisis.” We all have a choice of how to respond and move forward. I believe the challenges facing boys are repairable. A healthy vision for masculinity based on the life of Jesus is cause for great hope.