Severing The Extended Family

Stephen Arterburn

Our nation’s sons lost more than their fathers during the industrialization of the twentieth century. They also lost the most viable alternative for masculine input provided by extended family. When a man uprooted his family to take a job in a distant city or state, he detached his children from their extended family. In earlier days of farming communities a boy commonly enjoyed daily interactions with not only his father but also his grandfather, uncles, brothers, and cousins. They worked, ate, and played together. Moving away from this network seriously reduced the flow of necessary masculine nurture and influence in a boy’s life.

A father’s work is now outside the home, consuming his private interests and energies. His physical, educational, emotional, and spiritual input to his son is now largely limited to his so-called ‘free time.’ That is, those few hours or minutes per week when he’s not working, traveling to or from work, or recuperating from work.

The result is today’s young men are often restless and off-center for lack of mentors. They’re not just looking for someone to teach them a trade; they’re starving for masculine emotional input. Boys become men in the presence of men. They sense a deep need for affirmation and validation from men who love them and are committed to them.

If you’re a dad, I encourage you to fight for every minute you can get with your sons. If you’re an older man I encourage you to consider mentoring a younger man.

The Perfect-Mate Myth

Stephen Arterburn

Gentlemen, North American culture wields a tremendous influence upon Christians’ values in many areas. One in particular is the area of relationships where many of us have fallen for what I call the ‘Perfect-Mate Myth.’ This myth applies to single and married men, and goes something like this: ‘If I just had the right woman, my life would be all right.’

Let me be blunt: this belief is incredibly ignorant. First, because it assumes that our problems are all external’that our real problem is an imperfect spouse or the lack thereof. Second, because it assumes that there’s such a thing as a ‘perfect’ spouse.

This delusion keeps us from spiritual maturity. It prevents married men from doing the hard work and making the commitment necessary to build and repair their relationship with their wives, and it tempts single men to put their lives on hold until that ‘perfect’ woman appears.

Men, the perfect mate myth is an unhealthy fantasy. Focus your attention on your relationship with God. He wants a married man’s attitude to be, ‘I’m in this for the long haul. I’m going to dedicate myself to and work at making this marriage last.’ This is how an active and true faith comes alive in a marriage.

Similarly, God wants the attitude of every single Christian man to be, ‘God, I’m yours, with or without a spouse, and I will focus my attention on my relationship with you.”

Whatever your situation, God is sufficient to meet your needs.

Downside Of The Revolution

Stephen Arterburn

Why has the American father largely disappeared from his sons’ lives? One answer lies in the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society.

A century ago, the majority of fathers and sons lived and worked together on the family farm. Those who didn’t farm often owned and ran family businesses or labored at trades that their sons learned from them through years of observation, instruction, and hands-on experience. Boys spent most of their time with their fathers, who where their primary mentors.

But as the industrialization of our nation expanded, more men were needed to build and repair the machines, sell and deliver the products, count the profits, and pay the bills.

Increasing numbers of ambitious men moved to the city to take these jobs. Instead of spending the day tutoring their sons in the skills of life and work, these men left home every morning to pursue their careers’and their sons stayed home. The more time a man directed to his work away from home, the less time he had to mentor his sons. The downside of this revolution was that young boys were cut loose from the means that once so efficiently ushered them into confident and prepared manhood.

I know it’s much harder now, but you need to make time for your sons. If you feel ill equipped, I encourage you to take advantage of the resources available to you.