John Eldredge on Becoming a Man

Here is a long quote from the John Eldredge book, Wild At Heart about men as boys coming into our

sexual identity. Men, we have to deal with this issue, we have to deal with it if and when we don’t have a healthy view of the women in our lives. I have quoted John Eldredge here because he helps us begin getting our view of women aligned to the view that God wants us to own. He wants healthy relationships between his children–men and women in the church.

We may have started puberty on the wrong foot, but there is good news. We can and will right our thinking about our sisters in Christ and other women of course.

Read the following and begin asking God how He would have you view the women in your life.

I remember the story of my first kiss, that little darling I fell in love with in the seventh grade and how she made my bicycle fly? I fell in love with Debbie the very same year my father checked out of my story, the year I took my deepest wound. The timing was no coincidence. In a young boy’s development, there comes a crucial time when the father must intervene. It arrives early in adolescence, somewhere between the ages of eleven and fifteen, depending on the boy. If that intervention does not happen, the boy is set up for disaster; the next window that opens in his soul is sexuality. Debbie made me feel like a million bucks. I couldn’t have put words to it at the time; I had no idea what was really going on. But in my heart I felt I had found the answer to my question. A pretty girl thinks I am the greatest. What more can a guy ask for? If I’ve found Juliet, then I must be Romeo.

When she broke up with me, it began what has been a long and sad story of searching for “the woman that will make me feel like a man.” I went from girlfriend to girlfriend trying to get an answer. To be the hero to the beauty – that has been my longing, my image of what it means to really, finally be a man. Bly calls it the search for the Golden-haired Woman.

He sees a woman across the room, knows immediately that it is “She.” He drops the relationship he has, pursues her, feels wild excitement, passion, beating heart, obsession. After a few months, everything collapses; she becomes an ordinary woman. He is confused and puzzled. Then he sees once more a radiant face across the room, and the old certainty comes again. (Iron John)

Why is pornography the most addictive thing in the universe for men? Certainly there’s the fact that a man is visually wired, that pictures and images arouse men much more that they do women. But the deeper reason is that seductive beauty reaches down inside and touches your desperate hunger for validation as a man you didn’t even know you had, touches it like nothing else most men have ever experienced. You must understand – this is deeper than legs and breasts and good sex. It is mythological. Look at the lengths men will go to find the golden-haired woman. They have fought duels over her beauty; they have fought wars. You see, every man remembers Eve. We are haunted by her. And somehow we believe that if we could find her, get her back, then we’d also recover with our own lost masculinity.

You’ll recall the little boy Phillip, from the movie A Perfect World? Remember what his fear was? That his penis was puny. That’s how many men articulate a sense of emasculation. Later in life a man’s worst fear is impotence. If he can’t get an erection, then he hasn’t got what it takes. But the opposite is also at work. If a man can feel an erection, well then, he feels powerful. He feels strong. I’m telling you, for many men The Question feels hardwired to his penis. If he can feel like the hero sexually, well, then mister, he’s the hero. Pornography is so seductive because what is a wounded, famished man to think when there a literally hundreds of beauties willing to give themselves to him? Of course, it’s not just to him, but when’s he’s alone with the photos, it feels like it’s just him.)

It’s unbelievable – how many movies center around this lie? Get the beauty, win her, bed her, and you are the man. You’re James Bond. You’re a stud. Look carefully at the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s song, Secret Garden (from his Greatest Hits recording, 1995):

She’ll let you in her house
If you come knockin’ late at night
She’ll let you in her mouth
If the words you say are right
If you pay the price
She’ll let you deep inside
But there’s a secret garden she hides.
She’ll lead you down a path
There’ll be tenderness in the air
She’ll let you come just far enough
So you know she’s really there
She’ll look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
She’s got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away.

It’s a deep lie wedded to a deep truth. Eve is a garden of delight. (Song 4:16) But she’s not everything you want, everything you need – not even close. Of course it will stay a million miles away. You can’t get there from here because it’s not there. It’s not there. The answer to your question can never, ever be found there. Don’t get me wrong. A woman is a captivating thing. More captivating that anything else in all creation. “The naked woman’s body is a part of eternity too great for the eye of man.” Femininity can arouse masculinity. Boy oh boy can it. My wife flashes me a little breast, a little thigh, and I’m ready for action. All systems alert. She tells me in a soft voice that I’m a man and I’ll leap tall buildings for her. But femininity can never bestow masculinity. It’s like asking a pearl to give you a buffalo. It’s like asking for a field of wildflowers to give you a ’57 chevy. They are different substances entirely.

Dave, whose father blew a hole in his chest when he called him “mamma’s boy”, took his question to the woman. Recently he confessed to me that younger women are his obsession. You can see why – they’re less of a threat. A younger woman isn’t half the challenge. He can feel more like a man there. Dave’s embarrassed by his obsession, but it deosn’t stop him. A younger woman feels like the answer to his question and he’s got to get an answer. But he knows his search is impossible. He admitted to me just the other day, “Even if I marry a beautiful woman, I will always know there is an even more beautiful woman out there somewhere. So I’ll wonder – could I have won her?”

It’s a lie. As Bly says. it’s a search without an end. “We are looking at the source of a lot of desperation in certain men here, and a lot of suffering in certain women.” How often I have seen this. A friend’s brother hit rock bottom a few years back when his girlfriend broke up with him. He was a really successful guy, a high star athelete who became a promising young attorney. But he was carrying a wound from an alcoholic, workaholic father who never gave him what every boy craves. Like so many of us, he took his heart with it’s question to the woman. When she dumped him, my friend said, “it blew him out of the water. He went into a major nosedive, started drinking heavily, smoking. He even left the country. His life was shattered.”

This is why so many men secretly fear their wives. She sees him as noone else does, sleeps with him, know’s what he is made of. If he has given her the power to validate him as a man, then he has also given her the power to invalidate him too. That’s the deadly catch. A pastor told me that for years he’s been trying to please his wife and she keeps giving him an “F”. “What is she is not the report card on you?” I suggested. “She sure feels like it…and I am failing.”

Another man, Richard, became verbally abusive toward his wife in the early years of their marriage. His vision for his life was that he was meant to be Romeo and therefore, she must be Juliet. When she turned out not to be the Golden-haired Woman, he was furious. Because that meant, you see, that he was not the heroic man. I remember seeing a picture of Julia Roberts without costume and makeup; Oh, I realised, she’s just an ordinary woman.

“He was coming to me for his validation,” a young woman told me about the man she was dating. Or, had been dating. She was drawn to him at first, and certainly drawn to the way he was taken with her. “That’s why I broke up with him.” I was amazed at her perceptiveness and her courage. It’s very rare to find, especially in younger women. How wonderful it feels at first to be his obsession. To be thought of as a goddess is pretty heady stuff. But eventually, it all turns from romance to immense pressure on her part. “He kept saying, ‘I don’t know if I have what it takes and you’re telling me I don’t.’ He’ll thanks me for it one day.”

What’s fascinating to note is that homosexuals are actually more clear on this point. They know what is missing in their hearts is masculine love. The problem is that they’ve sexualised it. Joseph Nicolosi says that homosexuality is an attempt to repair the wound by filling it with masculinity, either the masculine love that was missing or the masculine strength many men feel they do not possess. It, too, is a vain search and that is why so many of them suffer depression and a host of other addictions. What they need can’t be found there.

Why have I said all this about our search for validation and the answer to our question? Because we cannot hear the real answer until we see we’ve got a false one. So long as we chase the illusion, how can we face reality? The hunger is there; it lives in our souls like a famished craving, no matter what we’ve tried to fill it with. If you take your question to Eve, it will break your heart. I know this now, after many, many hard years. You can’t get your answer there. In fact, you can’t get your answer from any of the things men chase after to find their sense of self. There is only one source for the answer to your question. And so no matter where you’ve taken your question, you’ve got to take it back. You have to walk away. This is the beginning of your journey.

2 thoughts on “John Eldredge on Becoming a Man

  1. Pingback: Men, where do you get your validation as a man? LR | The Good News

  2. Pingback: You may never look at movies the same again. | A voice in the wilderness

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