Summary: This messages focuses on why society's notion of a real man hinders fathers from developing strong relationships with their children.
A Real Man
On Mother’s Day I shared with you that there is a special bond between a mother and her child. This bond is different from that of a father and his child. During that message I told you that a mother has a nine month head start in the development of the relationship with her unborn child, but I was a little off on that statement. While the mother does carry the unborn child and the child becomes sensitized to some things based on its mother, there are things the father can and should do that begins to foster a bond between him and the fetus. For example, if a father reads or sings to his unborn child the baby will recognize its father’s voice upon delivery. Once the baby is born the father can immediately start building an attachment by spending time with the baby. The baby will quickly begin to learn the smell of its father as well as reacquaint itself with their father’s voice. The first few weeks after a baby if born are an important time for the father to begin establishing a bond with the baby. However, because men have been traumatized as boys, we sometime find it difficult to maintain that bond as the child grows. This morning we will examine why it can be difficult for a father to establish and maintain that special bond he should have with his children. Before we get there, I first want to take you to a very familiar chapter in Scripture. Please turn with me to Luke chapter fifteen.
I. A Forgiving Father
This chapter contains a story that Jesus told of a son who left home. This story is referred to as the story of the prodigal son. This morning, in contrast to what we often focus on when we read this story, I want to focus on the father. I want you to think of this story as the “forgiving father” versus the prodigal son. Let’s begin reading at verse twenty.
“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And his son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.”
If you were the father, based on fathers today, what would you do in this situation? I am asking this question because in our society today, men are required to be “real men.” This notion of a real man hinders our abilities to develop lasting bonds with our children, especially our sons. Let me explain what I am talking about and then I will come back to this Scripture.
II. “Real Men” Fathers
I want to examine the philosophy of “real men” and hopefully demonstrate how that hinders our bonds with our children. Consider this; have you ever wondered why some men seem to be so detached at times from their children? Well, it is not our fault as we have been trained to be that way. We can blame society and our parents for giving in to the pressures placed on them to raise a “real man.” What is a “real man?” One of the definitions of “real” is “to be authentic or genuine.” According to this definition, a real man is an authentic or genuine man. He’s a man’s man? In other words supposedly there is “nothing” feminine about him. Let me give you three examples of something “real men” are supposed to do and how these three actions impact our bonding experience with our children – especially our sons. I keep expressing sons because what we put in them now is what they will put into their sons and it will keep going and going. Let me give you this disclaimer that says not all “real men” are “real men” according to society’s definition. However, for this message, I am talking about society’s “real men.” Let’s begin with the first one, “real men don’t cry.”
• A real man does not cry. When we are boys, we are taught to be tough. We are only allowed to cry when we are babies. As we get older, if we cry we are told to stop being a “cry baby.” With these influences you can understand why men don’t cry. If a little girl falls down and starts to cry, the parents will pick that little girl up, hug her, and kiss her until she feels better. If the same happens to a little boy, he is told to shake it off and be a man! Boys are taught to fall down (sometime with the help of others) and to get up without shedding a tear. If a little boy cries he is sometimes referred to as a “sissy.” Let me tell you how deep this goes. The worse name you can call a boy on the playground is “sissy.” You call a boy a sissy and he is ready to fight unless in our eyes he really is a sissy. So I went to Webster’s dictionary to get the definition of sissy. The definition according to this dictionary is “an effeminate boy or man – a timid person.” OUCH! To ensure I understood this completely, I looked up the word effeminate to cover al of my bases. Here is the definition of effeminate: “Having qualities attributed to a woman.” Well that is not so bad considering they generally outlive us – maybe we can learn some things from them. Then I kept reading as it gave me some examples of what these qualities were; “Having qualities attributed to a woman such as weakness, delicacy” and get this, “unmanly.” Are you starting to see the problem? A crying boy traumatizes a “real man” because real men do not cry. We stand firm and handle our business. We are the strong one that everyone can rely on to hold it together because that is what a real man does. Well, let me tell you that are one lie that “real men” need to cast down. Because we are not allowed to cry, we hold our emotions in until it has a physical impact on our bodies. The shortest verse in the bible is two words and it is recorded in John 11:35. You know what it says? “Jesus wept!” When you read this story you will find that when Jesus came to the tomb of His friend Lazarus and saw the people crying, the Bible says that He wept. He cried; not silently like a “real man”, but out loud like a woman. Now if my Savior can cry, it is okay for me to cry. I even tear up at movies now – but I have not let the tear fall yet. This is very important to understand because our raising of “real men” is continuing the cycle of men not being able to develop a real bond with their “sons.” This does not impact necessarily how we relate to our daughters – the weaker vessel – but how we relate to our sons and making them men. So the first hindrance to a father’s bond with his son is this notion that men don’t cry which mean that men are not allowed to be in touch with their true feeling. It also affects our relationship with our bonds. Our daughters need to see us as a whole person versus the one who has no emotions. If they see us as a whole person demonstrating strength, emotional stability, and yes even weakness at times, they will grow up realizing that all of the bravado some men put out to attract a woman is just a reflection of a hard shell outside with an empty center. Let’s go to the second one which might make some of our real men skin crawl.