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Does Political Correctness Increase Bullying?

If you are like me you are sick of hearing about this topic.  But that begs the question: is bullying becoming a bigger problem within our culture, or does the media just sensationalize it because it is the topic du jour?  If it isincreasing maybe one reason is the constraints that political correctness forces upon young males.
Perhaps because our culture has somehow minimized (or even demonized) the majestic qualities of manhood, many of our boys today seem a bit softer, perhaps more feminized, than in the past. They seem a bit gun-shy—with a deer in the headlights look about them. They stay in puberty longer and delay launching into manhood later than their predecessors. (Why become a man when being a man is bad?)  Others, perhaps because they have been caused to be ashamed of being a male, overcompensate by acting out in dramatic caricatures of manhood—they are overly macho, violent, and sexually promiscuous.
Young men today also have a certain amount of repressed anger. This may contribute to the seeming increase in bullying in schools, but also in a more escalated level or degree of violence among young males. This is possibly caused by not allowing young males to solve their social issues as they have for thousands of years—on their own. In the past when two young males disagreed about something, they went to the playground and tussled around until one or the other acceded.  Generally they both just got too tired to continue and quit. They then shook hands and forgot about it. In fact, many boys I fought with went on to become my good friends. Today, however, with adult interference, boys are not allowed to solve their own problems. They are taught that any kind of aggression or (gasp) violence is bad. So they are forced to repress those feelings of disrespect, humiliation, and injustice, which eventually cause those feelings to fester into frustration, anger, resentment, and bitterness—far more powerful emotions than they were originally faced with. Eventually those powerful repressed emotions spill over and explode into greater levels of violence evidenced by the shootings and stabbings we see of young men across the country.
A big mistake that our culture currently makes with boys is that we unconsciously combine aggression and violence into one behavior. From a males’ perspective the two are not the same. Boys and men see aggression as useful—it is constructive of the self. Violence is just the opposite—it is destructive.  So when our schools, courts, and social service workers confuse the two it does a disservice to boys who actually need aggression in many areas of their life. Our culture just generally assumes now that the more feminized traits like being quiet, sitting down, being contemplative, and nurturing are the right way to act, and the more masculine traits like anger, aggression, confrontation, and one-upmanship are wrong—in every circumstance! That’s not true and does a great disservice to our boys. There are times when it is appropriate to be angry and confrontational instead of passive or gentle.
Our schools and culture’s knee-jerk response to male violence (or even just natural aggression) of establishing a “no tolerance” policy has probably been more detrimental than helpful to young males. (If there is any question that our public educational system has been “feminized” we need look no further than this policy.) One reason is because it’s actually less frightening for a male to “act out” (physically fight) when he feels threatened than it is to have the self-control to face the issue head on. So for instance when a boy gets made fun of on the playground, his sense of honor requires him to respond. But perhaps because he does not have the maturity or coping skills to understand that the more mature thing to do would be to confront his attackers in a non-violent way, he responds emotionally and strikes back. When we condemn his action or response as being “bad” we send the message that his honor is not worth fighting for. And yet he has an innate ego response mechanism that causes him to seek justice when he is disrespected. To not allow him to respond or to require he get someone else (like an adult female) to advocate for him tells him he is powerless, disrespected, and dishonorable. Respect is a key attribute of the core of a male’s psyche. When he does not feel respected or is allowed to be disrespected without recourse, it rots his pride and weakens his level of self-respect.
I’m not promoting that we should teach young males that violence is the way to solve problems. But the myth that “violence never solved anything” is just that, a myth. Violence solves lots of problems—especially violent problems. If someone is trying to murder your wife and children, appealing to their sense of compassion is probably not a good strategy to stop them.
Back in the “old days” when a gym teacher had two boys who had problems with each other (which is inevitable) he put boxing gloves on them both and told them to settle their differences in a supervised environment. Afterward, they were made to shake hands and moved on. Even in the most adversarial unsupervised playground scuffle seldom was anyone injured beyond a bloody nose. Males always respect their opponent after doing battle with one another and frequently become good friends because of the respect they earn for one another. We did not see the problems then that we face today with high levels of violence and the killing of our young men.
However, our more feminized world of total tolerance does not allow a young man to seek justice, which causes him to be resentful and angry. Males are taught it is bad to fight or even be aggressive over any insult no matter how egregious the offense. This frustrates their sense of justice.
Again, I’m not promoting violence, bullying, or unchecked aggression, but this kind of “feminization” of young males not only results in a more intensified level of aggression, but also produces passive men who often internalize this anger and frustration, which then manifests itself in passive-aggressive behavior, which can be just as destructive.
I watched this play out with a group of young males at the local high school the other day. Their horse-playing was becoming somewhat aggressive as young men are wont to do. Several teachers observed this and sounded the alarm that a “fight” was about to happen. This, of course, got all the adults in a dither, running around the building, sounding the alarm. It was obvious from the boys’ reaction to this that they enjoyed the control they gained over the adults who were responding to their “gang fight.” You could virtually see the gears turning in their heads as they somewhat tongue-in-cheek continued the escapades until the teachers and administration had worked themselves into a near panic, at which point the boys quietly disappeared into the sunset with smirks on their faces.
We do our boys a disservice when we do not allow them a certain amount of aggression and autonomy in solving their own social problems. Males are physical beings—they solve problems through action, not by talking about their feelings. (Frankly, to talk about your feelings after having had your honor disparaged does not seem like adequate recompense.) Males often bond with one another through aggression. This means males are biologically wired to be more physically active, more aggressive, and more likely to need physical activity to blow off emotional stress.

Want to stop bullying?  If we want to eliminate physical aggression and fights with young males, we need to find find physical competitions or other direct challenges for them to engage in when they have issues with each other. In addition, directing them into battles that they can use their natural aggression in a healthy way (fighting against sex trafficking, abuse, or other injustices) gives them a more noble vision of their roles in life.  This teaches them to be true warriors who use their power to lift up others, rather than becoming bullies who abuse those weaker than they are.
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Does Niceness Destroy Courage in Males?

Our culture currently promotes being “nice” as the highest virtue a boy or man can achieve. After all, like the bumper stickers say, “Mean people suck.” It is easier to drift along with the current of the culture than to try and swim against it. All the newer “guy” movies inspire males to be lovable, “nice,” slackers, with no aim in life but to smoke pot, bed women, and get by without working as much as possible. But they are very “nice” so it’s okay. And young women today seem drawn to soft, passive, quiet men who do not ruffle feathers and who do what they are told. It’s a nonthreatening, but uninspired vision of manhood.

While on the surface this may seem like a grand virtue, niceness may not serve your son’s best interests in the long run. Teach your son that being “nice” isn’t the highest aspiration a man can live up to (mom—I know this goes against your nature but bear with me). In fact, sometimes, I think niceness is the enemy of courage. Many times in life a man, husband, or father is forced to make decisions in the best interest of his family or society that do not appear to be “nice” on the outside. I’ve been forced as a father to make decisions that my children perceived at the time as heartless, mean-spirited, or just plain stupid. But they were always in their best interest in the long run. If my goal had only been to be nice (or to have been liked), I would have not been able to make the hard decisions that were important to their long-term healthy growth and development. Niceness and meanness are feminine concepts. You seldom see men complaining that another man is mean or not nice. On the outside that desire for niceness in males would appear to be a noble goal. However, it’s really a way of neutering masculinity. Being “nice” takes away the power of a man to lead. It removes passion, conviction, and courage from a man’s soul. Nice guys might not always finish last, but they seldom run the race at all. I recently sat next to two men–one older and one younger than me—who are both very “nice” guys. We were having a discussion about a recent upheaval at our church. The older man made the comment, “I really don’t want to know the details behind what is happening because then I will be forced to make a judgment.” The young man agreed and said he would rather not have to face the problems because then he would be forced to choose a side. I was shocked and not a little disgusted in their responses. They’d rather stick their heads in the sand than have to take a stand and be perceived as being judgmental. They lacked the courage to stand up for what they believe in. When did judging the value of anything become such a sin in our culture anyway? Anything except whether a person is nice or mean, I guess. You cannot be a leader and not have at least some people get mad at you. In fact you cannot accomplish anything in life without having someone get upset at you. That’s part of the problem with today’s politicians (besides the media) is that they try to make everyone happy. They water down their message and policies until they are so inoffensive that they end up accomplishing nothing. By its very nature, leadership will offend or upset a certain percentage of individuals. If your son grows up to care too much about what others think of him or whether he inadvertently upsets someone, he will never accomplish anything significant with his life, including raising exceptional children. It’s not that being nice is bad. Men should be nice, polite, compassionate, empathetic, and understanding as often as possible. But when men are only nice, they live shallow, frustrating, and unfulfilling lives—as do those around them. To accomplish anything of significance in life requires us to offend at least some people. Men who are only nice are not willing to offend anyone—they never take a stand. A man can have many attributes that can make him successful in life. But if “niceness” is the most dominant character trait he has, he is probably not someone who can be depended upon to be a strong leader. I know several very nice young men who are struggling with issues like lust, faith, relationships, careers, and a variety of other issues. We talk about them and I give them some strategies and new perspectives on how to deal with these issues, but the truth is that all men deal with these struggles. I think at some point it becomes a matter of courage (or lack thereof). Are you struggling with lust? Well welcome to the club—all men struggle with lust. Don’t mope around about it. Get some stones and deal with it. Good men struggle with sin and vice just as much as bad men—they just have the courage to deal with it in a productive manner. Don’t sit around analyzing it to death. Lack of courage causes us to become paralyzed and not take action in order to solve problems. I tell these young men to stiffen their spine. There are three billion men on the planet and almost all of them deal with the same issues, especially lust. Some deal with it productively because they love their wives and children; others deal with it by engaging in prostitution, viewing pornography, or having affairs. Which kind of man do you want your son to be? This is an excerpt from Rick’s book A Man in the Making. You can find out more at www.betterdads.net

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Passing the Mantle of Manhood

Young men growing up without mentors are just boys seeking their identity. Since our culture does not have intentional rites of passage to teach and help guide a young man from boyhood into manhood, they are often left to rely upon themselves to try and figure out how to become a man. Some boys consider getting drunk for the first time the sign of crossing the threshold into manhood. Others think losing their virginity is surely a sign of being a man. At its extreme gangs often require initiation ceremonies of new members that include assault and battery, theft, rape, or even murder.

In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge calls boys who have never been initiated and mentored into manhood “partial” men. They are boys walking around in men’s bodies, sometimes even fulfilling their roles with jobs and families. For these men the passing on of masculinity was never completed (if started at all). These boys were never taken through the process of masculine initiation. It’s why many men today are what Eldredge calls Unfinished Men.

In his classic book, Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Robert Lewis uses the model of initiating boys into manhood through the medieval custom of knighthood. In those times boys were trained and equipped with a masculine vision, a code of conduct, and an objective to live life. First as a page, then a squire, and finally a knight they passed through stages that trained them and helped instill a chivalric code of honor. At each of these stages they were given ceremonies that celebrated their achievement and marked their progress toward manhood. By the time they were ready to become knights they had a clear definition of a man’s duties and responsibilities and a code of conduct to live his life by. In other words they knew what a man was because they had been trained and tutored by honorable men for many years.

Ceremonies or rites of passage are important for all children but especially for boys. Our children develop their faith not only from us but from others as well. Remember, someone is going to influence your children—it had better be you or at least those who have the same value system as you do.

While my son was growing up I held several personal ceremonies with my son at various stages such as at age 12 when I took him to dinner, challenged him to purity, and talked about the challenges he was undertaking as he entered adolescence.

But when my son graduated from high school I was determined to have a ceremony he would remember to launch him into the world. Several months beforehand, I contacted six godly men and asked them to pray about what God would have them share with a young man just starting out life. Shortly after his graduation I rented a room in the back of a restaurant and hosted a dinner with my son and the six men. Each man took turns in front of the others telling my son the mistakes they had made, their regrets, and the things they wish they could do over. They shared from their heart the joys and sorrows of being a man, a father, and a husband. The men were powerfully vulnerable as they shared from the depths of their souls. I then got up and spoke to my son of the dreams I had for his life and shared advice about life. I gave him my blessing as a father to a son and launched him into the world.

I videotaped the dinner for my son so he can watch it over and over. At the time, the event may have impacted the other men more than my son, but as he gets older this advice will be invaluable. I intend to have a similar ceremony before he gets married—gather a group of men who have been successfully married a long time to pass along their special insights on what it takes to be a husband and love a woman.

Our boys are blessed for a lifetime when we design and prepare ceremonies to mark their journey into manhood. These ceremonies tell them they are progressing along a road with the destination of manhood. They are mileposts that boys can track their progress and understand what is expected of them on the next portion of their journey. It eliminates confusion and the need to “prove” he’s a man—to himself and to others.

This post is part of the Rite of Passage Blog Tour. You can read more entries by other authors at http://riteofpassageblogtour.weebly.com/. Additionally, for more ideas on how to hold a ceremony for your son, check out Jim McBride’s new book, Rite of Passage: a Father’s Blessing, by Moody Publishers, on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rite-Passage-Blessing-Jim-McBride/dp/0802458807/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316022959&sr=8-1.

Gleaned from Rick’s book, That’s My Teenage Son, by Revell Publishing, 2011. To find out more about Rick’s books or his speaking schedule please go to www.betterdads.net.