The other day, I had lunch with a friend who is having a difficult time. He and his wife have a new baby, he is struggling to find work, and he has little money left in his bank account. Ten years ago, I was in the same position. I had a one-year-old son, a pregnant wife on bed rest, no savings, and had been fired from my job. I didn’t know how we would survive. I felt the weight of my responsibilities as a man—my responsibilities to my wife and children. In times like that, the weight can feel unbearable. I broke down many days during that time and during times since. As I sat with my friend in his pain, I tried to give him some encouragement from my own experience.
My son, who is now 11, was with us. On our ride home, he asked why my friend is going through such a hard time. It was difficult to answer the question. But I explained to my son that bearing the weight of responsibility is an integral part of being a man. Just like a weightlifter needs to work out to build the muscles needed to lift heavier weights, we need training to bear the weight of responsibility. As we train our sons to become men, there are several experiences we need to walk them through in order for them to have the strength to take responsibility. Here is what our sons need in order to bear the weight of manhood.
Dealing with Hardship
Nothing has more potential to make a man stronger than going through hardship. I’ve dealt with hardships since losing my job 10 years ago. However, I have more initiative, peace, confidence, focus, empathy, wisdom, and discernment in dealing with hardships now. I believe my shoulders are now broader to handle the weight of difficulty. And not just for my benefit, but for the benefit of my family. All of that has come through having to confront life’s difficulties. During one difficult time, I talked to a friend who has gone through many battles. He said, “Don’t be in a hurry to have this season end. There is so much to learn during seasons of trial.” I don’t enjoy those seasons, but I am grateful for them. We need to teach our sons and walk with them during those times.
Our actions determine the life we lead. In order for our sons to become men, they need to own the fact that their actions affect their lives and the lives of people around them. They need to know what it means to take responsibility for their failures and for the hurt they cause. We have to model what that looks like. They also need to take ownership of their faithfulness in performing well at school, with their chores, and eventually, at work, and in paying their bills, and anything else that falls under their responsibility. Explain to your son that learning how to take responsibility now determines the type of man he will become.
While dealing with hardships is about how we respond, overcoming challenges is about setting and meeting goals. It’s about teaching our sons how to take initiative, fight their battles, have a vision for their lives, and see it through. We need to help our sons identify goals and persevere through the obstacles on their way toward meeting them.
Having strength doesn’t mean standing alone.This is important for our sons to know. Having strength doesn’t mean standing alone. Our sons need to know that we aren’t meant to carry this weight alone. We were created for relationships and to live in fellowship with others who will help us carry our burdens. Help your son cultivate friendships with people who are faithful, especially in moments of difficulty. I think of the secret council meeting scene in Lord of the Rings, when Frodo steps up to take the ring. The others gather around to help him bear the ring’s burden. I also believe in a God who is the source of my strength. Where do you find yours? Teach your son not to go it alone.
Sound off: What, in your experience, has made you strong enough to bear the weight and responsibility of manhood?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think it takes to be an adult?”