How Does a Young Man Learn to Choose Greatness?
by Gary Chapman & Clarence Shuler
Life was never meant to be lived alone. As young men, we need the wisdom of our fathers and mothers. Otherwise, we may make decisions based solely upon our feelings rather than upon facts. Or, we may be encouraged to make destructive decisions by evil men who seek to enslave us for their own pleasure. Thousands of young men are led down an addictive pathway by drug dealers and gang leaders who offer fun and excitement, but these promises are never based on truth. Addictions are always destructive.
In the original plan, every child would have a father and a mother who would love and support each other, and parent their children with love and wisdom. When this plan is followed, children usually grow up to be responsible, caring adults who work to make the world better. Not only does this probably make instant sense to you, but also there is a ton of research that backs this up, as you will see.
Yet many children have watched their parents divorce. Even good parents who deeply love their children can’t always protect them from the conflict at home. Dr. William Pollock, a Harvard psychologist, discovered that when the father is no longer in the home, the son often suffers from lack of discipline and supervision, and fails to receive a model of what it means to be a man.1
Other children have never known their fathers because their parents never married. Thousands of children grow up in homes without fathers.2 Many of these children will never know their fathers or experience what it means to be loved by them. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, young men without fathers are “twice as likely to drop out of school,” “twice as likely to end up in jail,” and four times as likely to need treatment for emotional and behavioral issues as the young men who have fathers.3
Reporting on a major study that looks at children’s life outcomes across virtually every neighborhood in this country, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt notes that the second most important predictor of life outcomes (after family income) is a neighborhood’s share of single-parent families. “Notably, the effect of the family structure appears especially large for boys,” says Leonhardt.4
Children in these single-parent families are typically raised by their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, or sometimes foster parents. This is why we feel so strongly that every young man needs to have either a father or a substitute father in his life. Someone has said, “Tie a boy to the right man, and he almost never goes wrong.” We want you to find the “right man.”
As children, we do not choose our parents. We wish that all children could have a father and mother who love each other and are committed to loving and teaching their children. That is why, as counselors, we have invested our lives in helping couples learn how to love and support each other, and to give their children an example of what a healthy marriage looks like.
When you were a small child your father and mother, or someone who served as your parents, made decisions for you. They determined what you ate and drank. They decided what clothes you would wear. They provided the bed in which you slept. As you got older, they began to let you make some decisions. They asked questions such as, “Would you like to watch a movie or play ball?” They gave you choices between safe options. Now that you are older, your parents are not always with you. You make many decisions on your own.
The question is, will you make wise decisions? We want you to make wise decisions—decisions that will give you a great life. As a young man, you need the wisdom of older adults. If you need to find your way through a city you’ve only lived in a short time, it would be foolish to think you could navigate it better than if you had someone who’s lived there for years traveling alongside you. If you live with your father and mother, they can be your source of wisdom. They are not perfect, but they likely know more about life than you have yet discovered.
If you don’t have a father in the home, how do you find a trusted man? We suggest that, first of all, you talk to your mother or grandmother. Perhaps they will know of someone they trust to be a positive role model for you. It may be your uncle, or your grandfather, or some other family member. The second place to find a responsible man is in the church. Many men who attend church regularly have made wise decisions in their own lives and would be willing to help you make wise decisions in your life. Again, we suggest that you ask your mother to help you with finding a man in her family, or in the church. (A word to mothers who may be reading this: always have someone run a background check on anyone you are asking to mentor your son.) Another source is an organization called Big Brothers. This organization seeks to match responsible adult men with younger men who need a wise man in their lives.
Some of you can become great musicians, athletes, educators, physicians, business leaders. You can use those skills to enrich the world. However, you will only reach your full potential if you choose greatness. That is, make wise decisions. What we mean is choosing to be brave by committing to do what is right and best for you, and also for other people in your life.
1. William Pollack, Real Boys: Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood (New York: Random House, 1998).
2. Read more at Roger Clegg, “Latest Statistics on Out-of-Wedlock Births,” National Review, October 11, 2013, http:// www.nationalreview.com/corner/360990/latest-statisticsout-wedlock-births-roger-clegg.
3. “Statistics,” The Fatherless Generation, https://thefather lessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/.
4. David Leonhardt, “A one-question quiz on the poverty trap,” New York Times, October 4, 2018, https://www. nytimes.com/2018/10/04/opinion/child-poverty-family- income-neighborhood.html.
Adapted from Choose Greatness: 11 Wise Decisions That Brave Young Men Make by Gary Chapman and Clarence Shuler (©2019). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
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