Six year old Bridger Walker is my hero, if I ever grow up I want to be like him (see article link below). He’s not perfect, I’m sure. He has character flaws and he makes mistakes like we all do, but when it counted he knew how to meet violence with appropriate violence, not too much, not too little; like a man, he had control of the full range of his voice.
In July 2020, Bridger’s younger sister was attacked by a dog. Bridger came to her rescue, leading her away and helping her hide from the dog and taking the full brunt of the attack on his own body. I’m sure he fought back with all the strength available to him. But he still received 90 stitches for his efforts, the World Boxing Counsel awarded him the honorary title of Heavyweight Champion calling him “the bravest man on earth.”
What impressed me most about Bridger is that when he saw his sister being attached he stopped to think, the tiniest fraction of a second; and what he thought was: “If someone has to die, I think it should be me.”
I believe Bridger made that choice long before this incident, without the aid of a sociology degree, a class in moral philosophy, or a state education this boy had decided to be male in the full range of its ethic.
“If someone has to die, I think it should be me.” Bridger Walker
Thankfully though, empirical evidence still holds sway among the vast majority of the population. Bridger reminds us of the billions of men who actually lay their lives down daily, at great personal cost, for those they love; and even for those they have just met.
Nonetheless men everywhere are double-guessing themselves under the pressure that educated society and the media is putting on them. The deepest tragedy is not that men are evaluating their engagement in society, they are questioning manhood itself. It has become an identity crisis, and it affects women and girls as deeply as it does men and boys.
This, of course, is what we get when we push identity politics onto society, when we make all members of one groups victims and all members of another villains. Whatever the intentions of outcomes-driven idealists, society corrects neither marginal nor systemic errors with identity politics; all we do is destroy the identity of the vast majority we should be pointing to as the example.
“men are not evaluating their engagement in society, they are questioning manhood itself.”
So what can we do?
I want to suggest one thing to men and to boys (and those training boys to be men): Learn the full dexterity of the male voice!
What I see all too often is men who stay quiet, slowly stewing under the pressure of life; competition in the marketplace, personal regret, fear, failure. They come home to those they love, desperately In need of affirmation; but those they love need a husband and a dad. One who is available, affirming, helping, laying his own life down. They try to draw those things off of him while he tries to draw affirmation out of them. Initially these men keep their mouths shut, they withdraw, they self-medicate. As they do the family and work pressures mount. At some point they vent under the pressure or the addiction. Abusive verbal or physical tirades bring Immense hurt and damage and fear into the family.
Then they withdraw again, terrified of their own voice and actions.
This is not a cycle, it is a spiral. It always ends in some kind of disaster unless he takes a different path.
What is the full dexterity of your voice?
One of my goals is to, one day, be able to say exactly what is required in any given moment. On that spectrum I do not exclude the softest of whispers, the gentlest of touches; and I do not exclude yelling out expletives, fighting, punching and killing. There is a time for gentleness and a time for the most violence I can muster. That is the full range of the male voice. Knowing exactly what to choose on that spectrum, picking the exact voice appropriate for every situation, that is precisely what it means to be a man.
And it’s not just reactive. Very often, most often even, the male voice needs to be heard proactively. Adam should have spoken up in the garden, but Moses should not have struck the rock or broken the tablets. It is the fine motor coordination of male power and emotion, and it is not easy to get right.
How do you get better at it?
It takes a great deal of practice and applied patience, patience with ourselves and with others. Men need to practice grace and get extremely good listening and at feeding and healing themselves, especially emotionally.
There is plenty of appropriate affirmation available for the disciplined believer. The scriptures are filled with it, men don’t need to buy fake affirmation from a bottle or from a prostitute. You, my friend, need to feed yourself off of God’s approval, you need to stop swallowing the failure and society’s accusations. You need to stop being ashamed at being a man. You are a Son of God, destined to rule over angels, you are not some biologially inappropriate evolutionary tangent. And even if your success does not feed your self-esteem you still have an essential job to do. You are called to bend down and lift another generation onto your shoulders and carry them across a raging river. Do it with the gentleness of a dove, the wisdom of a serpent and the strength of an ox.
We also need to get good at keeping each other accountable. I’m not talking about an old-boys club; I’m suggesting that our wives and children should have the freedom and access to reveal our behavior to our peers. This is how church was designed to operate; in fact without this aspect of church Accountability we effectively cut the biblically appropriate methods of conflict resolution in half. Mediation, Arbitration, and Church-Discipline are the three strongest forms of interpersonal conflict resolution available for the church. Matthew 18:17 requires a means to bring behavior to the church, to submit to the church’s direction and even to its discipline decisions. Men go to a church where you are accountable, and where you hold other men accountable.
“You are a Son of God, destined to rule over angels, you are not some biologially inappropriate evolutionary tangent.”
The best advice I can give to men is to ask Jesus for help in the midst of this male crisis.
People say that Jesus was a great moral teacher. I don’t deny that but He was, and is, a lot more than that. Morally though, he had the perfect dexterity of male voice; and though we have no record of his writings we have a very good record of his speech. It is beautifully recorded for us in the gospels.
Jesus used colorful language, when it was exactly appropriate, Jesus used violence when it was exactly necessary. Jesus wept, Jesus affirmed, Jesus called out, confronted, He protected women, children, and the weak and vulnerable with his life and his voice. All at the exact right moment, He waited, sometimes years, for that moment. Jesus was often gentle, and quite and He had this ability to draw faith out of people with His words as if turning water into wine. Every word He used was measured and fit perfectly and most of it was proactive. Jesus knee when to speak, when to listen, and when to stop.
You see Jesus, like Bridger, decided early on to lay his life down for His friends and loved ones; the decision was made all he had to do was carry it out. He didn’t wait for the pain and rejection of the cross to fight the emotional and physical battle. He fought it alone and on His knees in Gethsemene, sully submitted and committed to his role as the Man of Men. Jesus had, and still has, complete control of the full dexterity of His voice.
Jesus is committed in every moment to helping you, my man friend, learn the full dexterity of your male voice. He has words for you to speak, word that will bring life and joy and affirmation, words that will confront your failures without rejecting you. Often His words will bring some necessary hurt that will lead to necessary repentance and healing. He will probably start by bringing you into a community where it is safe for you to become vulnerable with other men with your fear, rejection, sin, and hurt. It is very likely that He has done that already. Don’t run or hide from that vulnerability, even if it takes you time to establish trust, embrace it, you need it! Work on your personal prayer life and ask Him for help to find and feed off of His affirmation so that you can feed affirmation to those around you.
On that platform God Himself will establish you as a man who changes the course of nations.
See article on Bridger Walker: https://wyo4news.com/news/superhero-6-year-old-boy-saves-sister-from-dog-attack-gets-90-stitches/