A few weeks ago during a family hike in the foothills of Colorado, my 12-year-old daughter pulled alongside me on the trail. Without warning, she asked me the most stunning (and difficult) question: “Dad, why did you start a ministry focused on men and boys? Aren’t girls important too?”
At first my heart broke, knowing that somehow she had internalized a wrong notion about the importance of men over women. But then, as I started to answer, I began to see her face lift, her eyes meet mine, and hope renew. Here’s what I said:
“In the heart of every person is a deep hunger for a father—boys and girls alike. All of us, no matter how old we get, long for something from our dads. We want to hear his words of blessing, validation, affirmation, and kindness. Even after our fathers pass away, we still long for him. It’s just the way God made us all.
But when, for whatever reason, we don’t hear those words, we don’t have that admiration, and we don’t receive that blessing, something in our hearts gets hurt. Really hurt. Maybe it’s because he has turned violent or abusive and takes out his anger or fear on his children. Or maybe he doesn’t know what to do or say, or is afraid, or doesn’t think it matters, and therefore doesn’t say anything at all. Either way—violent or passive—a father who doesn’t give his heart to his kids hurts them deeply.
And it’s the deepest kind of hurt, and both boys and girls suffer as a result. So part of the work I do is to help men not hurt their kids or their world by being true men of God who are not violent and not passive, but instead, show up.
But there’s something more.
When girls have this kind of hurt (and ouch does it hurt), they tend to take it inward. They find ways of sitting with that hurt, and often end up hurting themselves even more. For the most part, a girl deals with this father-wound by becoming more hurtful to herself. This is a terrible consequence, of course.
But when boys have this kind of hurt (and ouch does it hurt), they tend to take it outward. Something in his heart shifts, and the rage, confusion, anger, hurt, whatever, ends up not only hurting himself, but also lots of people around him. Far more often than girls, a hurt boy ends up hurting others, and the results are even more devastating. He takes his pain and spreads it around. He has the potential to end up doing a lot of harm to other boys, other girls, and society in general. Even if he’s not violent, he grows up to be a man who continues the cycle of not giving his heart to his children, and it continues for generation to generation.
Therefore, the other part of the work I do is to help boys grow up into godly men—and to help dads raise up godly men out of their boys. It’s actually because you (my daughter) are so important, so valuable, so precious, that I want to do whatever I can to help create a world that grows up good men so that you have a good husband and your children have a good father. You deserve that. It’s not that you are unimportant. In fact, it’s because you are super important!
I will never forget her words in response to my attempt at explanation. She pulled my hand to stop me mid-trail, buried her head into my chest and then raised her face to meet my eyes. All she said was, “Thank you,” and then linked her arm into mine and invited me to skip.